New Hope-Solebury boys soccer is in a good “state.”
The No. 1 seed Lions (11-6-1) punched their ticket to the 2A PIAA state playoffs with a convincing 4-1 win over No. 2 Pope John Paul II at home on Tuesday. Deven Smith’s goal with seconds left in the first half put NH-S up for good 2-1.
“The one thing that I liked the most was our movement through the midfield,” noted NH-S coach Dave Backart. “Getting the ball out wide and coming back into the center. We worked on that a lot this week. It opened up a lot of opportunities for us in the midfield.”
“It’s feeding off of each other’s energy,” Smith said. “You see guys bust their butt and you want to do the same.”
Nick Fest got the Lions on the board in the 31st minute. “I was running up the field and Jake (Jacquemot) made a nice move to find me,” Fest remembered. “I took a shot and when it deflected back, I beat a player and put it in the corner.”
Fest’s brother Matt plays offensive line for Lehigh football; futbol has clicked for his younger sibling.
The Panthers responded only 67 seconds later. Salvatore Marano launched a 25-yard top shelf boot that appeared to be miraculously blessed for PJP II.
But Smith struck late in the half and again in the 51st minute to give the Lions a 3-1 lead. “My first goal, Jake and I have been doing that all year in practice,” Smith described. “The idea of him getting the ball, going to his back, laying it off and me finishing where the keeper wasn’t. The second goal, I knew that they would rush Ben (Koeppen) and I’d be there for the tap in. I made my voice loud and he made the pass perfectly.”
NH-S capped the scoring on Jacquemot’s steal and breakaway goal with 21:55 remaining. “We had everyone back on defense,” said Jacquemot, a co-captain. “We were compact and forced a mistake. Deven made a great run to force the other defender wide. I beat the guy 1 v 1.”
Keeper Kyle Campbell had five saves for the Lions.
NH-S plays Lansdale Catholic at Northeast High School on Saturday.
The winner of Saturday’s combined District 1/12 championship faces the District 3 runner-up in the first round of states play on Tuesday.
The loser will face the District 3 champion in PIAA play.
NH-S posted a 7-3-1 record in Bicentennial play, recording a six-match winning streak from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9.
“I think we’re a very tight-knit team,” Jacquemot noted. “We all work for each other. It’s nice knowing that if you make a mistake, the guy behind you will work to win the ball back for you.”
In 2013, the Lions reached the Class A state Final Four. They advanced to states in 2015 and again last season, when they reached the second round of the state 2A tournament.
“Having a group of seniors constantly in (the postseason) really helps the younger guys understand the gravity of the game,” Backart said.
“This was their last game if we lost. We were guaranteed two more no matter what, if we win. They see leadership of the seniors and how important it is for them.”