Quick score fuels Mustangs

BETHLEHEM — Midd-West High School’s boys soccer team started off on the right foot and never left it on Tuesday night.

The Mustangs routed Notre Dame-Green Pond 6-0 in the PIAA Class 2A first round game at Bethlehem-Liberty. They advance to Saturday’s state quarterfinals, where they’ll meet New Hope-Solebury, which defeated Fleetwood in penalty kicks.

Midd-West, District 4’s runner-up, scored the opening goal while fans were still settling into their seats. Senior Carter Knepp got around Crusaders goalie Fulvio D’Avella and followed the ball as it casually rolled over the goal line and into the net, making the score 1-0 after 43 seconds.

“We always feel that’s important — to step out on a team right away. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, obviously. That always gives us our momentum to feel a little bit more comfortable,” Mustangs coach Mark Ferster said. “When we (score early), we realize that it’s going to make teams step out and play us, rather than being compact and trying to beat us with that long ball. We were comfortable after we got that first goal.”

The first-minute strike was disastrous for Notre Dame, the District 11 champion.

“It put us on the back foot, definitely,” Crusaders coach Craig Wrigglesworth said. “They were a better team today. They kind of outclassed us on the field. We put in as much hard work as we could; it was just a better team that we were up against today. It didn’t work out the way we wanted.”

Midd-West had the better share of possession throughout the first half and really started peppering the goal in the closing nine minutes before intermission.

Knepp pushed the advantage to 2-0 by quickly netting a free kick while leaving the Notre Dame keeper rooted to his spot with 2:20 left on the first-half clock.

The Mustangs continued to stack up goals after halftime, while the Crusaders piled up yellow cards.

Sophomore Nicholas Eppley smoothly finished a half-volley to stretch Midd-West’s lead to 3-0 after a minute and 38 seconds of play in the second half.

“We always talk about how that 2-0 lead is a dangerous lead, because if you give a team one goal back, then they have hope,” Ferster said. “We talked at halftime about getting one right away and how that would change the momentum of the game. I think it did; I think that helped us a lot.”

Senior Chase Strohecker forced a penalty six minutes later, and Knepp converted it for his third goal and a 4-0 advantage. Seniors Conner Erdley and Aiden Steininger added late scores to account for the final margin.

The Midd-West defense prevented any serious threats from Notre Dame, led by a strong effort from 6-foot-4 center back Stefan Leitzel, who cut out numerous Crusaders passes.

“That’s what we expect,” Ferster said of the shutout performance. “We’ve had a strong defense for a long time, and we expect nothing less … Keeping that zero (on the scoreboard) is always something that we strive to do.”

Midd-West 6, Notre Dame-Green Pond 0

First half

MW–Carter Knepp (Nick Eppley), 0:38; MW–Knepp, 38:40

Second half

MW–Eppley (Angus Strohecker), 1:40; MW–Knepp (PK), 7:22; MW–Connor Erdley (Chase Strohecker), 22:44; MW–Aidan Steininger (Knepp), 33:03.

Shots: MW 11-2. Corners: MW 6-3. Saves: MW-2 (Chase Roush); ND-8.