New Hope-Solebury rallies in 2nd half, beats Christopher Dock in District 1-A semifinals

NEWTOWN — A win is a win, especially in playoff season.

But that doesn’t mean the winner has to go home happy. Despite coming out victorious in its District I-A boys soccer seminfal Tuesday night at Council Rock North, New Hope-Solesbury was getting an earful from coach Ollie Hilliker.

Hilliker had plenty to be unhappy about, but he couldn’t deny the final score, a 2-1 decision in his team’s favor over upstart No. 7 seed Christopher Dock.

“We’re the luckiest team in Pennsylvania right now,’ Hilliker said. “It’s a simple as that. We get a lucky cross that goes in the back of the net. A goal’s a goal and we’ll take them all but that changed the game.’

Dock was absolutely relentless in the first half, running straight at New Hope from the first whistle. While it meant a couple of offside whistles, the underdogs were going top speed right away.

The blitz seemed to catch New Hope by surprise.

Within the first 10:06, Dock already had three corners and four offside calls. But the kick-and-chase attack hadn’t yielded more than a few deep shots and a tough-angled header.

The pivotal moment came with 14:28 in the first half. Tireless forward Austin Kratz had worked into the New Hope box and was taken down by a defender, drawing a PK.

Up stepped Andrew Curtis, who went boldly for the right upper 90. His ambition was rewarded when the ball struck the inside of the post and bounced in for the goal.

“The first half was played very well by our team,’ Dock coach Matt Moyer said. “We found opportunities but that pressure wasn’t there and we needed it the entire game.’

New Hope was a bit more lively after the goal, forcing Dock keeper Seth Frankenfield into a leaping save to palm a shot over the bar.

New Hope’s passing early in the second half very Gatling gun-like. They were spraying plenty of balls around, but the accuracy was less than stellar.

Yet they still had opportunities. Riley Smith nearly leveled it with 25:32 left when he pulled Frankenfield out and went far post, missing by a matter of inches. After Smith’s near-miss, the tides seemed to turn.

“There was a change in momentum,’ Moyer said. “New Hope started to control the game and credit to them, they connected well and we didn’t put enough pressure on the ball.’

Frankenfield made a nice play to rip the ball off the foot of Alex Loiter, but New Hope’s offense was finally finding its ground. Then, everything Dock had built came crashing down in a few minutes.

Smith sent a ball out wide to Dylan Smith, who fired in a cross off the left wing. Only, the cross bent in too far and sailed into the net, drawing the score even with 19:04 to play.

“The same thing happened last game where we came out really slow, but today was even worse,’ Riley Smith said. “That goal just gave us the little push we needed to start playing our game.’

Less than a minute later, Smith put his team ahead for good. The midfielder was able to work his way into the box, shifting around two defenders before unleashing a strong shot that Frankenfield couldn’t repel.

“I like to keep the ball on my left foot, so I just kept going left and left and left,’ Smith said. “I finally had an opening, so I took a shot.’

The game was all New Hope after the quick double, as Dock’s pressure couldn’t manifest and the Pioneers had to defend more and more. Lotier and Ben Muzekari each had a number of good looks late in the second half, but New Hope wasn’t able to push across a third goal that would have certainly sealed it.

Dock did get a final run on net, when Kratz broke through. But the speedy forward was closed off well and had to rush his shot up and over the crossbar.

“We did bring a lot of energy initially, but to win a district game, you’ve got to play the entire game,’ Moyer said. “We had a couple of lapses and they capitalized.’

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