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CRUNCH TIME. Northern Nash’s Natalie DePalma (left) attempts to send the ball forward during the Lady Knights’ matchup with North Brunswick at last Friday’s Brittany For The Girls Tournament. (Graphic photos by Geoff Neville)
WILSON -- The true meaning of The Brittany For The Girls Soccer Showcase centers around sportsmanship and having run -- two areas that typified the career of Brittany Willis during her playing days at Wilson Hunt High School.

Gaining an invite to The Brittany is an honor for any school, and being a part of the event is always cherished by Northern Nash veteran head coach Joe McCarthy.

But despite the upbeat environment of the showcase, McCarthy still couldn’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment following his club’s Brittany matchup last Friday evening against West Brunswick.

The Lady Knights were sharp on both ends of the field during the first half and roared to a 3-0 advantage.

The second half, however, would provide a different scenario as play was more tilted to the West Brunswick offensive end.

West Brunswick responded with a trio of goals in a 25-minute span, and both clubs left Wilson forced to be content with a 3-3 equalizer.

But the mood was more upbeat on the West Brunswick side after the squad had rallied from its early deficit.

On the other bench, the Lady Knights couldn’t help but feel as if they had let an opportunity for victory slip away.

And for good reason as Northern, with only 12 players available, couldn’t sustain its momentum in the second half of action.

“We just need to learn how to play for 80 minutes,’’ McCarthy said. “With only 12 girls, fatigue and some (bad mental decisions) were key for us.’’

Northern, now 4-0-1 overall, got on the board early thanks to some nice work from Natalie DePalma.

Claire Fleming then stepped up from her defensive position for a goal with 10:27 remaining in the opening half, and the Lady Knights appeared to be in control at 2-0.

Things got even better for Northern Nash when Alexus Hill took a pass from DePalma and worked her way past a pair of West Brunswick defenders to score with just 18 ticks remaining before the break.

The Lady Knights’ cushion was 3-0, but Northern wouldn’t score again, while West Brunswick was able to find the net a trio of times, including a penalty kick with 28:37 left to play.

West Brunswick would deliver the equalizer 13 minutes later, and neither squad could score the rest of the way.

“We have to be able to learn how to manage a game once we take the lead,’’ McCarthy said. “We didn’t do a good job of that.’’

DePalma, a junior who sparkled in the midfield, was Northern Nash’s winner of the Brittany Willis Sportsmanship Award.

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