BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – There really is no better preparation for the postseason. Simply because it would be difficult to imagine any game containing more intensity, more spirit or more meaning.
On Saturday night at Earl Boltz Stadium, Cedar Crest shut out Elco 3-0 in the renewal of their annual girls’ soccer rivalry, fondly referred to as the ‘Blue-Gray’ Cup. It was a fairly tightly contested match, save for a 12-minute stretch early in the second half when the Falcons found the back of the net three times.
Five different Falcons figured in the scoring, including senior Adrienne Yoder, who collected a goal and an assist. Cedar Crest junior netminder Nicole Harner logged the shutout, as her side won for the third straight year.
Adding spice to an already colorful rivalry was the fact that the contest served as the regular-season finale for both clubs, and that each team is headed to two different postseasons.
The Falcons, now 10-7-1 on the year, will take on Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Warwick, in the opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. Elco, now 12-6 on the year, will meet Hempfield in the same round of the league postseason, Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Penn Manor.
“I told the girls that this is the type of game we’re going to be playing the rest of the season,” said Cedar Crest head coach Daryl Neiswender. “High stakes. You’ve got to give it all because you don’t know if it’s going to be your last game.
“I’m pleased with how our season has gone,” Neiswender added. “This team has had a lot of adversity. Injuries, and there were other things. But we’re finally healthy. We’re finally all together. We’re ready.”
“It’s different,” said Elco head coach Steve Keller. “This is the first time we played them (the Falcons) this late in the season. Both teams knew coming in we were going to the postseason. There’s no feeling out.
“I’m excited about how we played in the first half,” Keller continued. “I think we’re playing well. It was a positive how we played in the first half.”
Both squads had their moments in a first half that was pretty much a wash. It took Cedar Crest all of 5:39 of the second half to sieze control of the momentum, and ultimately the outcome.
Yoder located sophomore Gabby Boehmer at the top of the box. Boehmer used her first touch to settle the ball, her second touch to beat her defender and then unleashed a shot that beat Elco keeper Nicole Walker inside the left post.
“She put an awesome move on a person,” said Neiswender of G. Boehmer. “When she’s given an opportunity, she buries it. A-train (Yoder), she just works hard, and she’s deceptive. She turns on people when it doesn’t look like she can.”
Yoder made it 2-0 CC when she converted a pass from Kayla Krall. Krall crossed a ball that intersected Yoder and Walker at the same point, and Yoder was able to get a legal part of her body on it, and direct it into the net.
“I would say the big thing is once they (the Falcons) got into the (scoring) area, they really came,” said Keller. “They swarmed. It’s a hunger for the goal. When they get it so close they’ll do anything to get their body on it.”
With 22:55 to go, Chelsea Boehmer completed Cedar Crest’s scoring frenzy. With room to maneuver, C. Boehmer accepted a pass from Jessica Zavadak and made no mistakes, placing a shot under the crossbar with her right foot.
“At halftime, we made some adjustments, and the girls executed them,” said Neiswender. “They just played better soccer. We passed the ball better. Our three goals were really nice goals. They all came from the midfield and from movement.
“It was a typical Elco-Cedar Crest game,” Neiswender added. “In the first half, we allowed them (the Raiders) to dictate the way the game was being played. We didn’t play our style. In the second half, we came out with more desire.”
“It really was evenly matched, except for that stretch after halftime,” said Keller. “I didn’t expect three goals. After the first half, I thought it was going to be a one-goal game. I was very, very happy about the first half. At halftime, I thought it could go either way.”
Despite the fact that much of the first half was played in the midfield, the Raiders out shot the Falcons 4-2. But Cedar Crest flipped that particular stat around in the second 40 minutes of action and posted a 5-1 advantage in shots.
“I just think our girls, through the history of the Elco-Cedar Crest rivalry, have treated it like a playoff game, even if you’re 4-15,” said Neiswender. “The atmosphere. There’s a lot of people here. Both teams are going to come hard. There’s a lot of emotion involved with this game.
“When you look at who we played, we have the highest ranking (in District Three) when it comes to strength of schedule,” continued Neiswender. “We’re looking to advance (in the playoffs). We can play with anyone. We’re not scared of anyone.”
“They’re a good team, no doubt about it,” said Keller of the Falcons. “That’s why they were in second place in Section One (of the L-L). From what I’ve seen, they’re as good as any team we played.”