BY JEFF FALK
MANHEIM – Playing ‘Cedar Crest soccer’ means going all out, all the time. There are no on-off switches involved.
On Thursday evening at Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Field, the Falcons girls flipped the switch to the ‘On’ position in the middle of the second half, but it was too late. Their spirited comeback from a two-goal deficit fell short, and Cedar Crest fell to Conestoga Valley 2-1 in the semifinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.
The Falcons out played the Buckskins for a good portion of the second half, and had powerful Conestoga Valley back on its heels. But ultimately, Cedar Crest couldn’t connect enough passes to come up with the equalizer.
The loss dropped Cedar Crest, the runner-up from Section One, to 11-8-1 on the spring. Thursday marked the farthest the Falcons had advanced in the league playoffs since 1989.
The Falcons will see their next action in the District Three Class AAA playoffs, on Monday at 4 p.m. at Penn Manor. Conestoga Valley, the Section Two champion, will carry an 18-1-1 mark into Saturday’s L-L league championship game.
“I didn’t think we played Cedar Crest soccer in the first half,” said Cedar Crest head coach Daryl Neiswender. “I’m not taking anything away from them (the Buckskins). But we didn’t have energy. Possessing the ball. We just struggled.
“But in the second half, we played hard,” Neiswender added. “We didn’t lose the game. We ran out of time. We had spirit and we were fighting for balls. I don’t know what got us going. Haleigh (Echard) came outside and got the ball more. We just got fire under our legs, but too late.”
“We didn’t play like ourselves today,” said Cedar Crest senior forward Adrienne Yoder. “Maybe 20 minutes in the second half we played Cedar Crest soccer, but it wasn’t enough. It makes it harder to lose when you know you could’ve done better.”
A CV defender tried to shield Falcon freshman forward Kayla Krall from the errant pass, but Krall managed to get a part of her body on it and direct it inside the far post.
“I don’t want to take anything away from them (the Buckskins), ” said Neiswender, “but if we would’ve played the first half the way we played the second half, who knows what would’ve happened. They beat us. But I would’ve liked for us to play a first half. I told them (his players) at halftime that that was the worst soccer we played all year.”
“Everyody talks about how great they (the Buckskins) are,” said Yoder, “and they are great. But I think we could’ve beaten them if we played our game.”
The Buckskins scored goals early in both halves.
Eleven minutes into the contest Conestoga Valley assumed a 1-0 lead when Morgan Higgins completed a break-away. Falcon netminder Nicole Harner came up big on her first attempt, but Higgins stayed with it and used her left foot on the rebound.
Then 2:53 into the second half, CV’s Jocelyn Yurchak made it 2-0. Unmarked, Yurchak blasted a cross from Michaela Horst past Harner from point-blank range.
“They scored early and we were in a funk,” said Neiswender of Conestoga Valley’s first goal. “We were sleeping. We didn’t have our energy. We left that girl (Higgins) open and she turned. We didn’t mark her very well.
“They (the Bucks) have nice people up top,” Neiswender added. “They’re strong up front. They know what to do with the ball.”
Cedar Crfest did not a record a shot on goal until 12:27 of the second half had expired. Yoder got off a good right-footer, but it was directed right into the midsection of CV goalie Jessica Plunkett.
“We expect a lot from her,” said Neiswender of Yoder, “and she gives us a lot. I think they (the Buckskins) knew how good of a player she is. They marked her up.”
“There was no connection,” said Yoder. “Balls weren’t played to feet. There was no talking. Nobody wanted it.”
The final stats had Conestoga Valley out shooting Cedar Crest 9-4, while the Buckskins attempted six corner kicks to the Falcons’ two.
“We didn’t play a very good first half,” said Neiswender. “We were in a funk and it was hard to get out of it.