ELIZABETHTOWN – Ask any member of the Cedar Crest girls’ soccer team about who the defending Lancaster-Lebanon League champion is, and to a person the answer will be an emphatic ‘We Are!’
One is left with the distinct impression that Cedar Crest takes great pride in that fact, and that it’s an honor it won’t relinquish easily. In fact, if a team is going to get what belongs to the Falcons, it’s going to have to take it from them, forcibly.
On Tuesday night at Elizabethtown High School, during the semifinals of the L-L League tournament, the Falcons looked very much like a team unwilling to give up what it is rightfully their’s. Cedar Crest gutted and grinded, never gave an inch and emerged with a 1-0 victory over Cocalico.
After battling the talented Eagles toe-to-toe for 70-plus minutes of action, Cedar Crest won it on a goal from go-to-girl Gabby Boehmer, with 8:19 of the second-half clock showing. The contest was a rematch of the 2012 Lancaster-Lebanon League final, won by the Falcons in penalty kicks.
The win propelled the now 12-6-1 Falcons, who finished the regular year third in Section One, into Thursday’s 5 p.m. title tilt at Manheim Central, opposite Conestoga Valley, which ripped Lancaster Mennonite 4-0 in the other semi.. Last night’s outcome represented Cedar Crest’s fifth straight win in the league tournament, dating back to last season.
Cocalico, the champions of Section Two, slipped to 13-5 overall.
“We’re the defending league champs,” said Cedar Crest head coach Lauren King. “And before every game I remind the girls of that. One of our goals was to defend that title. I think they (her players) saw it cracking in front of our eyes during the regular season. Now we’re so close, we can’t let it go. The girls are calling this our second chance, and we made it this far on our second chance.
“I’m so excited,” King continued. “I’m emotional, and I’m hoping that’s a good thing. I had so many nerves before the game because I know how good of a team Cocalico is. I knew it was going to be a tough game, a one-goal game.”
“Throughout the year, we’ve been up and down,” added Boehmer. “But recently we’ve been more consistent. We’ve been playing the full 80 minutes recently.”
Boehmer’s game-winner originated innocently enough from the midfield, with Alex Burrows finding teammate Cece Fiorentino in space in the center of the pitch. With time to plot a move, Fiortentino chose to go over the top of the Eagle backs with a pass that sent Boehmer in alone on goal.
Boehmer collected the feed, took a couple of touches and then hooked a right-footer into the upper left-hand portion of the net. Up until that point, the special attention that Cocalico had been paying to Boehmer was effective.
“We were telling them that Gabby wasn’t getting much room,” said King of her players. “We told them that they had to play the ball to Gabby’s feet. But instead of playing it to her feet, Cece played it long. That’s what they (Boehmer and Fiorentino) can do. She (Boehmer) didn’t get any opportunities like that earlier. But she does so well fighting for the ball.
“I wouldn’t say we lean on her (Boehmer),” continued King. “I didn’t think it was going to be Gabby (getting the game-winner) because they were marking her so tight. She plays that target position so well, but it’s always a team effort.”
“The ball came across and Cece played a great pass to me,” said Boehmer, who now has four goals and as assist in these playoffs. “I saw a great opportunity. I just wanted to put it on frame.
“That should be everyone’s mindset: ‘I want to be the one who puts it in the back of the net,'” Boehmer added. “I just feel it’s my responsibility to lead the team, and finish the game. To help us get a win, or play our best.”
In the first half, Cedar Crest did an admirable job of gaining and retaining possession of the ball. And while the Falcons performed well defensively, the Eagles did generate a handful of dangerous chances. But when they did, there was Falcon keeper Katie Gable.
Gable was her steady self in goal, and when she found herself out of position five minutes into the contest, the left goal post helped bail her out. Gable logged four saves to register the shutout.
“She’s improved throughout the season,” added King. “And a lot of her improvement has come from confidence.”
Cedar Crest had its own opportunity to assume an earlier 1-0 lead, with 16:50 remaining in the first half. But a free kick from 32 yards out clanged off the top of the cross bar.
“I want to say we possessed the ball most of the time,” said King. “But in the second half, Cocalico came out really strong. It was pretty evenly matched.”