BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – This current edition of Elco is very much its own girls’ soccer team. But the Raiders are performing to someone else’s standards.
On a pleasant Saturday night at Ed and Jeannie Arnold Field at Earl Boltz Stadium, Elco grew a little as a team, while honoring its recent storied past, during a dramatic 2-1 double-overtime victory over rival Cedar Crest, in the 24th renewal of the annual Blue-Gray Cup game. Tanisha Grewel starred in the role of heroine for the Raiders, as her goal with 2:55 left in the second extra session capped a furious Raider comeback.
The Raiders were staring down the short end of a 1-0 score late in the second half, before Katelyn Rueppel sent the game to overtime by converting a penalty kick with 4:24 remaining. Rueppel then set up Grewel for the game-winner, with a hard cross from the left corner.
The outcome pushed the new-look Raiders to 4-1 on the year. Elco is attempting to replace some departed pieces from a club which captured last year’s District Three Class AA title and four straight Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championships.
Cedar Crest, which is undergoing its own growing under new head coach Scott Steffen, slipped to 2-2 on the season. The result evened the all-time Blue-Gray Cup series at 12 wins apiece.
“We have some pieces returning, but we’re still young,” said Elco head coach Derek Fulk. “We’re still learning a lot. We’re still making mistakes, but we’ve had some success too. We have to learn how to put teams away. We have a good core of kdis who have been through some things. Our leadership is definitely getting better.
“I think we’re still taking our shape,” continued Fulk. “We’re still finding ourselves. The seniors who graduated were great players for four years. Our leaders and our captains have to step up and help form our identity. It’s a work in progress.”
“I came on board in February and I worked with the girls all summer,” said Steffen. “We have a pretty good connection. We’re figuring it out. I’m in a good place with them (his players).
“Obviously we want to improve on last year’s win total (five),” added Steffen. “We’d like to hit a postseason berth. It’s very attainable.”
The Raiders had owned the better of the play in overtime, before Rueppel controlled a ball deep in Cedar Crest territory. Her cross eluded a Falcon defender and found the right foot of Grewel, who took one touch and then blasted it by CC netminder Courtney Wysokowski from point-blank range.
“I didn’t see much,” said Fulk. “Kae-Kae (Rueppel) made a great effort to get the ball in the corner. She served a great ball that got deflected and ended up on Tanisha’s foot. And Tanisha made a great finish.
“I thought we played alright,” Fulk added. “I thought at times we played really well. I thought there were times where we looked tired. I like our lineup. They’ve just got to learn to fight through some things.”
“It looked like our player wasn’t expecting it,” said Steffen of the Grewel’s game-winner. “They (the Raiders) had someone there. She (Grewel) was in the right position and she made a great finish.
“We were definitely the underdogs,” Steffen added. “They (his players) knew that. During the first ten minutes we were a little shaky. But we got a great effort after that.”