BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – In the playoffs, it’s not about where you start, but how you finish. Or when you finish. Or where you finish.
But no matter what, they’re all about finishing.
On Monday night at Elco Stadium, in a District Three Class AA opener filled with dangerous chances and golden opportunities, the Elco girls’ soccer team was the only one to finish, and the result was the Raiders’ 1-0 victory over Boiling Springs. Each side generated at least four good scoring chances apiece, most of which were more dangerous than the one that Elco scored on.
That goal came off the right foot of senior Sydnie Parker, with 8:10 remaining in the first half. Not to say that the Raiders weren’t deserving of their win, just simply pointing out how precarious it was.
With the win, Elco, the eighth-seeded Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three champion, moved to 12-6-1 overall and into Thursday’s quarterfinal round opposite top-seeded and 17-1 Trinity, which disposed of Donegal 4-0. That match is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
Boiling Springs, the ninth seed in the tournament, finished its campaign at 10-6-3.
“I definitely feel like I have a couple more gray hairs, or at least a few less,” said Elco rookie head coach Derek Fulk. “We couldn’t seem to put one away that would’ve given us some breathing room. Amber (Hartranft) in the box is usually golden.
“And so is Syd (Parker),” added Fulk. “I’m trying to petition the PIAA for a fifth-year of eligibility for both of them. I don’t know what we’re going to do without them next year. They’re both so dangerous, and they’re both good as a duo. We should’ve buried a couple more opportunities.”
Elco squandered a pair of promising scoring chances before Parker’s goal. First the Raiders clanged a ball off the left post, and then sent in alone, Hartranft was stoned in-close by Bubbler netminder Megan Lay.
But Parker took matters into her own hands when she went hard up the left side of the field in the game’s 43rd minute. Parker beat her defender, switched to her right foot and then sent a ball along the ground at Lay.
Lay seemed to misjudged the pace of Parker’s shot, and went down on it late, and the ball squirted underneath her and into the net.
“I didn’t see much,” said Fulk. “I know Syd got going on the outside and then went inside. I think she (Parker) beat her (Lay) near post. But their keeper played well.
“I think Sydnie used her speed,” Fulk continued. “I like Sydnie on the outside because she can get into a lot of one-one-one situations. And I’ll take her speed any time. But I thought her and Amber (Hartranft) combined on a lot of chances.”
Boiling Springs generated five shots on Elco keeper Kaitlyn Johnson, but four of those were near-goals. The Bubblers crossed one off the crossbar in the game’s 14th minute, before Johnson short-circuited a breakaway from the right side of the field three minutes before intermission.
But Johnson’s best save came seven minutes into the second half, when her quick reactions and fast hands caused a hard Bubbler shot to deflect over the net. With 8:39 remaining, Johnson got her fingertips on a well-placed high shot, and tipped it over the net.
“Every shot was a dangerous opportunity,” said Fulk. “KJ played great. It’s good for us because she’s only a sophomore and only going to get better. We’ve been rotating goalies, but we figured now that we’re in the postseason we’ve got to go with one.
“It’s (playing a home playoff game) great,” continued Fulk. “We had a good crowd, and we had some students cheering and making noise. It’s great not having to travel an hour and 20 minutes. I think having to travel that far takes something out of you.”
Hartranft herself misfired on three solid chances in the second half. She drew iron with her left foot off a feed from Parker, she was robbed from in-close on a play that originated from the right side of the pitch and she fired high after beating a couple of Bubbler defenders with her dribble.
“I hope we’re a tough draw,” said Fulk of the upcoming match with Trinity. “I hope we can go there and give them a good game. They’re the number-one seed for a reason.
“I’m sure they’re (the Shamrocks) very well-coached,” Fulk added. “I’m sure they’re a very skilled team. I’m sure it’ll be a great challenge. They’r always good. They’re a formidable opponent.”
The final stat sheet saw Elco out shoot Boiling Springs 17-5. The Raiders enjoyed a 7-2 margin in corner kicks.
“We struggled a little bit at the end of the year , but we were playing better competition,” said Fulk. “Our goal is to play well, do the best we can and see what happens. We think we have the ability to play with anyone. I just hope we come out and play hard on Thursday.”