PALMYRA – There are three distinct characteristics of soccer goals – pace, location and intent.
What the first one lacked in location, it more than made up for in pace. And what the second one lacked in pace, it more than made up for in location.
But for both, the intent was the same.
On Saturday night on In The Net Sports Complex’s artificial pitch, the Palmyra and Elco boys’ soccer ‘knocked it around’ a little bit – and at times each other – during a physical, mid-season, non-league match. The difference in the outcome was a pair of Cougar goals in the first half, which found their way into the back of the net in two different fashions.
The meeting was meaningful in that both local clubs are jostling for similar positions in next month’s District Three Class AA tournament draw. The 2-0 triumph moved Palmyra to 5-6 on the year, while Elco slipped to 5-4-1.
“This was important because of the District Three power rankings,” said Palmyra rookie head coach Andrew Hull. “Just proving to District Three the level of play in the Mid-Penn Conference. It was a good chance to show our style of soccer.
“We were successful in accomplishing some of our goals,” continued Hull, “playing well in the back, winning 50-50 balls and shutting down their better players. It was a great out-of-conference experience.”
“I think they’re around .500 now,” said Elco head coach Kirk Keppley of the Cougars. “In the (District Three Class AA) power rankings, they’re a little bit behind us. I think they’re going to be a pretty good team out of the Mid-Penn. They battle hard.
“It’s a county game,” Keppley continued. “But it gives you an idea where you’re at with a Mid-Penn team. And you’re not traveling all over the place for a non-league game. It’s a nice ride across the county.”
Thanks to the play of Palmyra goalkeeper Tanner Yaw, the Cougars netted the eventual game-winner 2:33 into the contest, on its initial shot on the Raider goal.
Colin Wise played a Cougar counter-attack from the left side of the field to the right, and on to the foot of an unmarked Alex Hoffsmith. Hoffsmith wasted little time uncorking a hard right footer into the midsection of Elco netminder Noah Kline, one that Kline couldn’t control and that ultimately rolled behind him and into the net.
“It was generated by our winning a 50-50 ball, and finding feet,” said Hull of Hoffsmith’s tally. “And just players having a willingness to have a rip. We were able to create combos in the midfield. And Alex Hoffsmith has a good strike on the ball.
“There’s games this season we’d like to take back, just for a lack of simple things,” added Hull. “It’s (5-6) not an awful place to be, all things considered. Five of our losses have been in conference, and that speaks to the caliber of the skill that is the Mid-Penn.”
“I thought we came out strong,” said Keppley, “but the first goal deflated us. The keeper thinks he has it, and it goes through him. It happens. That threw us off the rest of the first half. In the second half, we played hard and didn’t finish.
“It was a great strike. It was just mishandled,” Keppley added. “But he (Kline) had other huge saves. He’s done well. Mistakes happen. The kid (Hoffsmith) ripped it.
“It’s a lonely feeling for a keeper when it does happen. But if you don’t give up that shot, he doesn’t have to make that save.”
Palmyra made it 2-0 12:33 before halftime, off a long restart from the middle of the field.
Cougar Gavin Kerr initiated the play, but his kick eluded a Raider defender and teammate Evan Baysinger collected it in the danger zone in front of the Raider net. Baysinger didn’t get all of his right-footer, but got enough of the shot to dribble it inside the left post.
“The second goal was the result of a willingness to get into the box and fight for the ball,” said Hull. “Evan got enough of it to get it through.
“My expectations at the beginning of the season was to contend for whatever we could possibly contend for,” continued Hull. “I think we’e done that. Tonight we demonstrated that play. We’ve set the pace and met that goal. We’ve just got to continue to fight now.”
“I think one of our players tried to head it, and it bounced low to their player running through,” said Keppley of the Cougars’ insurance policy. “They came out you. But if you put high school kids under pressure, it’s tough.
“We didn’t score,” Keppley continued. “It could’ve been a 1-0 game. But we didn’t generate a lot of dangerous chances. We needed to score, and didn’t.”
Though Elco experienced difficulties piecing passes together, it may not have mattered against Yaw, Palmyra’s active keeper. The Raiders, who performed better in the second half than they did in the first, got their best scoring chance six minutes after halftime, but Ethan Anspach’s header off a corner sailed just over the crossbar.
In logging the shutout, Yaw was credited with three saves.
“I said, from the beginning of the season, Tanner Yaw is one of the best goalkeepers in central Pennsylvania – making saves, communicating, ball distribution,” said Hull. “This season he’s performed at a level that’s been very high and consistent.
“But with Tanner Yaw, our defense has really come into its own,” added Hull. “They’re a good anchor for us.”
“I think he’s a good keeper,” said Keppley of Yaw. “He’s smart. He covers ground well. He had a couple of good saves as well.
“We’ve had a lot of penalty kicks this year because we get in deep on teams,” Keppley added. “I bet we have six or seven in nine games. But we need to finish more in the run of play.”
Not unlike Yaw, Kline made some solid saves of his own. After stoning a semi-breakaway by the Cougars 2:30 into the second half to keep the score at 2-0, Kline made a diving save on a Hoffsmith penalty kick with 23:11 to go.
Palmyra out shot Elco 13-8, while generating eight corner kicks to the Raiders’ four.
“They’re (the Raiders’) goalkeeper was very good,” said Hull. “I think they have an attacking mentality that the players know, understand and execute very well.”
“Yeah, I thought we did play better in the second half,” said Keppley. “Before the (first) goal, we were doing what we wanted. But in the second half, I thought they (his players) definitely came out and played hard. They moved the ball well. They made things happen. You’ve got to go for it.
“Our record isn’t bad,” added Keppley. “There’s a game here or there we wish we could have back. All of our games besides Mennonite were one-goal games. We can improve. We can do better. In games like this, we’ve just got to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Boys Soccer Power Rankings
Top 18 teams qualify
School W L T
1 Lancaster Mennonite 8- 0- 0 .752041
2 West Perry 5- 0- 1 .714921
3 Susquehannock 6- 2- 0 .693932
4 East Pennsboro 6- 2- 0 .687374
5 Pequea Valley 6- 1- 0 .685840
6 Gettysburg 7- 2- 0 .678603
7 Boiling Springs 4- 1- 2 .619668
8 Fleetwood 4- 2- 1 .611286
9 Biglerville 5- 2- 0 .592909
10 Wyomissing 7- 1- 1 .577357
11 West York 4- 3- 1 .572067
12 Eastern Lebanon County 4- 3- 1 .544821
13 Lampeter Strasburg 1- 3- 3 .540571
14 Palmyra 4- 5- 0 .538449
15 York Suburban 4- 4- 0 .530458
16 Annville Cleona 5- 4- 0 .528261
17 Bishop McDevitt 3- 4- 0 .526708
18 Middletown 3- 3- 0 .513687
19 Schuylkill Valley 4- 3- 0 .496750
20 Donegal 3- 4- 0 .493913
21 Hamburg 3- 4- 1 .471437
22 James Buchanan 3- 6- 0 .451970
23 Oley Valley 3- 5- 0 .446082
24 Berks Catholic 4- 5- 0 .444808
25 Lancaster Catholic 3- 5- 0 .431104
26 Littlestown 4- 4- 0 .417703
27 Big Spring 2- 7- 1 .387744
28 Bermudian Springs 3- 5- 0 .387552
29 Kennard Dale 1- 3- 0 .383969
30 Eastern York 2- 6- 0 .368326
31 Milton Hershey 1- 5- 0 .364944
32 Northern Lebanon 2- 6- 1 .356302
33 Susquenita 1- 6- 1 .325373
34 Susquehanna Township 0- 7- 0 .277159
35 Conrad Weiser 0- 8- 0 .255905
36 Brandywine Heights 0- 8- 0 .243678
hi Jeff! Great article, thank you. I really like the way you drew out the best for both teams and positively commented on the play both ways. All the boys give it their all so it is nice to be uplifted and noticed.