ROBESONIA – If progress is a process, then it was the next natural step. Because nothing could represent the current development of the Elco field hockey program better than a district playoff victory.
On a cool Wednesday evening, on the turf at Conrad Weiser High School, the Raiders took an important step forward as a program with their 1-0 triumph over Conestoga Valley, in the quarterfinals of the District Three postseason tournament. After the two sides had battled back and forth for most of the contest, Elco netted the game’s only goal early in the fourth quarter.
With the outcome, Elco, the number-four seed which was without a key performer due to the Coronavirus, moved to 13-2 overall and into Saturday’s semifinal round. There, the Raiders will take on top-seeded Palmyra, in a rare District Three playoff contest between two Lebanon County clubs, on Saturday at Palmyra’s OAL Sports Complex, at a time to be announced.
Fifth-seeded Conestoga Valley, which was minus four starters because of the pandemic, fell to 9-5 on the fall.
The district playoff win was the Raiders’ first under second-year head coach Kelsey Thorley.
“We just wanted them to play their best game,” said Thorley, of her charges. “We wanted them to do the things we’ve been working on in practice. We practiced three days on the parking lot to speed things up.
“They (her players) played with heart,” Thorley continued. “We’re down a player and I know they (the Buckskins) lost players as well. We were challenged physically. We didn’t give up, which is all we could ask them to do.”
There wasn’t a ton of offensive chances on either side, and the game was score-less heading into the final quarter. But that was before Amanda Smith and Ashley Yoh collaborated on a sweet Raider goal that turned out to be the game-winner.
From outside the circle, Smith sent a long pass to the right post of the Conestoga Valley cage. The lanky Yoh ran onto the pass, dove and deflected the ball past Buckskin goalie Brooke Eberly and into the net.
The contest’s lone tally came 1:07 into the fourth period.
“We’ve been preaching giving total effort,” said Thorley. “Ashley gave all she could to get it in. Her reach is one of her strengths as a forward. I wouldn’t expect her to score on any other type of goal. We talked about heart and that’s what that goal was.
“Amanda is a big playmaker for us,” Thorley added. “We always preach to her about pushing the ball forward. Our offense has been phenomenal this year. What really speaks to our forward line is that it’s very balanced. We don’t have one prolific scorer, we have a bunch of girls playing together.”
If either side enjoyed the better of the play in the first half, it was Conestoga Valley, which managed to generate some passive pressure on the Elco net through corner plays. But the Raiders made some adjustments at halftime, and their tighter defense ultimately produced the one real good scoring chance they were seeking.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” said Thorley. “We have four seniors and a junior who have gelled incredibly well, and they give every effort to make sure that ball doesn’t go into the net. Our defenders are playmakers in the sense that they find players and spaces. They’re a hard-working group of kids, and our forwards did a good job of getting back and helping out.
“Conestoga Valley is very strong,” added Thorley. “What we worked on was defending in space. We really wanted to keep the ball in front of us.”
On the final stat sheet, Conestoga Valley out shot Elco 5-2, and enjoyed a 9-2 advantage in penalty corners. Raider netminder Anissa Machamer logged the shutout.
“We’re a grass team,” said Thorley. “For us to come on turf, it takes a little time to adjust to the ball movement. You could see things begin to click between the lines.
“The key to our success has been our 11 seniors,” continued Thorley. “They’re just a strong group of players, a strong group of leaders. They had a goal to make it deep into the playoffs. They’ve stepped up, just like you would’ve expected them to.”
at Hamburg Area H.S.
at Garden Spot
at Conrad Weiser
at Conrad Weiser
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