NEW SCHAEFFERSTOWN – If sudden-victory is the coolest way to win, then sudden-death is the cruelest way to lose.
On Saturday afternoon at Tulpehocken High School, the Elco girls’ soccer team suffered the cruel fate of having a sudden-death loss end its solid campaign. The Raiders fell to Brandywine Heights 2-1 in the second overtime of a quarterfinal match in the District Three Class AA postseason.
It was Bullet senior Nyssa Hughes who put the Raiders to rest, as she netted the game-winner 3:15 into the second 15-minute extra session. Elco had forced overtime via a Sydnie Parker tally, with 4:16 left in regulation.
The loss ended the tenth-seeded Raiders’ fall at 13-6. Along the way, Elco won its first Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three title in ten years.
Brandywine Heights, the now 12-7-1 15th seed, will next play in Tuesday’s semifinal round of the Class AA tournament.
“It was a great year,” said Elco head coach Steve Keller. “For me, being my fourth year, a lot of these girls I had as starters for three or four years. It was a great group. They were really a family. It’s just sad to see them walk off the field like this.
Hughes’ game-winner originated from an initial shot on goal from Erica Winegardner, one that was blocked in front by Raider defender Ashten Nell. But the ball bounced off Nell and right on to the left foot of Hughes, who buried the rebound.
Raider senior netminder Nicole Walker had no chance.
“I just remember the ball banging around in the box,” said Keller. “I couldn’t tell you how it was scored. All I saw was it in the back of the net. And it was it.
“She (Walker) was fantastic,” added Keller. “You feel bad for the keeper when there’s nothing she can do. I had her when she was a freshman. And the way she developed, that’s what high school soccer is all about. It was the result of hard work. But it’s hard being a goal keeper.”
Down 1-0 and time running down – and with a sense of urgency – the Raiders ‘pushed up’ and sent extra attackers towards the Bullet goal. The strategy paid off in the form of S. Parker’s game-tying goal.
From a 30-yard restart, Elco senior Kaite Yoders lofted a service towards the left side of the Brandywine Heights net. S. Parker, who was playing her first game since missing nearly the entire season with mononucleosis, shed her mark and got her right foot on the ball, nudging it inside the post.
“She volleyed it out of the air,” said Keller of S. Parker. “It wasn’t just kicking and hoping it goes in. Who better to get that goal than a girl who’s been out the whole season? It was her first game back, and she was fired up. She was ready to go and she played well.”
After the goal, Elco continued the momentum that had helped produce it. With the Raiders buzzing around the net, they generated seven shots on goal in the final ten minutes of regulation and the only two in the initial overtime session.
With 50 seconds left in regulation, Elco junior Amber Hartranft was stoned by Bullet freshman goalie Courtney Moyer. Then 2:54 into the first overtime, unmarked Raider senior Hailee Parker tried to direct a cross into the goal with her body, when she couldn’t manage a first touch.
“The thing I’ll always remember about this game is that after we scored the tying goal, we had a lot of momentum,” said Keller. “We had girls who were 85 percent going 110 percent. They were full of energy. They were full of emotion. I think our seven seniors were out on the field, and they were giving it their all.
“We were buzzing,” Keller continued. “And I thought we played that way in the first overtime the whole way. You have that extra kick, but you can’t have that extra kick forever. Everyone just emptied their tanks and we had nothing left. And we did have chances.
“I thought we had them. We had so many close ones.”
Thanks in part to two sprawling saves from Walker, the score was knotted at zero at halftime. But Brandywine Heights grabbed a 1-0 lead with 17:21 left in regulation when Winegardner converted a corner kick from Meagan Loos.
Seven minutes before that, H. Parker had clanged a left-footer, from a hard angle, off the Bullets’ crossbar.
The final stats said that Elco held a 15-12 advantage in shots, while Brandywine Heights won the corner-kick battle 8-3.