BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – There really are no bad goals in field hockey. Some are just more aesthetically pleasing than others.
The Elco field hockey team netted a handful of goals on Tuesday afternoon against Lebanon. Four to be exact. And all of them featured varying amounts of attractiveness.
On their home pitch, the Raiders shut out Lebanon High 4-0 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two match. In addition to their finesse, the goals were also evenly divided between the first and second halves.
Paige Spangler netted a goal and two assists, while teammate Claire Shaak contributed a goal and an assist. The result was the Raiders’ second triumph over Lebanon this season and their first victory in Section Two.
Elco is now 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the section. The unseasoned Cedars fell to 0-7 on the season and 0-4 in the circuit.
“We really used this game to get ready for Northern Lebanon on Thursday,” said Elco head coach Lisa Kercher. “With four goals, we did that. They (the Vikes) have a good goalie (Page Stuppy) and in preparation for that, we wanted to score some goals. That was a point of emphasis, we wanted to score some nice pretty goals.
“I would say half of them were pretty,” Kercher continued, “things we specifically worked on in practice. Specifically in practice we worked on some of those set-ups. We’ve had those forwards who are aggressive. And it seems like the more we score the more we want to score. It becomes contagious, but it’s a good virus.”
“Defense, that’s where we struggle,” said Lebanon head coach Terri Johnston, who also doubles as the district’s athletic director. “I ended up without some key players. But historically they (the Raiders) have a strong program. They have kids who have grown up seeing Elco as a strong program. And they want to be a part of that.
“That’s what I want,” continued Johnston. “But we enjoy each other. For a pile of girls, we don’t have any drama. Now we’ve got to develop the skill. I’ve got eight, maybe ten new hockey players. Brand-new, some of whom are juniors.”
At least three of Elco’s four goals were the result of nice set-ups, moving the ball in the circle to the open player. But the Raiders first tally of the contest was more about hustle, grit and determination – things not necessarily associated with pretty.
Dynamo Spangler carried the ball into the Lebanon circle 14:44 before halftime, went hard right and unleashed a good blast that caromed around in Cedar keeper Kasey Frantz’s pads. With Frantz unable to locate the ball at her feet, Cat Krow swooped in and slammed it into the back of the cage.
Then six minutes later the Raiders made it 2-0 when a forward carried the ball deep into the circle and drew the LHS defense to her. At that point she slipped the ball behind her, back into the middle of the circle, where Lauren Bleyer was in the right spot to bang it home.
“We have a lot of good team work between our groups of three,” said Kercher. “We have girls who have been playing together for a long time, and they just read each other and they move together. Scoring in the past has been Elco’s nemesis, just finding the cage. Just getting corner after corner and not finding the cage.”
“I was really happy with the way we played,” said Johnston. “We’ve been playing with all of our competition. We’ve had more offense this year than we’ve had most years. I think I have very realistic expectations.
“What I’m saying is, historically, we’ve played the game in our defensive end of the field,” Johnston added. “Now we’re splitting the field and playing the game more in the offensive end. We just need to get more opportunities to figure out our circle play. I really feel like we’re on the cusp of that.”
The Raiders settled the issue with two goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half. And not unlike Elco’s second goal, both were scored by moving the ball from one side of the circle to the middle.
Six minutes in, Shaak set up Spangler for a one-timer to the far post. Then five minutes later on a corner play, Spangler, from the top of the circle, served up a feed for Shaak, who did her damage with a one-timer on the back-hand.
“Things have been going pretty good,” said Kercher. “I wish we had more wins to start. But it always seems we like to start slow and then pick things up. We brought back a lot of talent from last year.
“Expectations are always high,” added Kercher. “We expect excellence here at Elco. Realistically, we want to be better than 5-12 (which it was in 2011). We did not lose anyone to soccer, so we have that depth.”
“As a person who coaches, I have a desire to win,” said Johnston. “But for me it’s a small slice of the pie. I want my kids to have that lasting experience. I want my kids leaving the season saying, ‘That was cool.’
“Oh my gosh, yes we’ve improved,” Johnston added. “We scrimmaged Lancaster Catholic and then played them last week, and we played pretty well. Their kids were saying, ‘Who’s wearing the Lebanon uniforms?’ Our kids don’t do a lot off season, so we come in out of shape. When you’re tired, the first thing to go is stick work. We’re getting used to playing with each other, and we’re going to be that much better in the end.”
“Looking to our section, we want to beat Northern Lebanon,” said Kercher. “We want to beat Annville-Cleona. And we feel like we’re competitive. We feel like the wins are coming.”
“I would like us to find a way to score,” said Johnston, “especially because we’re not as strong defensively. What I want to accomplish is individual fitness. I want them (her players) to realize what it feels like to put the ball in the cage. We’re great mentally, unitl we give up a couple of goals.”