BY JEFF FALK
LITITZ – Not only is the most recent outcome the one you remember, it’s also the one by which you are remembered. Just further proof that athletics possesses a unique power to develop selective memory.
The Elco girls’ soccer team’s most recent result was a forgettable one. Fortunately, for the Raiders it will not be their final one.
On Monday night, on the artificial pitch at Warwick High School, Elco dropped a not-so-memorable 4-0 decision to Hempfield, in the quarterfinal round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. The Black Knights scored goals early and late, in each of the two halves.
Up next for Elco, the now 12-6 Section Three champions, are the do-or-die District Three Class AA postseason, which gets underway early next week. The Raiders, who were tenth in the most recent power rankings, will play at a team and at a time yet to be determined.
Hempfield, now 12-4, will take on the winner of the Conestoga Valley-Cocalico match in Wednesday’s semifinal round of the L-L tournament. The Black Knights finished third in Section One of the circuit.
“It would be really neat to get into leagues and do well,” said Elco head coach Steve Keller. “It was like ten years before we got past the first round. We came in and tried to do our best. But districts is the most important thing. If you can have a decent season and get into districts, that’s when people start to remember things. This was the start of a new season.
“They (the Black Knights) were no better than Donegal, Cedar Crest or Lancaster Mennonite,” continued Keller. “We played better against them. When you have section rivals you get up more emotionally.”
McMurtie ran onto a ball played into the middle of the field by teammate Madison Ramsey and struck a well-placed 25-yarder into the top shelf. It came on the Black Knights’ initial shot of the evening.
Then 6:20 before the intermission, McMurtrie sent Emily Lanser ahead on a semi-breakaway. Lanser used her right foot to launch a blast inside the left post.
“I don’t think it changes anything,” said Keller of McMurtrie’s early tally. “We had games like that against Donegal and Northern Lebanon. That didn’t bug me at all. I was OK till the third goal. I was OK with 2-0 at halftime. At that point we should be able to come back with a good half.
“We don’t like playing vertical,” Keller continued. “That usually means going up the middle. We need to go horizontally and use our speed.”
Keller became genuinely concerned when Hempfield netted its third goal 3:05 into the second half. Off a corner kick, Maddie Burkhardt played a ball to the back post, where McMurtrie was there to bang it home.
The Black Knights’ final tally was almost a carbon copy, as Katie Goldsmith, off a corner kick, located Brigitte Breault on the back side of the net. Breault’s goal came with 2:56 remaining.
“I think we helped them played well,” said Keller. “A lot of times we were giving the ball away. It makes them look better, and makes us work harder trying to get the ball back.
“I look at it this way,” Keller added, “two seasons ago when we got to the district final, we had about the same record and lost by about the same score (in this round of the league playoffs). We’ve got quite a few days to get ready for districts. The teams we’re going to play now will be of this caliber.”
The Raiders generated a couple of early scoring chances, before Hempfield shut them down from the middle of the first half on. The Black Knights ended up out shooting Elco 13-3, while taking six corner kicks to the the Raiders’ three.
“What they were good at was not only up front,” said Keller of the Black Knights, “but the whole team coming. You have to be a whole team defending.
“I knew their (the Black Knights’) record and I know Section One has a lot of good teams,” added Keller. “And a lot of their games were close.”
One of the keys for Hempfield defensively was the marking of Elco’s leading scorer, junior forward Amber Hartranft. Hartranft, who missed half of the Raiders’ season with a concussion, has scored 14 goals in the eight games in which she has competed.
“She does work hard,” said Keller of Hartranft. “Any player like that, you put your best defender on her, mark her and take her out of the game. That’s when other players have to step up, and I’m not sure they did that tonight.
“For districts, we’ll be at full strength,” concluded Keller. “It’ll change the dynamic of the team.”