On an emotional senior night, the high-octane senior forward proved unrelenting in her attack mode, absorbing contact and blitzing into the open field with a full head of steam.
After depositing home three shots, the last of which tied former teammate, friend and mentor Liz Bell on the program's all-time scoring list, Laird was not yet done.
En route to an 8-0 win over New Oxford, South Western had opened up a 7-0 bulge in the first half, which turned insurmountable as the Mustangs valued the ball as if there was a gold coin encrusted inside of it during the second half. Dominating possession, the Mustangs pelted the Colonials with a flurry of shots while eating up the clock in shark-sized bites.
With her teammates feeding her the ball at a furious pace, Erin Laird continued to permeate the nooks and crannies of the Colonial defense. Laird then found a seam off a dish from Laken Bull, sniping from mid-yardage with 8:38 remaining in the game. The shot, deposited into the left pocket of the goal, makes Laird the all-time leading goal scorer in South Western history with 38.
Following a listless loss to Central, one in which it relied too heavily on a kick-and-run game, South Western cooked New Oxford to the recipe of a rapid-fire triumph under the lights at The Mustang Corral.
"Recently, during the William Penn game, my coaches told me that I was close to the school record," said Laird, who credits a slew of teammates, including her sister Shannon, for locating her with swift passes. "I was pretty excited, but I figured with a couple of games remaining, I'd have some time to maybe get it. I just wasn't expecting it to happen this quick. To score the goal on senior night, it's bittersweet."
This season, South Western team has crumpled under an avalanche of injuries. It has been forced to swiftly forge a piecemeal group, some developing chemistry with each other on the pitch for the first time, into a unit.
Following the 3-0 loss to Central, incensed Mustang head coach Mark Bentzel orchestrated a grueling practice that began with lungs-burning sprints and prolonged distance running.
"I am very, very proud of the way my team performed tonight," Bentzel said. "We recovered from the Central game pretty nicely. At halftime, I was not happy with my team and the way we were playing. To prepare for the competition ahead of us as the stakes raise, we need to start playing the way we know how to play. That means simple passes instead of just kick and run. To their credit, they responded really well tonight."
Laird's mammoth individual milestone highlighted the senior night festivities, with the Mustangs signing the game ball and presenting it to her afterward.
"It's been solid all four years," said Bentzel of Erin Laird's career. "Her work ethic has been the same all the way through."
Laird's efforts even earned plaudits from the cross-town competition.
"I'm really happy for Erin breaking the record. It couldn't have happened to a better person," said Gettysburg's Kyele Bridel, a central component of the Lady Warrior soccer team who trains religiously with both Shannon and Erin Laird. "Physically we are pretty similar, the (Laird twins) and me. So when we train, no one is really outmatched. We have a lot of the same goals when it comes to sports, so we connect on that level. I always thought I was the most competitive person I knew, but then I met them. I swear we could compete at the breakfast table to see who ate our cereal the fastest."
New Oxford head coach Jebb Nelson and the Colonials made a first-class move during the first minutes of the game. The Colonials elected to halt the ball movement on a possession, giving injured senior goaltender Haley Briggs the start in net.
Briggs, who earned All-Area second-team honors as a junior, sustained a season-ending injury when she broke a leg following a collision with a teammate. Briggs will prolong her career at Juniata College.
Prior to the game, there was an extended moment of silence for the students from both South Western and New Oxford who passed away in 2011.
The Colonials played in memory of beloved teammates Casey Sheridan and Chelsea McFalls. Both students were killed in a traffic accident on Dec. 5.
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SO. WESTERN 8, NEW OXFORD 0
New Oxford -- 0 0 -- 0
So. Western -- 7 1 -- 8
First Half -- 1. SW, Kim Vogan (Erin Laird), 32:14; 2. SW, E. Laird (Amy Spigelmyer), 22:40; 3. SW, Spigelmyer (Shannon Laird), 19:13; 4. SW, E. Laird, 19:00; 5. SW, Vogan (E. Laird), 16:03; 6. SW, Vogan (Nicolette Bonagura), 15:38; 7. SW, Allison Groft (Kim Kaminski), 0:16.
Second Half -- 8. SW, E. Laird, 7:21.
Shots On Goal -- NO 8, SW 12.
Corners -- NO 1, SW 3.
Goalies -- NO, Gabby Reichart (8 saves); SW, Laken Bull (0 saves), Amy Spigelmyer (0 saves).