Pitted against perennial power Red Land, the Falcons bowed out of the District Three Class AAA tournament with a 2-0 loss in the first round at a bright and sunny Crossroads Middle School.
Patriot striker Brendi Ernst headed home goals late in both halves, and keeper Rachel Fox delivered the clean sheet for the No. 2 seeds. Cedar Crest, seeded No. 18, kept it tight throughout, relying on a dozen saves from goalie Nikki Harner.
"I'm proud of my group. We came to play, and they know that they were in a game," Falcon coach Daryl Neiswender said.
"We had to make some adjustments, but I thought we played with them minute-by-minute," added Neiswender. "They're a very, very good team. They're well coached and have some really skilled players."
After weathering the early storm, Adrienne Yoder's pressure led to another chance by Gabby Boehmer in the 15th minute. The pendulum had swung in favor of the underdogs by the midway mark of the first half, although Ernst quickly redirected it back in Red Land's favor with 7:46 left before the break.
"We were able to hold up against their 15-to-20 minutes of strong (play)," Red Land head coach Jaime Miller said. "The first goal was huge. It was just a great effort from Brendi. I told the girls, a toe-poke, a flick, something was going to make the difference, and that's what it was."
Moments after Crest stymied a corner-kick set piece, Brinley Watts booted the ball back into the Falcon box. In traffic, Ernst found enough space to bounce it past the far post for a 1-0 edge.
"I just dove for it and deflected it. And, instead of going diagonal, I directed it to go straight into the bottom left-hand corner," explained Ernst. "I think it really set the bar for the team. I just know I wanted that goal so bad. We wanted to win. I think it picked the team up and gave us more confidence."
The Falcons nearly tied it three minutes after halftime when Watts took down Yoder from behind on a breakaway. The foul set up a free kick for Echard, who rolled one around a wall into the waiting arms of Fox (five saves).
"Cedar Crest - they did not quit," added Ernst. "They were strong the entire time. They didn't want to lose that game. It was a great game; they fought really hard."
Ernst doused the Falcons' final ember with an insurance tally at 75:22 when she used her cranium again to convert Julia Keebaugh's cross-field chip. Overall, Red Land finished with a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal and 5-2 edge in corners. It also had a pair of goals called back - courtesy of an offsides and dangerous play - and connected with the crossbar three times.
"The first one's always tough (in districts)," added Miller. "We haven't seen Cedar Crest all year, and I heard they were a fantastic team, and they were a great team. Hard workers."
The loss ends Crest's campaign at 12-9-1.
"It's been a great year; we had a great season," Neiswender reflected. "(The seniors) are absolutely just a great bunch of kids. We had some adversity at the beginning, and these girls picked us up. They were great leaders.
"Hopefully now that (our young players) got a taste of it, and they know what it takes to get here, we can get back here next year."