HERSHEY - Kauffman, Steckbeck, Peters and Richards. Sounds like a law firm.
Maybe someday. But for now, Taylor Kauffman, Julia Steckbeck, Emily Peters and Gabby Richards will have to settle for teaming up for the Cedar Crest field hockey team's biggest goal -- and victory -- in nearly a decade.
Combining on a perfectly-executed corner play that culminated with Richards tipping in a shot by Peters with 9:20 left in overtime, the Falcons grabbed their first postseason win since 2004 on Saturday, a heart-pounding 1-0 OT decision over Elizabethtown in a District Three Class AAA preliminary round battle at Milton Hershey.
Despite being outplayed for long stretches in the first half, giving up 13 corners and earning only three, and playing an early portion of OT shorthanded after Steckbeck was given a questionable card, 18th-seeded Cedar Crest persevered and then some. Their reward is a date with No. 2 seed Twin Valley in Tuesday's first round, a contest set for 5 p.m. at Exeter High School.
Thanks to the mythical law firm, as well as goalie Trisha Gerdes, whose mid-second-half stop of a penalty stroke kept the Bears (11-5-2) from ever gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.
"This team, they deserve it," said a drained but thrilled Cedar Crest coach Dana Risser. "This group of girls has just worked so hard, from the summer on and for the last three years. I couldn't be happier that it was these kids who were able to break through with a district win."
They were pretty happy about it, too, creating a mini-mob scene in the circle moments after Richard's fateful tip-in brought an end to more than 65 minutes of scoreless, high-intensity field hockey.
"Last time we were in playoffs (in 2010) it was our freshman year and we didn't really care as much as we do now," said a smiling senior forward Richards."This means so much to us now, coming back our senior year. It's just amazing, it's the greatest feeling."
It was a feeling the Falcons seemed destined not to get to experience for a good chunk of the contest. But shortly after dodging Steckbeck's absence in OT, destiny changed sides, leading to freshman forward Peters coming up with a steal near midfield and speeding into the circle. Upon arrival, Peters drove hard toward the left post and was knocked down by a defender to create the corner chance.
It was a chance that certainly wasn't wasted. Kauffman initiated the play from the end line, directing a pass to Steckbeck, who slid it to Peters near the top of the circle. Peters then uncorked a blast that Richards redirected past Bears goalie Katelyn Keller for the game-winner. Postseason dry spell over.
"I was on the stroke mark, and Emily shot it right to the stroke mark and I was there," Richards said, recounting the decisive score. "Perfect timing. I just hit it in, tipped it in."
"She (Peters) did a great job creating the corner with her speed," Risser said. "And on the corner shot, Julia passed it to Emily, great execution. Emily had a great one-time shot and Gabby was at the right spot to get the tip."
And with 21:52 left, Morgan Gantz's penalty stroke was just barely in the wrong spot, close enough to that same left post to allow Gerdes to come up with the diving stop to preserve a shutout that also had the fingerprints of defenders Madi Peters, Emily's sister, and Amanda Rhine on it.
Actually, corny as it sounds, all the Falcons who stepped on the field had a hand in the win in one way or another. In short, it wasn't a game for the faint of heart.
"Our kids can handle adversity, they're tough," said Risser, whose squad dropped a 2-1 non-league decision to the Bears back on Aug. 30. "It was a little nerve-racking, my heart's still beating fast. But it was exciting, and they deserve it. Absolutely."
You won't find Richards or any of her feisty teammates disagreeing, that's for sure.
"It was a very high-intensity game," Richards said. "We both wanted to win so bad. We held in there, we sure did, and we fought hard. All our hard work throughout the season, it just paid off. We're just happy, so happy. Oh my goodness."