In the beginning, there’s always the hope of all the possibilities a season can bring. Some began with high expectations, and some are looking at other goals to accomplish in the upcoming year.
With the halfway point of the 2016 season upon us, here’s a look at how each Lebanon County boys soccer team has progressed through the first half of the season and what adjustments need to be made to reach those preseason goals.
Elco (9-1-1, 7-0-1), first place Section 3
They knew they had a good team, having the skill and the determination. But in recent years, the Raiders haven’t been able to put themselves over the hump, especially against the team that’s been the class of their section – Lancaster Mennonite.
But this season, Elco finds itself in prime position to steal the section away from the big bad Blazers.
“I had a feeling we could do it. I think it was more of we could compete with them than beat them,” Raiders coach Kirk Keppley said. “It was kind of a situation where the last few years we thought we’d be right there but things didn’t go that way. All the close games went against us.”
A reason this Raiders team is starting to take notice – referring back to its old ways.
“This is an old fashioned crew that isn’t going to back down from anyone,” Keppley said. “They’re going to do anything they can to give 110 percent to achieve that goal. The guys will pick each other up.”
And in order to achieve the goal of a Section title, Elco will not only need “the Raider way,” but also to maintain their balanced scoring attack, led by Clay Hain with nine goals and three assists, along with six goals and two assists from Evan Gettler. Mason Bennetch also finds himself with three goals and four assists.
“That’s a huge thing for us. We have a lot of different guys who can put the ball in the back of the net for us. Someone else can step up if someone else is having an off day,” Keppley said. “If we keep that going, any team that gets a lot of scoring is a tough team to shut down. It makes it difficult to defend a team that’s spread out with scoring.”
Annville-Cleona (7-5, 5-4), fourth in Section 3
Only one name has been mostly responsible for the Little Dutchmen’s offense this season – Eli Setlock, who has 14 goals so far. However, there isn’t much scoring depth after that. And as we’ve seen throughout all Lebanon County soccer – unbalanced scoring leads to a record hovering around .500.
Koy Alwine has also done a great job keeping his team afloat, recording 61 saves this season in the A-C goal, or about five a game.
Continued good goalkeeping and maybe more production offensively will help A-C stay in the postseason conversation in a tightly contested section.
Cedar Crest (3-7-1, 2-6-1) seventh Section 2
It’s been a tough go for the Falcons this season, especially in the scoring department. Since its season-opening win against Governor Mifflin, Cedar Crest has scored two goals or less to this point.
The Falcons look to turn their luck around and put more balls in the back of the net and see if that can jump start a big momentum swing into the second half of the season.
Palmyra (4-6-1, 2-4-1), 5th Mid-Penn Keystone
Inconsistent scoring has led to an inconsistent start for the Cougars as well. Reasons for it vary from dealing with injuries that are forcing different combinations up front, or guys just not finding a way to finish or overthinking what to do in pressure situations.
But Palmyra coach AJ Hull does see a light at the end of the tunnel for a turnaround, especially with gaining some guys back from injury. Now it’s just a matter of a regularly used key to success – execution.
"I would say that we do have players with potential of being true goal scorers. But it’s a matter of stepping up,” Hull said. “I think the first step is getting into that position. The second is knowing what to do when you're in that position. I think a big part of that is mentality, and just do what you do."
Up to this point it’s been Sean Bordner and Luke Higgins leading the way with six and three goals, respectively.
Northern Lebanon (3-10, 1-8) seventh Section 3
Once again, a lack of depth and inconsistent goalkeeping have plagued the Vikings this season.
But the only thing one really can do in this sport is simply keep shooting and working on finishing, which is what NL will focus on for the second half of the season.
Lebanon (1-8, 0-7) seventh section 1
Battling through the roughest adversity comes for the Cedars as well, who are still looking for their first section win of the year.
Lebanon Catholic (1-9, 0-8) eighth Section 3
Though it has been another challenging year for the Beavers, one bright spot has been the play of Nate Hatzfield in the goal. That type of goalkeeping will be the only way Lebanon Catholic will have the chance at a section win this season.
New Covenant Christian, (4-7, 2-3 as of 9-26) third place CCAC West
In what’s been a competitive division, the Flames find themselves right in the thick of things. The offensive production of Nathan Dubble and Toby Kornhaus has led the way, each with five goals.
Jevon Martin has also been solid in the New Covenant net, recording 61 saves in the first half this season, good for about six per game. That type of production will keep a team in a tight playoff race.