There was hope in the air for everyone, as is typical at the start of a new season. But as the page turns to the halfway point, every team now finds themselves with much different story lines as they look to quickly regroup.
Here’s a look at some of those story lines as each Lebanon County girls soccer team gears up for the second half of the season.
Elco (12-0, 8-0), first place Section 3
There’s no secret to the Raiders’ success - balanced scoring and overall depth.
Jumping early on teams in working to a big lead is always the goal – and usually done well. And that has led to the tremendous momentum of a season trickle its way down the entire roster, making everybody better.
And stopping that is something extremely difficult to do.
“That’s one thing we are very proud of. It is one thing that’s good for us as the season goes along. It’s going to give a lot more experience for our players and hopefully that pays off in the long run,” said Elco coach Derek Fulk.
“They do a lot of offseason playing for premier teams and it helps them playing with better players of those teams. So when they come here, our chemistry has been fantastic. That’s a credit to these kids that work hard in practice and work well with each other. We have a good mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen who are doing a good job fitting into our system.”
Now the Raiders enjoy a rather comfortable lead in what is an otherwise tight Section 3.
Palmyra, (6-4-2, 5-1) first place Mid-Penn Keystone
When you have plenty of weapons at your disposal like the Lady Cougars do, you’re going to find success. And currently, they sit atop their division with a half-game lead on Mechanicsburg heading into their showdown Tuesday.
Palmyra however, is trying to catch its breath, having just completed four games in the past week, ending that stretch with a 3-1 loss to Cedar Crest Saturday.
“We just need to come out as hard and as well as I know we can. I think our girls were just tired mentally and physically, and it showed Saturday,” Lady Cougars coach Alanna Dunkle said. “Cedar Crest is a very good team. Not to discredit them, we just didn’t come out to our full potential. If we show up against Mechanicsburg, it’ll be a much better game.”
One can’t imagine the Lady Cougars will let their seamless offensive production go to waste, led by 13 combined goals already this season from Nikki and Mara Bowman.
Cedar Crest (5-5-1, 3-3-1), Third Section 1
Probably the biggest Achilles heel exposed thus far for the Falcons is the ability to close out games, especially trying to protect a tight lead late in a game, which cost them two wins against Governor Mifflin and Hempfield.
Though they’ve been able to recently creep back up the Section 1 standings, a lot will have to fall Cedar Crest’s way during this second half stretch, along with getting on a run, as the Falcons find themselves still several games in back of Manheim Township and Conestoga Valley.
The way to do it is finding a little more consistency offensively, running through Ariel Jones – literally.
"I feel good running. I just thought we could play a lot of thru balls so I could get to them and try to make a cross or score. It's always an option,” Jones said of her productive senior season so far.
She along with offensive counterpart Alex Burrows knows there's still time, but it won’t come easy.
"We have a lot left in the season. One or two games isn't going to define us. We still have a lot more games to prove ourselves,” Jones said.
"We just keep telling each other to play for each other and just give it all we got and stay positive through it all. We just need to keep trying and practicing hard and it'll come,” Burrows said.
Annville-Cleona (2-4, 1-3 as of 9/15) seventh Section 3
Though the Dutchmen find themselves towards the bottom of Section 3, the biggest bright spot continues to be the play of Reagan Hess, who reached her 100-career-goal milestone in a loss to Elco Sept. 22. Then in a 7-0 thumping of rival Northern Lebanon, she lit it up for six of those goals, now giving her 112 career goals unofficially, as well as leading Section 3 in scoring with 19 goals.
A-C will need more offense however, in the second half of the season if it hopes to make a run.
Northern Lebanon (2-8, 2-6) seventh Section 3
Once again, a lack of depth and inconsistent goalkeeping have plagued the Vikings this season, only totaling 15 goals to this point. Megan Brandt and Brianna Seip have been the only main contributors - Seip leads the team in goals with six, while Brandt has two goals to this point.
“We just need to work on our scoring and shooting at practice and hopefully it’ll get better,” said NL coach Lindsey Rayman.
But Jenna Wentling has also been leading the way anchoring the Vikings back line, along with Holly Rittle in the NL goal, recording 58 saves, good for almost six per game.
But even in the midst of a tumultuous year, you can still figure out what you have in a team, seeing how they fight through the adversity. That will be NL’s test as the second half of the season approaches.
“That’s the good thing about our team. Even when things aren’t going our way, our team character really shines. They never give up,” Rayman said. “Our section’s always tough, but there’s always a small chance. Even though you only have a little chance, you play for your seniors because this is it for them.”
Lebanon (1-9, 0-8) eighth Section 3
Despite a productive season from Madison Hartman leading the Cedars in goals, it unfortunately hasn’t nearly been enough. Lebanon will need to tighten things up on the back line in order to find more success this season.
Lebanon Catholic (1-10, 0-7) eighth Section 3
Neesha Pierre has led the way offensively leading the team in goals, but the Beavers have struggled elsewhere to this point. It’s also been a duel effort in the goal between Alaina Kline and Jayden Shellehamer. Kline has 26 saves so far, while Shellehamer has 13 saves.
New Covenant Christian (2-4, 1-1), fourth CCAC
Even though it hasn’t been a great start for the Flames, a postseason berth is still a possibility, but they’ll need to start winning and need help.
New Covenant finds themselves three back in the win column from Harrisburg Christian in third, and two games behind in the win column from Lancaster County Christian for second place.
Kylie Murray leads the team in goals, with Emily Bonilla anchoring the Flames goal. It’ll be a team effort if New Covenant wants to find themselves in the playoffs.