The turf field at Earl Boltz Stadium appeared to be appropriately level when the Cedar Crest field hockey team stepped on it for Tuesday afternoon's non-league matchup with Lampeter-Strasburg.
That is, until the Falcons took possession of the ball early and often and forced a decided tilt toward the L-S defensive zone.
Dominating offensively from pretty much start to finish, Cedar Crest notched its first win of the young season, a thorough 4-1 drubbing of the Pioneers in South Lebanon.
A pair of Maddie Barron goals paced the Falcons (1-1), but the lopsided win was much more the result of complete team play than any individual brilliance.
In addition to dominating possession, Cedar Crest was quicker and more aggressive than the Pioneers throughout, and enhanced its dominance with sharp passing and superb anticipation.
It was a performance that stood in stark contrast to the Falcons' season-opening 1-0 loss to Elizabethtown on Friday, much to the delight of Cedar Crest coach Dana Risser.
"It was definitely a huge improvement from our game on Friday," said Risser. "The strength of our team, I do believe, is the speed on our forward line and the midfield. Friday night we just struggled to maintain possession as a team, and we worked on that yesterday. That was our focus for today, and I think the girls really stepped up and started moving the ball around.
"The game of field hockey works a lot better when you let the ball do the work on a hot day like this. They really supported each other, knew where people were gonna be and made early passes."
One of those speedy forward/midfield types, junior Emily Peters, got the Falcons on the board just 2:38 into the game, and a little over six minutes later Barron struck for the first time to give Crest a two-goal cushion with 21:01 still to play in the half.
Cedar Crest would take that 2-0 lead into halftime after goalie Kelsey Bell denied a few promising L-S scoring chances just before the half, then quickly extended it to 4-0 after Emily Hombach and Barron scored less than a minute apart early in the second half.
"It was fantastic. We had talked about that, 'We gotta score early,'" Risser said of the quick start to both halves. "Coming out and getting two early in the second half was critical to putting this game away."
The only smudge on the Falcons' otherwise spotless performance came with 48 seconds left when Makayla Malcolm scored to spoil the home team's shutout hopes.
But by that point, Cedar Crest had long since sewn up the first of what it hopes will be many victories that send it to the district playoffs for the third straight season.
The degree of difficulty will increase substantially starting Wednesday night when Crest opens Section One play against reigning Class AAA co-state champ Penn Manor.
But based on Tuesday's effort, the Falcons appear to be ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
"It's a big relief," Risser said of securing the season's first win. "We were hoping to get that one Friday night, but that's how the game goes. It was nice to come out here on a hot day like this, our first home game, and get that first win under our belt. It'll give the kids a lot of confidence moving forward."
"It's now kind of an expectation for our kids (to make districts) rather than a lofty goal. We have high expectations, and I think the kids have really backed that up with their work ethic."
Cedar Crest 4, Lampeter-Strasburg 1
First half — CC: Emily Peters, Maddie Barron
Second half — CC: Barron, Emily Hombach
Assists — CC: Barron, Hombach
Shots on goal — Cedar Crest 19, Lampeter-Strasburg 6
Corners — Lampeter-Strasburg 4, Cedar Crest 3
Goalies — LS: Robin Feaster (9 saves), Autumn Peters (5 saves)