ANNVILLE>> A hip and a head have the Annville-Cleona boys' soccer team off to its best start in 10 years.
Little Dutchmen defender Javier Gonzalez Sanchez turned in the only goal of a thrilling 1-0 victory over Elco Wednesday, heading in a 30-yard free kick from Santiago Paris Gimeno in the 68th minute. One minute earlier, Little Dutchmen keeper Koy Alwine denied Raiders forward Evan Gettler on a penalty kick, moving with a confidence that seemed to stem from almost pure certainty. How did he know what to expect?
"Well originally I was going to go right, but I saw he changed his hips to left right before he kicked," Alwine said. "So I cheated that way and I guessed it right."
Annville-Cleona's new 2-0 record is a program best to start a season dating back to 2005 when the team opened with three straight wins. Meanwhile Elco has dropped to 0-2 for the third time in six years, despite a dominant first half when the Raiders had the Little Dutchmen defense running ragged. Yet neither Gettler nor any of his teammates could connect on a handful of chances, akin to their surprising season-opening defeat against Cocalico.
Then, as soon as Elco failed to convert its best offensive opportunity of the night, the miss came back to bite them.
"That was the big thing," Raiders coach Kirk Keppley said of the missed penalty kick. "We didn't finish our chance, so that picks them up, gets them going and that's exactly what happened.
"That's just soccer. You know it's coming, you know it's going to happen and there's really not much you can do about it. That's just the way the game is."
To their credit, Keppley's bunch rallied quickly, mustering another high-quality look off a rebound in the 72nd minute. But there was Alwine again, stretching as far to his right as possible to swat the follow-up try.
"Initially I was kind of shielded off, so I couldn't see the ball when it was kicked," Alwine said. "I didn't know until the last second and then I full out dove to stop the ball and knocked it out."
Before Alwine's game-changing efforts, Annville-Cleona senior captain Matt Light helped even the playing field with three shots over a 5-minute span in the infancy of the second half. The remainder of the night's possession was split evenly, as was play until the Little Dutchmen's pair of Spanish exchange students connected for the eventual game-winner.
That score has now not only put Annville-Cleona in a prime starting position to reach its ultimate goal of postseason contention, but also a more interim one focused on beating two section powers back to back.
"All along we've been hoping to make that next step this year. We knew coming in that we'd have our toughest tests right out of the gun with Elco tonight and then Lancaster Mennonite on Friday," Little Dutchmen coach Ray Kreiser said. "We've been talking about it since day one."
First half — None.
Second half — A-C: Javier Gonzalez Sanchez (Santiago Paris Gimeno),
Shots on goal — E 9, A-C 5.
Corners — E 4, A-C 5.
Saves — E: Matt Krall (1 save), Matt Berger (3). A-C: Koy Alwine (9).