Nerves for any freshman starter are to be expected.
A pair of goals from one making her debut in a marquee rivalry series at the center-forward position generally is not.
Freshman Sam Gerhart deposited the first two scores of her varsity career Saturday and led Cedar Crest to a 3-0 victory over Elco in the 20th annual Blue-Gray Cup. Gerhart struck in each half, handing the Falcons (2-2-1) a second straight victory and the Raiders (3-1) their first loss of the season. Junior Ariel Jones slammed home Cedar Crest's middle goal in the 65th minute off a rebound generated by a Gerhart shot.
Jones and Gerhart gave Elco's defense fits in the opening half with their speed and strong 1-on-1 play, in retrospect an ominous sign for things to come.
"I'm just really proud of the energy that we put forth, and it was nice to put a few in after struggling to score early in the year," Falcons coach Jon Brubaker said. "(Gerhart) was just all over the field, pressuring the ball, strong, physical and I was happy to see her get a couple tonight."
Cedar Crest improved to 11-9 all-time in the Blue-Gray Cup series, having won every meeting since 2009. Gerhart and co. clinched victory early on in the rain-soaked evening when the freshman forward fired from atop the left half of the box and watched the ball skip off the gloves of Elco keeper Emma Strickler and in during the 18th minute.
"I just played it hard on the ground and because it's wet outside I think it slipped through her hands." Gerhart said. "But I get nervous every game. I'm a freshman and everyone is so much older than me. I think it started to go away after that because I felt like I was into it then."
Gerhart's strong performance was reminiscent of the collective showing put on by the Raiders' rookies on Wendesday, when Elco bulldozed rival Annville-Cleona 6-1 behind four freshman goals. Since then, the team eked out a 2-1 win Friday night at Pequea Valley, before getting dropped handily by the Falcons.
"We were flat again, so I'm starting to be a little concerned," Raiders coach Derek Fulk said. "But take nothing away from them. (Cedar Crest) played well, moved the ball and did some good things. They deserved to win.
"The freshmen [are] going to experience some growing pains, so I think it's different. But it's just something you're going to have to deal with."
In the boys' match, Elco came out on top and took home the Ritter-Hoffman Cup, as it defeated Cedar Crest 4-2. To read the recap, visit www.GameTimePA.com.
Cedar Crest 3, Elco 0
First half — CC: Sam Gerhart (unassisted)
Second half — CC: Ariel Jones (Gerhart), Gerhart (unassisted).