Cedar Crest cruises past Red Lion in district opener
HUMMELSTOWN >> It's every playoff-caliber team's goal: Peak at the right time and/or play your best when the games matter the most and the stakes are the highest.
The Cedar Crest field hockey team hasn't met every goal it set for itself this season, but it pretty much nailed the one above with its performance on Saturday.
In a District Three Class AAA preliminary round contest at Lower Dauphin Middle School, Cedar Crest played arguably its best game of the season — and maybe a few seasons — en route to dismantling Red Lion 5-0 with a razor-sharp effort that included pinpoint passing throughout and goals from five different players.
The net result of the sparkling effort is a date with top-seeded Penn Manor in an opening-round clash on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Warwick, as well as enhanced respect for a Cedar Crest program that has been rising in prominence in recent years.
And the 17th-seeded Falcons sure looked like a top-shelf squad on Saturday, outshooting the York County reps 15-0 and generally dominating on the way to their fifth straight win.
"I think we're finally coming together as a team," said senior forward Maddie Gable, who contributed a goal and assist to the victory. "This is what we are. This is what we've been waiting for the entire year."
"It feels pretty good," said a smiling Cedar Crest coach Dana Risser. "Our kids have come a long way this season, and I think it just proves what this team is capable of. In an environment like this — the biggest game of the season, arguably — to come out with this performance, it's awesome. And they're well-deserving of it."
Cedar Crest took control from the opening whistle, and nearly grabbed the lead just four minutes in when Emily Peters whistled a shot off the left post.
That scoring chance wasn't meant to be, but plenty of others were, including Maddie Barron's reverse-stick score off a Gable assist that opened the scoring with 18:51 left in the first half.
Peters then set up Emily Hombach for a slick open-field goal with 9:38 to go before intermission that ultimately provided a 2-0 halftime lead that felt larger, given Crest's control of the play.
"Our passes were together, we finished, everything was complete," Gable said. "We were working together as a team. We were there to back each other up all the way."
The Falcons (11-8) continued and expanded upon their high level of execution after the break, putting repeated pressure on goalie Jena Everett while living in Red Lion's defensive circle.
It paid off with 22:27 left when Gable knocked in a rebound off of Everett's pads for a 3-0 lead. Peters, assisted by Taylor Kauffman, made it a 4-0 game four minutes later.
Tasia Rutter then completed the rout with the final Falcon goal off a feed from Hombach with 7:18 left.
"It was definitely a complete game," Risser said, summing it all up. "We had four wins (in a row) to end the regular season, and from that first one our kids have been playing this well, honestly. They're peaking at the end of the season, and that's awesome. It's been great."
Now all the Falcons have to do to make it greater is beat the defending Class AAA co-state champs on Wednesday. A tall order, to be sure, but based on Saturday's performance Cedar Crest, which fell to Section One rival Penn Manor by scores of 3-2 and 8-0 in the regular season, is as prepared as it could possibly be.
"I think this gives us a lot of intensity to come into the next game," Gable. "This is what we needed."
Cedar Crest 5, Red Lion 0
Red Lion00—0Cedar Crest23—5
First half — CC: Maddie Barron, Emily Hombach
Second half — CC: Maddie Gable, Emily Peters, Tasia Rutter
Assists — CC: Gable, Peters, Taylor Kauffman, Hombach
Shots on goal — Cedar Crest 15, Red Lion 0;
Corners — Cedar Crest 7, Red Lion 3;
Saves — RL: Jena Everett (9 saves), CC: Kelsey Bell, Hannah Funk (0 saves)