As Elizabethtown head coach Keith Renner will attest, playoff chances haven't come around his Lady Bears' girls' soccer team too often. When they do come, however, the Lady Bears tend to bury them.
In their matchup versus ninth-seeded Lower Dauphin, the eighth-seeded Bears avenged an early season loss to the Lady Falcons with a 2-0 victory Tuesday evening in Elizabethtown, as they continue to make the most of their playoff opportunities and advance to Saturday's quarterfinal round of the District 3 AAA tournament.
"I was so worried about them coming out flat just because of what we've done the last week," Renner said, his team coming off a win in the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship last Thursday. "I told them it was 23 years until our program won a District game last year. I didn't want them to forget how hard it was, and not to sit here and let it get away from them."
The Lady Bears (18-3-1) thus came out of the gates with ferocious abandon, getting an early goal from freshman Sierra Reed in the 15th minute to put the Falcons (12-5-1) on their heels early.
"I just kind of (stayed) back and placed it," Reed said of her left-footed finish with defenders around her. "They were playing a little flat and we just wanted to get at them and get an early one."
"Last year, we kicked them out of Districts and we thought they were going to come out and bring it to us," said senior Maddie Mohr. "We wanted to come out ready from the start."
Not only did Etown out-chance Lower Dauphin 9-2 in the first half with four corner plays and six shots on goal, but also they held the Falcons to zero shots on just a pair of corners.
In a wild second half, however, Bears' goalkeeper Carlee Reed (4 saves) made sure the 1-0 lead stood up. Thirteen minutes into the second frame, a Lower Dauphin rush produced the Falcons' first real opportunity in the contest.
Savannah Mushinski sent a rocket toward the near post where Reed punched the ball and the ensuing rebound attempt out of bounds to set up a Lower Dauphin corner.
Nikki Saad's subsequent service from the corner was headed by Lariah Thompson high on goal, where the Bears' sophomore keeper tipped it off the crossbar before it was cleared by a Bears' defender.
"I'd rather have a game that's like that than to just kind of stand there and do nothing," Carlee Reed said. "It felt great, because we haven't had a game like that for a while, so it was definitely a confidence booster."
Etown continued to play the second half with a tighter defensive set, allowing Mohr to roam the deep midfield and negate the speedy Saad and the rest of the Falcons' rush.
"That's Maddie's decision on the field," Renner said. "I give her free reign on pretty much whatever she thinks she needs to do. You have to give her basic instruction but the game sense, if I mess with that then you're messing with her thinking. I want her just to play."
Eventually, the Bears would capitalize with a counter of their own as Sierra Reed lofted a ball to sophomore Kaeleigh Smedley, who beat her defender and buried her first goal of the season past Falcons' goalkeeper Maryn Trowbridge (5 saves) for the clinching score.
"It felt good to score," said Smedley, admitting her shots this season have been wide or high. "Shock was my first thought, I didn't think it was going in at all."
Footed with the two-goal lead, Etown was able to relax back into the defensive midfield and hold on to the victory, setting up a rematch on Saturday with last season's District 3 champion and this year's top-seed Cumberland Valley.
"Hopefully we're going to take it to them and win back what we lost last year and advance," Mohr said, referring to Etown's 3-0 defeat in last year's title game. "That's what our main goal is, to advance."
Girls' High School Soccer
District 3 AAA First Round
Elizabethtown 2, Lower Dauphin 0
LD 0 0 - 0
ET 1 1 - 2
Lower Dauphin Scoring: NA
Elizabethtown Scoring: S. Reed 15:00), K. Smedley (S. Reed) 67:00
Corners-Shots: LD 4-4, ET 5-9
Saves: LD M. Trowbridge 5, ET C. Reed 4