HERSHEY >> As Emma Strickler strode methodically to the north end of Hershey High School's chilly soccer field Thursday night, the junior goalkeeper received one loud set of final instructions from an anxious Elco bench area.
"Make a decision and stay with it," Elco skipper Derek Fulk barked, moments before an all-or-nothing penalty kick shootout began to unfold.
Strickler obviously was listening.
Strickler stoned East Pennsboro's first two shooters, then watched a third attempt whistle over the cage. Meanwhile, with Strickler watching intently, Ryelle Shuey, Lori Weaver and Kate Fisher connected on their attempts as the Raiders survived 3-1 in a thrilling PK phase that decided a taut District 3-AA girls' soccer quarterfinal.
The game was tied 1-1 after 110 back-and-forth minutes.
Next on the agenda for Fulk's sixth-seeded Raiders (16-4-1) is a semifinal-round scrap with No. 2 Fleetwood in the front end of a twinbill Monday night (5:30) at Hersheypark Stadium. Fleetwood advanced with a 3-1 conquest of Manheim Central in another quarterfinal-round scrap.
East Penn (12-7-1), which trailed 1-0 at the break following Shuey's first-half marker, picked up a second-half finish from Kasi Brown. Michelle Hocker added eight saves for Jill Archer's Panthers (12-7-1).
Hocker, like Strickler (6 saves), made two stops in the shootout phase.
Staked to a 1-0 advantage when Shuey canned her spot kick, Strickler kept that tenuous lead intact by lunging to her left to turn away Hannah Young's pop. When Hocker responded with a save on Meredith Balsbaugh, Strickler answered with a lunge right to deny Kylie Wertz's would-be equalizer.
"I just made a lucky guess and I went that way," Strickler said, referring to her shootout stops.
"Well, that's good," a grinning Fulk admitted. "I guess she made a decision then. She's a phenomenal athlete and physically just her size and her athletic ability is a plus for us. She did get hurt the other night [in Elco's come-from-behind 3-2 win over Schuylkill Valley], so we weren't even 100 percent sure she was gonna play.
"But she bounced back and was able to play, did make some saves and kept us in the game tonight."
Still 1-0 into the shootout phase's third round, Hocker stepped back into the spotlight by slapping Julia Nelson's attempt over the crossbar.
"[Hocker] did make two big saves," Fulk said. "She was very good. They have some young kids and they'll be back I'm sure."
Strickler didn't get her mitts on Brown's ensuing try moments later, but the East Penn soph's shot sailed high and Elco's lead remained 1-0.
While Weaver and East Penn's Madison Ernst swapped successful efforts, Elco soon was bouncing with glee once Fisher's pop skipped inside the left post.
"My mindset is as long as they do their job, I'll do my job," Strickler said when presented with a 2-0 lead in the shootout. "And I did my job."
"Having the lead right out of the gate and then making the first save has got to give you a huge confidence boost," Fulk suggested. "And she did. It's a terrible way to end a game and it's unfortunate that somebody's got to lose.
"I thought they played a tremendous game and gave us everything we could handle, but I'm just glad we came out on top."
Elco 1, East Pennsboro 1
(Elco wins 3-1 in penalty kicks)
Elco1000—1 East Pennsboro010
First half — E: Ryelle Shuey
Second half — EP: Kasi Brown
Overtime — None
Double Overtime — None
Penalty kicks — E-Ryelle Shuey G, Meredith Balsbaugh NG, Julia Nelson NG, Lori Weaver G, Kate Fisher G;
Shots on goal — Elco 14, East Pennsboro 9;
Corners — East Pennsboro 7, Elco 6;
Saves — E: Emma Strickler (6 saves), EP: Michelle Hocker (8 saves)