Girls' soccer: Fleetwood ends Elco's district run in semis, 1-0
HERSHEY>> It took the Fleetwood girls soccer team all of 32 seconds to take the lead against Elco in the District Three Class AA semifinals on Monday night at Hersheypark Stadium.
And then the tough and skilled second-seeded Berks County reps spent the next 79:28 trying to put the feisty Raiders away.
It wasn't easy. Elco recovered nicely from Sydney Lobb's shocking early goal, but not enough to pull out a third straight dramatic district win, falling 1-0 in a hotly-contested battle on the Chocolatetown turf.
Now 16-5-1, the Raiders are not done yet, with a third-place state playoff qualifying game with Susquehannock, a 1-0 semifinal loser to Northern, looming on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
And if they can summon up most of what they produced on Monday, there may yet be some magic left in the Raiders' season.
"Take away the first 32 seconds and I thought we did OK," said an upbeat Elco coach Derek Fulk. "We didn't come out ready to play, and they took advantage of it, but for the rest of the game I thought we held our own, if not had the better of the play for the majority of the second half."
But that lightning-quick score from Lobb ensured an uphill battle the rest of the way against the now 18-1-3 Tigers.
"Not a lot," Fulk said with a chuckle, when asked what he remembered about the score. "I wasn''t even sure what happened, really. I didn''t see that it came from anything, really. We just came out a little soft, a little timid and they took advantage of it."
But there was little comfort level for Fleetwood from there, as Ryelle Shuey, Jenna Oliviero and Taylor Bossert all produced quality scoring chances. In addition, keeper Emma Strickler made a sliding stop of a Lauren Hunter chance after Hunter slipped behind the Elco defense with 6:50 left in the first half.
The Raiders' best chance to knot the score came near the midpoint of the second half, when Tigers keeper Jenna Hawkins appeared to tip a Bossert shot off the cross bar, then barely save the rebound try from Oliviero before it rolled across the goal line.
"That's just an unbelievable play," Fulk said of Hawkins' stops. "It's just one of those things. It just seemed like we were snake-bit tonight. We just couldn't put anything in the back of the net. Like I said, I was very pleased with the way we played tonight. I thought we created a lot of opportunities, but unfortunately that doesn't win you the game."
But that tendency to battle to the end does earn you respect, something the Raiders did superbly in rallying past Schuylkill Valley 3-2 in the first round, then outlasting East Pennsboro in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.
Saturday, they'll get a chance to display those qualities again in an effort to sew up the program's first state playoff berth since 2011.
"These kids are one of the most resilient groups I've ever had the pleasure of coaching," Fulk said. "They never quit. They have tremendous character and they have a tremendous desire to win. And I think it showed tonight. Getting down 1-0 early, we could have folded the tents and went home. But we battled for the next 79 minutes, and that's a credit to them.
"I told them not to be ashamed of the way they played. Hopefully we'll be able to give a good show on Saturday and see what happens."
Fleetwood 1, Elco 0
Elco 0 0 — 0
Fleet 1 0 — 0
First half — 1. F, Sydney Lobb, 0:32.
Second half — None.
Shots on goal — Fleetwood 7, Elco 5
Corners — Fleetwood 3, Elco 3
Saves — F: Jenna Hawkins (x saves). E: Emma Strickler (6 saves).