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Elco girls win battle of wills against Cedar Crest, 1-0

MYERSTOWN - There wasn't much separating Lebanon County rivals Elco and Cedar Crest on Saturday during their girls soccer clash at Elco.

In fact, just a few inches.

Jenna Oliviero's shot in the first half ricocheted off the lower side of the crossbar and fell behind the line for Elco's goal in a tense 1-0 win. Carli Wasson's shot for Crest five minutes later did the same thing, except it landed in front of the goal before Elco goalkeeper Emma Strickler tucked it away.

For the other 79 minutes of action, it was district-playoff style, back and forth for the two teams, who looked very much like they were headed for overtime.

In the final minute, Crest's Ariel Jones put a dangerous ball in front of the Elco goal that took a desperation clearance by Monica Arnold, and Wasson's free kick from 20 yards had Jones, Sam Gerhart and a few others scrambling to convert.

In the end, the Blue/Gray Cup that goes to the winner belonged to the Raiders (5-0), who hadn't won it in seven years. The series now stands at 10-10, with Crest (2-2) winning the previous five.

"As far as the seniors on this team," said Elco senior Eve Peiffer, "this was the one game on our schedule we wanted to win. We hadn't beaten Cedar Crest in my four years, not since 2009."

"This was a big win for us," Elco coach Derek Fulk said. "It's always good to get a win against a Section 1 team, because they're all so good. This game we really had to scrap. We won this one on heart."

Setting the tone for the game early were Ryelle Shuey and Crest's senior all-star mid Alex Burrows. Every time Shuey touched the ball, Burrows was nearby.

Burrows took Shuey to the ground just four minutes in, with Shuey misfiring on the direct kick from just beyond the penalty area. With 27:20 left in the half, Burrows did it again, resulting in a yellow card for her and Shuey's shot off the crossbar.

"We knew that (Shuey) was somebody we had to keep an eye on," Burrows said. "She's a very good player, who's very dangerous. We didn't want to give her many shots."

Shuey started looking for others to set up and Elco won the battle of shots, 9-5, with Desiree Leffler making eight saves for Crest and Strickler recording five.

"My coaches prepared me for this season," Shuey said. "They told me that every game, I'm going to have two or three players on me. I know I'm going to get fouled a lot. But when that many people are on me, somebody else has to be open. I'm looking to distribute the ball more this year."

The winning goal was set up by Peiffer, who dished off to Oliviero after Taylor Bossert created an opportunity on left wing. Oliviero took a touch or two, looked up and fired high over Leffler, but not the goal.

"I thought we started a little sluggish, which is when the goal came (with 11:58 left in the half)," Crest coach Jon Brubaker said. "It was a little hot out there and Elco started pretty strong. As the game wore on, we kept fighting and took the game to them. We just couldn't get one past them."