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GIRLS SOCCER: Elco stands alone atop Section Three

LANCASTER >> The Elco girls soccer team has put in a lot of hard work in Section Three this season against a bevy of challenges and challengers.

So when it came time for their final day on the job in the section this season, you could best believe the Raiders weren't about to mail in their effort.

Elco completed a sometimes arduous, but very worthwhile, journey to the Section Three title on Wednesday night, wrapping up their third section crown in the last four years with a thorough 4-1 regular season finale win at Lancaster Catholic.

Two goals from freshman sensation Ryelle Shuey — including a header off a gorgeous corner kick service from Kaela Gettle to open the scoring midway through the first half — keyed the victory and gave the Raiders a 14-3-1 overall record and a 12-1-1 section mark heading into Saturday's opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs against the third-place finisher from Section One.

Emily Bidelspach and Taylor Bossert also scored for Elco, which thrived among the likes of Donegal, Lancaster Mennonite and Annville-Cleona to stand alone atop the section one more time.

"It's a good start to, hopefully, a long postseason run," said a smiling Elco coach Derek Fulk. "Our section, every year the parity seems to get better and better, and I think we've gotten to the point where it's not just one or two teams at the top. I think every team has gotten better and every game has become a challenge, for the most part. It's nice to win our section losing only one game and against teams that are getting better every year. I'm really proud of the kids."

And the kids are justifiably proud of themselves as Shuey noted.

"It's unbelievable," she said. "Our team, we really bust our butts, and every day in practice we were working toward this. It was a team effort. I'm so proud."

It took a while for the Raiders to settle in, as the combination of some jitters and difficulty connecting passes, led to more than 20 minutes of scoreless soccer to open the contest.

But once they did, there was no looking back, as the aforementioned Gettle-Balsbaugh connection opened the floodgates to a 3-0 lead by intermission.

"It was a great service," a grinning Shuey said of Gettle's on-target corner kick that set up the initial goal. "She always has great crosses, and I knew I had to get in there because it was coming."

"Just the way we drew it up," Fulk joked. "It starts with a great ball from the corner, and Ry, with her height and athletic ability... I think that's like her fourth or fifth goal off a corner. She's been getting better every week, which is great for us."

The Raiders are far from a one-player show, though, something that was reinforced throughout the rest of the contest.

Bidelspach joined in the fun by whistling home Elco's second goal with 5:21 left in the half, and Shuey knocked in a Morgan Balsbaugh with 57 ticks to go before intermission to give the Raiders a commanding 3-0 advantage at the break.

And if the Crusaders were entertaining any thoughts of getting back into the game, Bossert quickly squashed them 1:12 into the second half by jumping on the rebound of a Shuey shot off Catholic keeper Julia Castagna and burying it into the back of the net.

Game, set, and match, Elco, although Sara Heise would allow the Crusaders to avert the shutout with 9:41 left.

By then, though, the Raiders were already planning their celebration of a job well done.

"I was nervous for it," Shuey said of some pregame jitters. "But we were just so excited. We knew what we had to get done."

Elco 4, Lancaster Catholic 1

Elco31—4Lancaster Catholic01—1

First half — E: Ryelle Shuey 2, Emily Bidelspach

Second half — E: Taylor Bossert, LC: Sara Heise

Assists — E: Kaela Gettle, Meredith Balsbaugh

Shots on goal — Elco 17, Lancaster Catholic 5;

Corners — Elco 4, Lancaster Catholic 2;

Saves — E: Emma Strickler 4, LC: Julia Castagna (13 saves)

JV score — Elco 5, Lancaster Catholic 0