The end of the regular season is drawing near for the Elizabethtown Area High School boys soccer team, and things are quickly heating up. With potential playoff spots for both the Lancaster-Lebanon League and District 3 playoffs on the line, the Bears charged into two matchups against Section Two rivals, coming out with different results.
The team had its final home game of the year against Ephrata on Thursday, Oct. 4, hoping to avenge a 2-1 loss from earlier in the season. Elizabethtown largely controlled the pace on offense in the first half, as the Mounts were largely content to sit back and play defense. However, with a thick fog rolling in, neither team could find the net, keeping the score at 0-0 at halftime.
The fog steadily faded as the second half went on, and the Bears finally struck first with just under 21 minutes to go after sophomore David Fry hooked up with junior Nacho Bartolome. However, Ephrata quickly answered. Junior Tyler Shue scored off an assist from fellow junior Stefano Astudillo to tie things up.
Then, just a few minutes later, senior Humberto Cisneros got one by senior Elizabethtown goalkeeper Brecken Musser to give the Mounts a 2-1 lead. The Bears had a few opportunities to even the score before time ran out butwere unable to capitalize, losing 2-1 to Ephrata for the second time. While the Mounts had just 3 shots on goal, they scored on 2 of them. Musser stopped the other. Senior Ephrata goalie Cole Hummel had 7 saves in the net.
Elizabethtown looked to bounce back at Lampeter-Strasburg on Monday, Oct. 8. The Bears didn’t wait until the second half to score this time around. Junior Fabian Beyer easily scored on a header midway through the first half, with the score holding at 1-0 into halftime.
For the majority of the second half, the Bears continually stifled the offensive attack for L-S. However, with five minutes left, the Pioneers finally found an opening; senior Logan Heister found the net off a pass from junior Seth Beers.
Neither team scored again in regulation, sending the game to overtime. Although L-S had a number of opportunities to score, Musser was able to deter them. With three minutes to go in OT, Bartolome found Fry for the gamewinner, giving the Bears a 2-1 victory and improving their record to 9-4-2 on the year.
“We reconfigured and did the two-top again,” head coach James Sostack said. “We’ve been working again on the training grounds and trying to find gaps and seams. It finally clicked. It was good timing, a good thread ball and a solid finish. We’ve been missing some open opportunities.Today, it was our game, and another day, it might’ve been L-S’s.”
Musser finished with 4 saves, while freshman Calieb Wigley had 5 for L-S. It was the fifth overtime game of the season for Elizabethtown; the Bears have no losses in those games, going 3-0-2. The win also bumps them to 13th in the Class 5A power ratings for District 3 as of Tuesday, Oct. 9, which would put them in the playoffs.
“I talked to them about starting to recognize that we got to start living in the moment, and that tomorrow will take care of itself,” Sostack said. “That’s where we’ve been fighting our own demons throughout the season. We do good stuff, we get the lead and then we give up tactical goals that, from a coaching perspective, have easy solutions. No discredit to L-S; they fought their way back in. But we needed this. We’re fighting for our lives for districts, and it’s the first time in a number of years that we’ve been in this position, so I’m proud of the effort.”
As for leagues, Elizabethtown’s four-year run as Section Two champion has come to a close. Wins on Monday for Manheim Central (7-1-1 in section play) and Ephrata (7-2) have guaranteed that the Bears (5-2-2) will not repeat as section and league champion. Still, they’ll have an away game against the Barons on Thrusday, Oct. 11, an opportunitiy to clinch a berth in districts and play spoiler to a rival’s section title aspirations.
“I think Central is the best team in Section Two as far as the way they play,” Sostack said. “They’ve got all their horses back and they’re really hitting on all cylinders. Thursday night should be a good test for us to see if we can right our ship, and if (that happens), it’ll give us a lot of confidence for our postseason. But right now, we’re still clinging on by our fingernails in districts. This might sound arrogant, but we’re a program that’s won (the section) four times in a row. Our position will be ‘You got to take this from us if you want that section title.’ That’s the mentality we have to take considering we’re out of the section race.We’re the defending L-L League champions. Nothing’s changed until titles and trophies are handed out, and even though we can’t defend our title, we’re gonna go in with a fighting spirit. We got a statement to make, so it’ll be very interesting.”