The Elizabethtown Area High School boys soccer team expected to begin its season on Friday, Aug. 31, at Dallastown. However, things did not go as planned. Just over a minute into the game, the referees called a delay after spotting lightning, and the contest was eventually postponed to be resumed on Monday, Oct. 1.
Instead, the Bears began their season in earnest on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at home against Penn Manor. Both teams started slow early in the first half, with neither team getting a shot on goal until around 10 minutes into the game. At the 24:40 mark, senior Hunter Enck got a shot past senior Elizabethtown goalkeeper Brecken Musser to put Penn Manor up 1-0.
Five minutes later, the Comets worked their way down the field to set up a score from senior Mitchell Martin for a 2-0 advantage. All the while, the Bears, relatively green as a whole when it comes to playing time, couldn’t capitalize due to mental errors.
“I think it was some of that,” head coach James Sostack said. “We still have some inexperienced players and some new ones that we’re introducing into the form. There’s definitely a lesson to take away for us: we got to be prepared for the first 20 minutes. Penn Manor played great soccer (during that time). We made some mental mistakes that let them in.”
Just two minutes after the second Penn Manor goal, however, Elizabethtown finally got going. Senior Jon Gartley made a gorgeous pass to set up senior Tyler Bixlerfor a goal, putting the score at 2-1, something that Sostack described as impromptu.
“What’s funny is that’s not even the play,” he said. “But that’s working smarter, not harder. (Gartley) picked his head up, saw (Bixler) and delivered it. He put it on a rope, and credit to Tyler for being able to trap it and finish it.”
The rest of the first half was quiet, with the score staying the same. Once the second began, the pace picked up for each side, with the defenses stepping up especially Both the Bears and Comets had a number of scoring opportunities that were stymied by heads-up defensive plays or saves from Musser and senior Penn Manor goalkeeper Fahri Sevri. In the end, however, Elizabethtown ran out of time, falling 2-1.
“We did everything but put the ball in the back of the net,” Sostack said. “Mother Luck wasn’t on our side. I think that what I was proud of was the culture. They turned it around. Let’s face it; they (Penn Manor) were all their heels for the entire half. But sometimes it’s the bounce of the ball (or) a ricochet. I think that was the difference in the game. I honestly thought we had an attempt to win the thing, but (it was) not to be tonight.”
Percentage wise, Elizabethtown converted one of its 7 shots on goal. SophomoreDaniel Tema had 2 that were stopped by Sevri, who had 4 saves for Penn Manor. Musser finished with 4 saves as well for the Bears. The Comets made 2 of their 6 shots.
“This one was a real, true team effort,” Sostack said. “I don’t think that any one guy particularly stood out. I thought our midfield did a great job in the second half taking over. I moved the formation to make it a little bit more potent up top. But we’re on the wrong side of the W, and we got to fix that, because we like to win.”
The upcoming schedule for Elizabethtown won’t get easier. The Bears will travel to Cedar Crest on Thursday, Sept. 6; the Falcons are deep with experience, especially with their 12 seniors. They’ll then host the team that upset them in the District 3 playoffs last season, Central Dauphin, on Saturday, Sept. 8, followed by another home game against McCaskey on Monday, Sept. 10. Three games in six days won’t do the Bears any favors, but it will get them ready for the long haul as well.
“First, we have to rest and get mentally prepared,” Sostack said. “Tomorrow will be a light practice. We got some bruises and cramps to work out. It’s cliche, but we really do have to take it one game at a time.”