Last season did not go smoothly for the Elizabethtown Area High School girls soccer team. Dealing with widespread injury problems on the roster, as well as the second-toughest schedule in District 3, the Lady Bears struggled to a 3-12-2 record. They’re aiming to improve by a lot this time around, and if their first two games are any indication, that’s going to happen.
The team opened up the season on the road at Dallastown on Friday, Aug. 30. The Wildcats won in a 4-0 shutout last season, but the Lady Bears played much better this time, as both teams were even for the majority of the first half. Junior Meghan Kelly finally broke through for Dallastown at the midway point, scoring a goal to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Kelly didn’t take long to find the net again in the second half, scoring 10 minutes in for a 2-0 advantage. Elizabethtown refused to give in though, cutting the score to 2-1 with eight minutes to go with a goal from senior Kaelynn Sheetz off an assist from fellow senior Olivia Shuck. However, the Lady Bears were unable to knot it up from there, and the Wildcats escaped with the victory.
Senior goalkeeper Ashley Wakeling came up big for Dallastown, stopping 7 of the Lady Bears’ 17 shots. Junior Kaitlyn Snyder finished with 5 saves for Elizabethtown.
The Lady Bears hosted Penn Manor on Tuesday, Sept. 3, for their first game at Jane Hoover Field for 2019. Moreover, there was more excitement in the air than usual due to who was at the helm for the Comets: Keith Renner, who was the head coach for Elizabethtown for a number of seasons before parting ways with the team at the end of 2017. As such, both sides were more motivated than usual.
Elizabethtown came out with a lot of energy, attacking the net early and often. Olivia Shuck blasted a number of shots on goal that just went wide, putting Penn Manor on its toes. The Comets nearly had a breakaway score when junior Kylee Hess got behind the Lady Bears defense, but Snyder came up with a huge save to prevent a goal.
It was the closest Penn Manor would come to finding the net on the night. With just over 16 minutes left in the half, Sheetz connected with freshman Jena Witters, who had entered the game in relief on junior Olivia Anson after the latter was briefly injured, on a breakaway of their own, giving the Lady Bears a 1-0 lead that they held through halftime. It was also Witters’ first career varsity goal.
Eight minutes into the second, the Shuck sisters teamed up to get another Elizabethtown goal, with Olivia dropping an assist to her younger sister Aivery, a sophomore, from 40 yards out to increase the lead to 2-0. Aivery would later find Sheetz for an insurance goal with six minutes left to ice the game and give the Lady Bears a 3-0 victory.
“It was our home opener, so we really wanted to perform in front of our fans who’ve backed us all summer,” head coach Brian Ressler said. “We wanted to show how much we were going to perform for them, (and) not necessarily who was on the sideline here. It’s what’s done on the field.”
Sheetz and the Shucks split 3 assists between them. Snyder did enough on defense in the win, collecting 4 saves. Sophomore goalie Brooke Hinkle performed admirably for Penn Manor, stopping 16 shots in the net, but the Comets’ defense was unable to slow down a Lady Bears offense that finished with a whopping 20 shots on goal and 8 corner kicks.
“That’s something we’ve been really stressing all offseason,” Ressler said. “We want to win every ball and not let (them) bounce. Being first to the ball is key. We weren’t last year, and that was one of our big focal points this year.”
Elizabethtown (1-1) is set to travel to Cedar Crest on Thursday, Sept. 5, and McCaskey on Monday, Sept. 9. The Lady Bears will then host Cumberland Valley, the reigning Class 4A District 3 champions, on Tuesday, Sept. 10.