Lady Eagles upend CV, move into semifinals
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Cocalico has been in post-season mode for a few weeks now.
The Lady Eagles, who were nearly everyone’s pick to win the Section Two title, were forced to do so after stumbling to a 4-4 record at mid-season. But with five games to go, things suddenly clicked, and the Lady Eagles have been on a roll ever since.
Cocalico carried that momentum into Monday’s L-L Quarterfinals match-up with defending league champ Conestoga Valley at Warwick. A team, left for dead just a few weeks ago, stayed very much alive as freshman Emily Zwiercan scored a pair of goals while Shannon Hoeveler also found the net to lead Cocalico to a 3-1 victory over the Buckskins and a spot in Wednesday’s semifinals.
"We had a lot of high expectations for ourselves in the section and we just didn’t pull through," Hoeveler said following the win. "Our playoffs actually started five games ago when our coach said you guys cannot lose or you will not make it to the playoffs. We just didn’t do what we were capable of doing early in the season so we needed to make our run in leagues. We knew we couldn’t lose so we just put it all out there."
With the win, Cocalico (14-4) will face Hempfield–a 4-0 winner over Elco Monday– in the first game of a doubleheader set for Wednesday, 5 p.m. at Manheim Central. The winner of that game will advance to Saturday’s finals to face Wednesday’s winner of the nightcap between Cedar Crest and Lampeter-Strasburg.
"Our theory (coming into the post-season) was no regrets," Cocalico Coach Dan Hogan said. "Last year, we walked off the field (after a first-round loss to) Warwick unhappy with our efforts, and I don’t know that we would say that tonight. Nothing was perfect out there tonight but we worked hard."
And after fending off a few early opportunities by CV, that hard work Hogan talked about paid off in the 14th minute. Emily Zwiercan found senior midfielder Kat Lawver in the right corner, who then touched the ball to Hoeveler in the slot. Hoeveler then beat goalie Jessica Plunkett inside the near post for the all-important first goals.
"I think it was really big (to score the first goal) because it’s been a long time since Cocalico has won a playoff game," Hogan said. "The girls just got a little confidence. We did play in our defensive end the whole game, especially in the second half, but were very opportunistic and that’s something that we haven’t really done all season long."
Hoeveler said she just didn’t want to miss it.
"I was just really close to the net and I was thinking, ‘I can’t miss this,’" she said. "And all we talk about is placement. We do a lot of placement drills, so I just put my head down and placed it."
Zwiercan connected for her first score of the night with 8:35 to place in the half when Lawver sent a ball into the offensive zone that looked like CV defender Casey Shirk had easily corralled. However, she turned her back and was about to play it back to her keeper when Zwiercan raced by her and banged it passed Plunkett for the big 2-0 lead.
But CV (14-4) was able to get on the board just before the half when Ashlee Hoover hit teammate Jocelyn Yurchak on the right wing. Yurchak turned and fired a low shot on Lady Eagle keeper Emily White that looked harmless before it snuck through the wickets and into the net to cut the deficit in half.
Then, early in the second half, CV was pressing hard for the equalizer but the Cocalico defense of Lexi Palm, Lea Dungan, Taylor Garman and Olivia Fryberger held strong.
That enabled Cocalico to hold onto the lead and eventually put it away with Zwiercan’s second tally of the night.
When Lawver’s blast from the right side rang off the crossbar, the freshman forward was Johnny-On-The-Spot, pounding on the loose ball to the left of the net. Her first shot was stopped by Plunkett, but Zwiercan got the rebound and blasted it past the fallen keeper for the big insurance goal.
"Emily, especially for a ninth grader, is a really good player," Hogan said. "A lot of teams key on Kat and Nicole (Zwiercan), and Emily is on the other side. You are not talking about one, two and three. You are talking about 1-A, 1-B and 1-C in terms of their ability. Emily did a great job of putting herself in a position to score."
Cocalico will need to continue its surge heading into Wednesday’s matchup with Hempfield. Hogan said one of the keys to winning Wednesday is finding a way to slow down the Black Knights’ Talia McMurtrie, who scored all four goals in their win on Monday.
"She’s just very strong in the middle of the field," Hogan said of McMurtrie."If we are able to slow her down, do a better job of winning some 50-50 balls, and then hopefully our defense remains strong…We also need to attack them because I think our offensive players matchup well against anybody. We have to defend their set pieces and continue to be opportunistic."
In addition to the L-L playoffs, Cocalico has also qualified for the upcoming District Three Tournament which is scheduled to begin Saturday with preliminary games. As of presstime, both Cocalico and Ephrata are among the top 20 teams that qualify for the tournament.
Preliminary and first-round match-ups are expected to be released on Thursday. More LADY EAGLES, page B2