Solanco's girls soccer team kept its postseason hopes alive by winning one game and tying two others.
The Mules (11-4-2 overall, 5-2-2 league) tied Cocalico and ELCO, the two section teams it had lost to earlier in the season.
Solanco and section leader ELCO played to a 1-1 draw Friday, October 4.
"I am super proud of the way the girls came out and battled on the road," Solanco coach Ken Yoder said. "After dropping a season-worst 5-0 loss to them last time, we really came back and played a great game. They are the defending league and AA district champs so it says a lot about the heart of our girls."
After goalie Gabi Dolan kept ELCO off the board in the first half, Meg Bailey gave the Mules a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute, finishing a ball at the far post off a pass from Kaylin Fowler.
"Gabi came up huge for us with some amazing saves," Yoder said.
Solanco made some adjustments including dropping Alana Yoder back to mark the ELCO's best striker and stymied the hosts until they tied it on a controversial penalty kick.
An ELCO player was at the top of the penalty area with her back to the goal when a foul was called on the Mules. "It was very frustrating," Yoder said. "The penalty should have never been called."
In order to qualify for the league playoffs, Solanco must defeat Donegal Tuesday night and hope Octorara pulls off an upset win over second place Cocalico (6-2-1 league).
The Mules entered the weekend in 14th place in the district power rankings. The Top 16 teams qualify.
The Mules blanked Lancaster Mennonite 3-0 Wednesday night, October 2.
Bailey tallied twice for the visitors sandwiched around a goal by Fowler.
Bailey supplied Solanco a 1-0 lead with 1:40 left in the first half. Kendal Janssen sent a long pass into the goalmouth from the right side of the field.
"Kendal crossed it over and I was running through and the ball caught part of my legs and rolled right in," Bailey said.
After Fowler converted a pass from Alanna Yoder, Bailey added an insurance marker with under nine minutes to play.
Bailey tracked down a defender from behind, stole the ball, and curled a shot into the net from the left side of the box.
"The defender had the ball and I just pulled it back and then chipped it right over the goalie's head," said Bailey.
Bailey also scored two goals against Lancaster Mennonite in the first meeting, including the game-winner in overtime.
After being pushed around earlier in the season, the Mules are employing a more physical style of play.
"It's definitely something that we've been talking about at practice day in and day out," Ken Yoder said. "I felt like the [first] ELCO game, that pretty physical defeat, and even the Cocalico game before that, we just really got handled physically and that was the difference in the game.
“So we've been really trying to key on that in practice and the girls have responded. I feel like we've raised our physicality, our intensity, especially defending in the box and when we're attacking on corner kicks. Inside that 18 [yard line] is where we were sometimes getting caught on our heels. Girls were running through us. They've really stepped it up. Kudos to them. They've been doing a tremendous job in that part of the game."
Said Bailey: "I think we're really pushing up the intensity more and we're definitely getting more physical. Every single practice we talk about getting more physical."
Another reason for Solanco's success is the play of its defensive corps, which is comprised of underclassmen.
"Arianna (Sieberlich) and Hannah (Wood) in the back in the center are banged up and they've been playing through stuff," said Yoder. "They're a young back line but they are doing what they've got to do. Rilyn (Saner) and Maya (Dolan) on the outside, both sophomores. Hannah is a sophomore. Arianna is starting in the back as a freshman. I always have said, if they earn the spot I don't care if they're a freshman or a senior. For me to put a freshman in the center of the back line, that says a lot. It means a lot. She's earned it. She's played great."
Yoder says the leadership of the senior goalie Dolan is also critical. "It's something we kind of take for granted," Yoder said. "It's starting to sink in here as the season winds down. It's coming to an end. It's bittersweet. But we're trying to extend our season and this win will help."
The Mules tied host Cocalico 1-1 Monday, September 30.
Fowler scored a pretty goal for Solanco with Graci Unger picking up an assist.