Lady Knights Top Blue Devils, Advance to D10 Semifinals

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Girls' soccer
Eisenhower's Julia Gesing (8) and Katie Elmquist (12) celebrate after Gesing scored the opening goal in the District 10 Class 1A Quarterfinals against Cambridge Springs at Carter Field in Titusville, Oct. 26, 2021. The Knights defeated the Blue Devils, 2-1, to advance to the semifinals. Photo by Brian Hagberg

TITUSVILLE, Pa. – Eisenhower jumped out to an early lead, then held off a late-game push to come away with a 2-1 win over Cambridge Springs in their District 10 Class 1A Quarterfinal match in Titusville on Tuesday.

The win avenged a regular-season loss to the Blue Devils in which the Knights were shut out, 2-0. Eisenhower wasted little time making sure it would not be blanked again.

Julia Gesing scored less than two minutes into the match after Elley Eastman ran down a ball on the sideline deep in Blue Devils territory. Eastman sent a crossing pass right to Gesing’s foot and she buried it for a 1-0 lead.

“We told them, hit them hard early, get out there and make sure that you get the ball to the back of the net,” Eisenhower coach Diana Elmquist said. “We struggled a little bit most of the season with our finishing and getting it in the back of the net. We would control the ball the entire game and then just not find it. So we’ve been working on that. We came off of two games where we had a total of 16 goals and it really built their confidence.”

Moments later, Cambridge Springs had a golden opportunity to tie it as Paisley Mangold got free on a breakaway. Mangold came down the right hash and tried to go left post, but Eisenhower keeper Tracey Jakubczak made a diving stop to preserve the lead.

“She’s just done phenomenal this year for being a freshman,” Elmquist said of Jakubczak. “She’s stepped right up. She’s really controlled the ball. She’s come out a lot more the last half of the season she she used to stay back in the goal pretty uncomfortable coming out. So now she’s starting to get more comfortable about doing that and that save was just great. She’s come through when we’ve needed her to.”

Eastman was at it again just before the midpoint of the half when she tracked down another deep ball. This time, she sent it to Katie Bunk who put the ball top shelf over Blue Devils keeper Madison Yanc to make it 2-0.

“They changed their defense a little bit and so we talked about keeping our forwards connected up top so that we created more opportunity to pass the ball around,” Elmquist said.

Though it was cold and rainy, the action was hot on the field with both teams engaging in physical play throughout the match. The physicality was something Eisenhower expected to see coming in.

“This team they’re a passionate aggressive team and we’ve come out hard against them before and it ends up getting chippy towards the end,” Elmquist said. “So I think we did a pretty good job of not getting too aggressive.”

Cambridge Springs made a strong push to start the second half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Eisenhower’s counter was equally unsuccessful and the score remained 2-0.

That score held until just 3:57 remained in the match.

Following a collision just in front of the net, Cambridge Springs was awarded a penalty kick. Makenzie Yanc tucked the ball in the left post just past a diving Jakubczak to cut the lead to 2-1.

The Blue Devils made a late push in the final minute, but the Knights didn’t allow them to get a shot on goal and held on for the win.

“They definitely made me nervous quite a few times having that ball in there,” Elmquist said. “I’m glad we held it out.”

Eisenhower will face Seneca in the semifinals on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in Titusville. The Bobcats won both regular-season meetings with identical 2-0 scores. But Elmquist is confident that her team’s confidence and better ability to finish can lead to a different outcome Thursday.

“Like I said they’ve controlled the ball all year long,” Elmquist said. “And now that they’ve started to get some confidence on their finishing, I really think that we have a good shot against Seneca. Seneca is a tough team. They’re fast to the ball. But I think that we can compete. I’m looking forward to it.”