For Elizabethtown’s eight senior girls soccer players, the guy coaching on the opposite sideline had a familiar face.
Two seasons removed from coaching the Bears, Keith Renner brought his Penn Manor Comets into Jane Hoover Field for a nonleague tuneup before the L-L League season begins in earnest.
A welcome homecoming it was not as the Bears (1-1) claimed a dominant, 3-0 victory.
“We just took it as a normal game,” said senior forward Olivia Shuck, who had an assist while peppering Comet keeper Brooke Hinkle with nine shots — three on goal — and five corner kicks.
The Bears finished with a 13-3 advantage in shots on goal, 7-3 in corner kicks.
“We wanted this win, definitely really badly,” she said, clarifying, “we wanted it as the home opener.”
For his part, Renner deflected any significance to his return.
“We didn’t talk about it,” he said. “It’s just another game, the third game of the season.”
Could have fooled the casual observer, based on the Bears' opening 30 minutes.
“We really wanted to perform for our fans, all the parents that got us here,” coach Brian Ressler said. “Not necessarily who was on the sideline here.”
Perform they did, with 13 opportunities — including five shots on goal and three corners — to three for the Comets in those first minutes.
“We should have come out harder than what we did,” said senior defender Bella Barton, who had two of the Comets' three shots on goal, both off first half free kicks.
“You win the ball in the air, it changes the game completely. We just didn’t win any ball in the air, in any way.”
With the pressure the Bears brought to the offensive third, it was a matter of time before they converted.
That time came in the 24th minute, when senior Kaelyn Sheetz sent a through ball to freshman Jena Witters.
Witters, who had just come on for Olivia Anson, who went off with an injury, manuevered her way around as Hinkle came out to challenge and finished for her first career varsity goal.
Seven minutes into the second half Olivia Shuck teamed with her sister, Avery, dropping a nice back pass that the younger sibling finished for a 2-0 lead.
With six minutes to play Sheetz topped the scoring, taking a pass from Avery Shuck, putting it into the back of the net.
Ressler responded with pleasure when it was pointed out the Bears were far quicker to the ball.
“Absolutely. That’s something we’ve been really stressing,” Ressler said.
“Being first to the ball is key,” he added. “We weren’t last year (when the Bears went 3-12-2).”
For the Comets who fell to 1-2 overall, starting just four seniors and still getting accustomed to a new style, growing pains could be expected.
“A lot of the girls I’ve asked to play positions they’ve never played before, formations they’ve never done before,” Renner said.
“It’s going to take some time for us to gel together. Every game we get a little bit better. We have a lot of season ahead.”