The players and fans had long since gone, but Solanco girls soccer coach Ken Yoder lingered, walking out to midfield, looking to his right, then his left, taking it all in.
It’s the night when, in the past, Yoder would wish his seniors well, talk to his underclassmen about offseason opportunities and set a date for collecting equipment.
Not this year.
The best season in Solanco girls soccer history got a little better Tuesday night as the Golden Mules (6-2-2 L-L Section Three, 12-4-2 overall) put a firm grip on a berth in the District Three Class 3A playoffs with a 2-0 victory over Donegal.
“It’s just so incredible,” said senior keeper Gabi Dolan, a four-year starter in the nets who recorded her ninth shutout of the season.
“Thinking back to my freshman year, and we weren’t great. It’s just cool to see this progression.
“And now, knock on wood, we might qualify for districts for the first time in school history. That’s just incredible to see.”
With the win, Solanco’s seventh in its last nine games, with two ties, the Mules will likely be no worse than the No. 14 seed in districts they brought into the match. They could even be better.
“It feels pretty darn good,” Yoder said. “For me, as a father and a coach, it’s pretty awesome.”
His daughter Alana, a senior midfielder, had a part in both the Mules’ goals on this chilly October evening.
On the Mules’ 12th chance of the night, with 13:05 to play in the first half, Megan Bailey just missed at the far post, earning a corner kick.
Maya Dolan’s service came to Alana Yoder on the far side of the box.
“(Maya) just gave me a beautiful ball,” she said. “I just did what I had to do, use all my momentum to to get there and put it in.”
Focused on getting her head down — she admitted to often heading the ball over the frame — she punched it into the back of the net.
The stats were pretty even in the first half. Solanco had a 5-4 advantage in shots on goal, Donegal (4-5-1, 5-10-1 and 0-6-1 in its last seven) held a 3-2 edge in corners. Chances read 16-13 Mules.
Telling though was the tally of second-half chances: 16-2 Mules.
Yet, despite the overwhelming advantage, the Mules couldn’t buy an insurance goal.
Or, as Nicole Trout put it, a safety goal.
“It’s padding, “ she said, “in case the other team does score, so that doesn’t bring us down.”
With just under nine minutes to play, the Mules brought the ball into the offensive third, getting it to Yoder.
She, in turn, sent it to Trout, coming on to the penalty area.
“The ball came above my head,” Trout said. “I got a touch on it and it landed perfectly on the 18.
“I just set it up, one touch, and shot. I didn’t aim for the corner, specifically. It just went right into the back corner, right over the goalie’s head.”
And right into the postseason.
While Cocalico’s 4-0 win over Octorara earned the Eagles the second seed out of Section Three and locked the Mules out of the L-L playoffss, they will wait and see what the near future brings.