MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Well hello, Miss Shetler. We've been expecting you.
On Wednesday night, Oct. 23, Penn State Harrisburg's Rachel Shetler (Pequea, Pa. / Penn Manor) joined an exclusive club by recording her first collegiate hat trick in the team's 4-0 win over Wesley. As if that impressive achievement wasn't enough, her performance helped lead the Lions to the school's first Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) victory of any kind. Despite the three-goal outing, Shetler was more concerned with her team's result than her outstanding individual accomplishment.
"Regardless if I would have scored all three goals or not, it came down to the team working as one and coming together to fight for the win we've long deserved," she said following the victory.
The Blue & White scoring began just moments into the match when junior Hannah Jorich (Middletown, Pa. / Middletown) found fellow junior Danell Engle (Halifax, Pa. / Halifax) in the right side of the 18-yard box. Wesley goalkeeper Chelsea Marriner was fooled by Jorich's footwork and overplayed the ball. Engle gathered the pass and put it into the back of the empty net for her first score of the year, giving Penn State Harrisburg a 1-0 advantage just three minutes into the contest.
From there, it was Shetler's show. The sophomore captain netted her first goal of the game off a perfectly placed free kick from senior captain Kara Hoy (Camp Hill, Pa. / Camp Hill) in the 17th minute. Hoy made a great cross from the right sideline into the box and Shetler did the rest. The assist was the first of two for Hoy on the night.
The Hoy/Shetler combination again proved lethal for the Wolverines just moments before halftime. Following a Wesley foul, Hoy took another free kick and booted it where no one but Shetler could get to it. This time, Shetler headed it past Marriner and gave the Lions a 3-0 lead in the 42nd minute; an advantage they held heading into the break.
Shetler picked up right where she left off once the second half began. It took her just three and a half minutes to put the finishing touches on the first hat trick of her young career. Jorich got back into the mix and found Shetler with a pass from the right side of the box. Shetler corralled the ball and ripped it into the left side of the goal, giving Marriner no chance of making the stop.
While Shetler, Hoy and Jorich led the way offensively, the rest of the ladies held things down on defense. The Lions made accurate passes and reversed fields all game long. On the rare occasions when the Wolverines did manage to break through the team's back line, goalkeeper Mackenzie Gates (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin) turned away all comers. The junior captain made five saves, upping her CAC-leading total to 135; a number good enough to rank her among the NCAA's top 20 keepers, nationally.
The win improved Penn State Harrisburg to 7-9 on the year and the program's first CAC victory (1-5) kept the Lions from finishing the year with a goose egg in the conference W column. Head Coach Adam Clay understood his ladies' historic accomplishment but was more pleased with his squad's improvement and resiliency on this night.
"I'm happy," he said. "I think the girls have earned it. We're glad it came and now we just hope we can take this one and maybe get Saturday and Wednesday and give ourselves a fighting chance to stay in the playoff race."
As memorable as the school's first CAC victory was, Shetler's effort was just as noteworthy as the Blue & White's first win in the new league. In typical Shetler fashion, however, the sophomore remained even-keeled following her career-day. When asked how she felt just moments after pulling off one of the rarest feats in soccer, her response was calm and simple.
That's fine, Rach. There's nothing wrong with staying level-headed. Just don't mind the rest us being thrilled for you.
* Video provided courtesy of Penn State Harrisburg public address announcer Jason Noll