The 2007 edition of the York College field hockey team heads into the season with high expectations after a 12-9 2006 campaign.
Spartan head coach Megan Eckenrode begins her second season on the sidelines with a strong core of returning players and an exciting group of incoming student-athletes.
Eckenrode returns seven starters in 2007 as junior forward April McFarland, senior forward Jami Hassler, senior midfielder Nicole Starner, sophomore midfielder Megan Spangler, junior defender Casey Knauss, senior defender Chelsey Topper, and sophomore goalie Claire Rekitzke come back to anchor the Spartan squad.
“We have a very strong core of returning players,” states Eckenrode. “This group of returners is hungry and they have a burning desire to have a great season.”
Eckenrode looks to McFarland and Hassler to be the key cogs up front for the Spartan offense. McFarland had an outstanding season in 2006. She finished the season with a team-leading 35 points on 16 goals and three assists. McFarland, after being named the conference Rookie-of-the-Year in 2005, was inexplicably overlooked by the conference coaches in the post-season awards despite the fact she was fifth in the CAC in points per game, third in goals per game, and fourth in overall points.
“April had a very strong season,” says Eckenrode. “She is a dedicated player that continues to work hard to improve. April will be a focal point of our offensive attack this year.”
Hassler had another solid season in 2006. She finished the campaign with 23 points on eight goals and seven assists. Hassler now has 51 career points on 18 goals and 15 assists in 60 career contests. She finished eighth in the CAC in points per game, fifth in assists per game, fourth in overall assists, and eighth in total points.
“Jami continues to be a very steady player,” says Eckenrode. “She is remarkably consistent each and every season. I expect her to be very good this fall.”
Sophomore Heather Re, junior Catie Hare, and senior Erin Donahue are the other returners that will see time at forward for the Spartans. Re finished last season with eight points on three goals and two assists. She also made one emergency start in goal last year after illness wiped out the three goalies on the roster. That start resulted in an overtime win for the green and white. Hare and Donahue saw limited action last season but have worked hard to put themselves in a position to earn more time this fall.
Freshmen Rebecca Reeves and Lisa King are two forwards that will have the chance to boost the Spartan attack. Reeves hails from North Harford High School while King is from C. Milton Wright High School. Both are talented and experienced forwards that should aid the Spartan offense.
“I like our group of forwards,” says Eckenrode. “It is critical this year that we are more consistent in converting our scoring opportunities. Last year, we got our fair share of shots but struggled to convert those chances into goals. This year, I expect us to be more composed in the scoring area, giving us a better chance to finish a higher percentage of our chances.”
One area of the field where the Spartans lack a bit of experience is in the midfield. York lost three starters to graduation and Eckenrode needs to blend some talented newcomers with some young returners to form a cohesive unit. Starner and Spangler are joined by sophomore Veronica Eltz to anchor the Spartan midfield. Starner returns for her final year in the green and white as a defensive midfielder. She is a good athlete who is in great shape. Spangler had a great freshman year as she picked up 10 points on three goals and four assists. Spangler started all 21 games as a freshman and will be counted on to play a pivitol role in the middle of the field for York. Eltz also played well as a freshman as she saw action in 14 games.
Freshmen Casey Lawrence and Joan Shultis join the Spartans in the midfield. Both Lawrence and Shultis come to the Spartans from Delone Catholic High School. They will both have the opportunity to see significant time as freshmen.
“We have some work to do in the midfield,” says Eckenrode. “It is critical that we work very hard during the preseason to get everyone on the same page. I am confident that this group can mesh quickly and provide us with a strong midfield.”
The defense should be a strength for the Spartans as Knauss, a second-team All-CAC pick last year, returns as does Topper, sophomore Julie Reahl, sophomore Ashley Chance, and junior Laurel Sturner. Those returners will be joined by Laura Gibbs from Pitman High School in New Jersey and Lindsey McGrew from Patuxent High School in Lusby, MD.
Knauss finished last year with six points on a goal and four assists from her defensive position. Knauss may be the best athlete on the Spartan squad and her leadership plays a key role in the success of the defense.
“Casey is certainly one of the top defenders in the region,” says Eckenrode. “Her physical abilities combined with her understanding of the game provides us with great leadership in the back.”
Topper is a three-year starter that is very steady in the back. She is an intelligent player that puts herself in position to make plays. Reahl played well as a freshman and had a strong spring to put herself in position to be a starter in 2007. Chance and Sturner both had limited playing time in 2006 but both have worked hard during the off-season, putting themselves in the mix for extended playing time this fall.
“We have a strong defensive unit,” says Eckenrode. “It is a group of players that are more athletic that previous years. It is also a group of smart kids that understand defensive team concepts. I have high expecations for this group.”
Eckenrode returns two goalies this year including starter Rekitzke. Senior Katie Cuff and freshman Jennifer Stitchberry will provide the Spartans with outstanding depth in goal for 2007.
Rekitzke finished 8-8 with two shutouts in 2006. She posted a 1.62 goals against average while her save percentage was .797. Rekitzke played in 1,121:38 as she played in 16 games, starting 15 of those contests. Cuff went 1-0 last year as she posted a shutout.
“I feel we are in very good shape in goal,” says Eckenrode. “Claire had an oustanding freshman year and I fully expect her to be even better this year. She is an athletic goalie that really has a great understanding of the game.”
The Spartans will be challenged this year as the schedule features a number of top teams in the region in addition to the traditionally grueling Capital Athletic Conference slate.
“This season has a chance to be a very good one for us,” says Eckenrode. “We need to get better at doing the little things on the field and if we can tighten up some of those little things, we will be tough to beat.”
The Spartans open their season on September 4 at McDaniel College. The green and white open the home slate on September 8 against Mary Washington.