Spartans Grow in First Season Under Swartz

YORK, PA – Merriam-Webster’s defines the word growth as “a stage in the process of growing” or “progressive development.”
     Growth is exactly what the York College field hockey team experienced in 2008.
     “From day one, our goal this year was to get better every single day,” Spartan first-year head coach Jamie Swartz said. “I believe that we accomplished that goal.”
     In 2008, the Spartans, who notched a record of 8-13, more than doubled their goals scored output from one season ago, from 24 to 51, while still remaining focused on the defensive end, allowing three less goals than 2007. Four Spartans landed on the All-Capital Athletic Conference squad, the first time the green and white have received that many selections since 2005, including a first-team choice in senior forward April McFarland (York, Pa./Eastern York).
     “We did a lot of good things this year,” Swartz said. “We put some numbers on the board and were still able to play solid defense. The fact that we had four all-conference players is a testament to how our entire team improved throughout the season.”
     McFarland, who was a first-team choice for the first time in her career, led the Spartans with 18 goals on the year, chipping in two assists for a total of 38 points. She leaves the Spartan program as the most prolific scorer in school history, notching a program-best 53 goals while ranking second in career points with 115. In addition to her All-CAC accolade for this season, McFarland was also chosen to the NFHCA All-South Region second-team.
     “April is such a dangerous forward,” Swartz said. “She is a marked player every time she touches the field and she is still able to put up big numbers. She was a great leader for us and will definitely be missed.”
     Along with McFarland, a trio of juniors was selected to the league’s all-star squad. Goalkeeper Claire Rekitzke (Seaford, Del./Seaford Senior), defender Veronica Eltz (Hanover, Pa./Delone Catholic), and midfielder Megan Spangler (Myerstown, Pa./Eastern Lebanon County) each received all-conference bids after their quality 2008 performances. Rekitzke finds her name on the All-CAC squad for the second-time in her career, as she was also a second-team choice in 2007. She posted 113 saves over her 1,341:10 in goal this season.
     “Claire is a terrific collegiate goalkeeper,” Swartz said. “She has the ability to keep us in tough games, giving us a chance to win each time out. As long as she works hard over the off-season, I see no reason why she cannot be even better in 2009.”
     Eltz brought strong defensive play to the Spartan backline in her junior campaign. Combining toughness and athleticism, she thwarted numerous opponent attacks en route to becoming one of the CAC’s top defenders. Stepping up as a captain in her third season, Eltz’s leadership both on and off the field proved valuable to York’s growth this season.
     “Veronica’s transformation into a defensive stud really helped our overall team play,” Swartz said. “She was a major part of a tough, never-quit defense. I am excited that we get to have her back next season.”
     Spangler burst onto the scene in 2008 tallying a remarkable 16 goals while dishing out four assists. A tough player, Spangler’s ability with the ball on her stick combined with a nose for the goal makes her one of the Spartans most dangerous attacking players.
     “Megan came on strong this year,” Swartz said. “She provided an added dimension to our offense that made us pretty potent in the attack. A strong off-season for Megan could result in some great numbers as a senior.”
     The Spartans do lose three seniors to graduation in McFarland, midfielder Casey Knauss (St. Michaels, Md./Easton), and defender Laurel Sturner (Cherry Hill,N.J./Cherry Hill West). Knauss, one of the Spartans three captains, was a two-time All-CAC performer and became a solid leader for the green and white. Sturner’s team-first attitude and excellent work ethic provided a great example for the younger Spartans.
     “Obviously April brings so much to the table, but so do Casey and Laurel,” Swartz said. “Casey was a great leader for our squad this year. She is a very talented field hockey player and did everything we asked of her. Laurel is a tough kid who just loves the game. We will definitely miss all three of them, but we do have a great and talented group coming back.”
     Despite the departure of these three, the Spartans sport plenty of talent and experience coming back for the 2009 campaign. Along with their three returning All-CAC performers, the Spartans squad has eight other players who saw action in at least 14 of York’s 21 contests.
     Sophomore transfer Allison Roush (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) became a steady offensive threat in her first season in the green and white. She tallied a team-high eleven assists, which ranks her second in program history for single-season helpers, to go along with six scores. Fellow sophomore Casey Lawrence (Abbottstown, Pa./Delone Catholic) played in and started all 21 Spartan contests notching four goals and six assists for 14 points, while Katie Dawkins (Easton, Md./Easton) chipped in with three goals and a pair of helpers during her sophomore campaign.
     “We were able to spread out our offense this season,” Swartz said. “Obviously, April and Megan did a fantastic job, but we didn’t just rely those players to score every goal. Allison, Casey, and Katie each showed the ability to score and be threats in the offensive end.”
     Defensively, the backline of Eltz, Julie Reahl (Eldersburg, Md./Liberty), and Joan Shultis (Hanover, Pa./Delone Catholic) appeared in all 21 games together becoming a cohesive unit as the season progressed. Reahl solidified a stout backline, starting all 21 games at center back in 2008. The junior’s ability to organize the defense and make strong tackles helped the Spartan defense grow into a tough unit. Alongside Reahl, sophomore Shultis put in a strong performance on the right side of the defense. Her growth in 2008 will provide dividends when the Spartans hit the field in 2009.
     “I was pretty happy with how our defense played this season,” Swartz said. “The fact that we have them coming back next year after gaining so much quality experience this year is going to bode very well for us.”
     Adding quality depth to the Spartans, sophomore Becky Reeves (Forest Hill, Md./North Harford) and freshmen Colleen O’Rourke (Milford, N.J./Delaware Valley), and Brittany Simmons (Leola, Pa./Conestoga Valley) each saw plenty of action this season. Reeves is a tough defender that will benefit from a strong off-season. O’Rourke, who started all 20 games in which she played, is a talented student-athlete who made an immediate impact in just her rookie season. Simmons is another talented freshman who has the potential to become a quality collegiate player.
     “Becky, Colleen, and Brittany each worked very hard this season and grew a ton,” Swartz said. “As long as they continue that work in the off-season, I believe that next year could be very good for each of them.”
     Freshman goalkeeper Maggie Schlauch (Breinigsville, Pa./Parkland) provided the Spartans with solid play over her 134:25 this season playing behind Rekitzke.
     “Maggie could do good things for us in the future,” Swartz said. “But she knows that she needs to put in the work over the off-season and come back in August ready to compete.”
     Sophomore Kelly Kreamer (Ambler, Pa./Wissahickon) and freshmen Stacey Miller (Lindenhurst, N.Y./Lindenhurst Senior) and Rachel Houck (Airville, Pa./Kennard-Dale) gained collegiate experience this season and will look to make strides in the off-season to prepare for 2009. Junior Heather Re (Hackettstown, N.J./Hackettstown), a solid contributor just one season ago, suffered a knee injury that sidelined her for all of 2008. Re will look to get back healthy and return for a solid season next year.
      “I like the depth that we could have in 2009,” Swartz said. “But that will only happen if each of our players work extremely hard in the off-season and come into came ready to play and compete for playing time.”
     Swartz finds her first season at the helm of the Spartan program to be a successful one but she still knows that there is much room for growth.
     “Our success this season was based on how much we grew individually and, more importantly, as a team. In my eyes we were successful in doing that. We can take what we did this year and build on that. I am already looking forward to getting started next August.”