2009 York College Field Hockey Preview

YORK, PA - With every new season comes new hope. New hope that this year will be better than the last. New hope that this will be the breakthrough year. New hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.
    That new hope rings true for the York College field hockey squad as they enter the 2009 campaign.
    “We are very optimistic about what we could accomplish this season,” Spartan Head Coach Jamie Swartz said. “We learned and developed as a team, as an entire program last year. That development could lead to some good things this fall.”
    The Spartans do in fact have much to be optimistic about as eleven players who saw significant time in 2008 return to the Spartan lineup this season, including a trio of all-conference performers. Senior forward Megan Spangler, senior defender Veronica Eltz, and senior goalkeeper Claire Rekitzke are each coming off All-Capital Athletic Conference seasons and will look to build upon those successes in 2009.
    “Those three players give us a strong core of talent,” Swartz commented. “It helps us that they each bring something different to the field. To have proven all-conference players throughout the field will give us an edge this season.”
    Spangler had a breakout year in 2008 and comes into the 2009 campaign as York’s top returning goal-scorer. She tallied 36 points, second only to career goals-scored leader and since-departed April McFarland, on 16 goals and four assists en route to her first All-CAC selection. Gifted with brilliant stick skills and a knack for finding the back of the cage, Spangler will be called upon to step up her game even more this season.
    “She is one of the top scorers in our conference, no doubt about it,” Swartz raved about her All-CAC forward. “She consistently puts herself in the right position and she is not afraid to mix it up in front of the cage. Spangler could be an extremely potent offensive force for us this year.”
    Eltz brings an aggressive and consistent style to York’s defensive third. A tough player who is exceptionally fit, Eltz became York’s top defender last year as she continually thwarted opponents’ attacks. Not only a superb defender, Eltz has been a strong leader for the Spartans. As she now heads into her second year of captaincy, the senior will look to galvanize the York squad and lead them up the CAC ladder.
    “Eltz does so many good things for this squad,” Swartz commented. “She is an outstanding defensive player, who belongs in the upper echelon of players at her position. Not only that but she is also a leader in the truest sense of the word. She does what needs to be done and gets everyone to follow suit.”
    Over the past two seasons, Rekitzke has proven to be one of the conference’s best net minders, evidenced by her back-to-back All-CAC selections. She started 20 of York’s 21 contests last season, posting a 2.71 goals against average. If Rekitzke, who is a superb communicator with exceptional technical skill, can stay focused throughout the entire season in 2009 she could be the key cog in a very successful season.
    “Rekitzke has so much ability,” Swartz said. “Her combination of experience and skill is unsurpassed. She could do some incredible things for us this season.”
    Joining the aforementioned Spangler in the Spartans’ offensive ranks are five returners who could make significant impacts on the 2009 squad. Despite the loss of McFarland, Swartz believes this year’s offensive group could provide even more firepower.
    “We will not be looking for just one or two players to do the majority of the scoring this season,” Swartz said. “When you have that situation it can be easy for the defense to key-in on those players and take them out of the game. But with the offensive unit we’ll have this season, as long as players step up, we will be able to spread the ball around and get production throughout our front line.”
    Juniors Allison Roush, Katie Dawkins, Heather Re and Kelly Kreamer along with sophomore Rachel Houck provide the Spartans with a strong group of forwards who, along with the potential of several new recruits, could give York a quality offensive output this year. Roush returns to the Spartan lineup as the Green and White’s second top-returning scorer from 2008. Her eleven assists was tops on the Spartan side last year as her ability to set up scoring chances makes her a very dangerous forward. Dawkins will look to be the beneficiary of Roush’s passing prowess as she is poised for a banner year. A tough player who possesses quality skill, Dawkins’ three goals and two assists in 2008 should prove to be a solid launching pad for much greater numbers this season. Re comes back to the lineup following an injury that sidelined her all of last season. Now healthy, Re’s ability in the offensive third, as well as her hunger after missing the 2008 campaign, will give the Spartans an additional weapon in front of the cage. Kreamer, who has consistently improved over her two previous seasons, could breakthrough this year and bring some added punch to the frontline while Houck will look to capitalize on a strong offseason and the collegiate experience she gained in 2008.
    The midfield poses a question mark for the second-year Spartan mentor, as York could prove slightly thin through the middle of the field. Junior Casey Lawrence, one of only four Spartans to start all 21 games last year, returns as the most experienced midfielder. A scoring threat, Lawrence posted 21 points on four goals and six assists in 2008 while her scrappy play can ignite the Spartan attack. She is a quick midfielder who will look for more action in the middle of the field this season. Becky Reeves is another third-year player on a squad fraught with juniors. Reeves is an all-around solid player who should become more of a leader in 2009. A coachable athlete, Reeves will bring intelligent and simple play to the Spartan midfield. Sophomore Brittany Simmons came on strong in her rookie campaign providing glimpses of good things to come. That future potential could come to fruition in 2009 as Simmons has a great opportunity to solidify herself in the Spartan lineup. She is a strong player who sees the field well enabling her to anticipate and foil opponents’ attacks while her athleticism allows her to push forward for the Spartans.
    Along with the three returners, Swartz also will look for several Spartan newcomers to step in and fill key roles in the midfield.
    “We like where we are at in the midfield with our first-line players,” Swartz said. “Our concern however is depth. We are looking for some of our new players to make an immediate impact through the midfield whether coming off the bench or winning a starting role. It will be interesting to see who steps up.”
    The defense looks to be York’s strongest and deepest unit heading into the season. Along with Eltz, the Spartans have three experienced and exceptionally talented defenders to start the year while the newcomers will bolster the unit. Senior Julie Reahl, junior Joan Shultis, and sophomore Colleen O’Rourke join Eltz to form a formidable back line that could prove very stingy. Reahl provides the Green and White with a center back who has been through the rigors of three collegiate seasons. Reahl was one of those four Spartans to have started all 21 games last season and has appeared in 62 of a possible 63 games over her strong career. She communicates well from the center, possesses the ability to make tough tackles, and puts herself in the right places at the right times evidenced by her team-high eight defensive saves in 2008. Shultis played in all 21 games last year, including 20 starts, and has the opportunity to blossom into a top defender this season. Her continuity with her teammates and comfort in York’s defensive scheme will allow her to more freely utilize her ability to anticipate plays thwarting opposing attacks. O’Rourke posted a strong rookie campaign as she also started in 20 Spartan contests. She possesses a great combination of strength and athleticism while her full season of collegiate experience should prove valuable this year.
    “We are very happy with where we are defensively coming into camp,” Swartz said. “We have talent and experience throughout our backs which we will look to capitalize on that this year. Our ability to keep teams off the scoreboard will be key to our overall success.”
    Adding to York’s defensive potential are returning goalkeepers Rekitzke and junior Maggie Schlauch. Rekitzke heads into camp as the Spartans’ #1 while Schlauch will look to push the incumbent for time in the cage. Schlauch is a talented net minder who will benefit from a full offseason of development. While both are talented, Swartz expects them to consistently develop throughout the season. York’s several newcomers could provide that added spark and push both Rekitzke and Schlauch.
    “There is no question that we have exceptional talent in our goalkeeping unit,” Swartz said. “As long as our goalkeepers stay focused and sharp throughout the entire year we could have one of the best units in the conference.”
    Entering her second season, Swartz believes the Spartans could have a great season given several key factors. The first of which is a renewed confidence.
    “Our confidence will be much higher than where we were at the start of last year,” Swartz said. “The players know what we as a coaching staff expect of them and they have seen, based on our 2008 successes, that we have the potential to be a very good squad.”
    Along with increased confidence, the Spartans will look to improve their performance in road games as well as display the ability to play at a high level in every contest.
    “Bottom line we need to get better away from home,” Swartz said, commenting on York’s struggles as the visiting team in 2008. “But besides that we need to bring a focus and a swagger to every game. To believe that we can play with any team and beat any team will be a huge key for us this season.”
    The Spartans will begin the season, a year in which hope abounds, on September 4 as they open up at home against Alvernia with a 4:00 pm non-conference tilt.
    “We will be ready,” Swartz said when asked about the upcoming season. “No doubt about that. We will be ready.”