YORK, PA - How did the 2008 Spartans finish the second-best
season in program history? Only with a thrilling seven-overtime
10-9 victory. York mounted a tremendous comeback win over former
Capital Athletic Conference foe Catholic University, after the
Spartans found themselves down 9-5 with just over ten minutes
remaining in the contest. Senior midfielder Chris Chappelle
(Stevensville, Md./Chesapeake) tallied the game winning
score with 2:19 left in the seventh overtime; quite a fitting
ending for a senior class that has compiled the best four-year
record (31-27) since the inception of the program back in 2000.
“What an incredible way to end a season,” Spartan head coach Jim Griffin said. “For our seniors it was a great way to end their respective careers. That win is something each of our players will remember for a long time.”
The Spartans embarked on the 2008 campaign looking to regain their 2006 form, a year in which they were 11-5 including a strong 4-2 mark in the CAC. York achieved that goal by putting together a solid 10-7 season while they played to a 3-4 league record in the tough CAC.
“This program is continuing to build,” Griffin said. “We went out and improved every day. The kids worked hard and won some big games. We had a very successful year.”
York began the season winning five of their first six contests, as their only defeat in that spurt came in sub-freezing temperatures to a tough Washington & Lee squad in Lexington, VA. Over the early season stretch, the Spartan offense outscored their opponents 76-39 notching 20, 19, and 15 goal performances.
“We began the season really well,” Griffin said. “We played some good teams in that period [including Messiah and Widener] and came away with solid victories. The early part of the year was key for us to start out with some confidence.”
The middle portion of the schedule was not so kind to the green and white. York ran into a patch of exceptional squads, including perennial powerhouse Salisbury, and dropped five of six contests.
“That part of the season was a tough ride for us,” Griffin said. “We had chances to win three of those games which makes those losses especially tough to stomach. We did learn a lot from those defeats which helped us have a quality end of the season.”
Toward the end of the schedule, the York side won four of their last five including three straight wins and a fantastic 10-8 comeback victory over CAC rival Mary Washington on Spartan Senior Day. After a strong CAC tournament first-round victory over Wesley, a team that had stolen one from the Spartans earlier in the season, York ran into the buzz saw that is Salisbury lacrosse. The green and white then closed out the season with the incredible victory over Catholic.
“I was very encouraged by the way we finished the year,” Griffin said. “After that stretch of defeats and being down to Mary Washington we could have just tanked it the rest of the way. Instead, the boys rallied and made a fantastic push at the end of the schedule.”
As a team, the green and white registered 163 goals, averaging 9.35 scores per game. Ten of York’s 17 games were decided by four goals or less as the Spartans played to a strong 7-3 mark in those contests.
The success experienced during the season led to several CAC post-season individual accolades for the green and white. Junior defenseman Steve Mersinger (Westminster, Md./Westminster) landed on the all-league first-team while senior defensive midfielder Rob Marine (Bel Air, Md./Bel Air) and senior attack Steve Roy (Feasterville, Pa./Archbishop Wood) each earned second-team honors.
Mersinger backed up his 2007 all-CAC second-team selection with a stellar campaign that proved he is one of the top defensemen not only in the CAC but also the region. The six-foot five-inch Mersinger picked up a team-best 72 ground balls and caused a team-high 29 turnovers while chipping in a pair of assists.
Marine firmly established himself as one of the top short-stick defensive midfielders in the conference with his impressive work in 2008. Scooping up 33 ground balls and causing 21 turnovers, Marine also notched five goals and four assists as his athleticism and work ethic was evident all over the field.
Roy’s senior season was his best, as he tallied a career-high 20 goals to go along with two assists. The senior’s quickness and nose for the goal provided several big scores for the green and white.
“Each one of these young men have worked so hard not only this season but during their whole careers,” Griffin said. “Steve [Mersinger] is absolutely one of the top defensemen in the entire region. His play in the back has been invaluable to our success. Rob is one of those hard-nosed, tough players that every team would love to have. Steve [Roy] really came on strong this year and provided another dimension to our attack.”
Several additional Spartans posted solid seasons. Senior attacker Kyle Henninger (Millers, Md./Hereford) led the green and white with 38 points on 23 goals and a team-high 15 assists. He leaves the program having amassed 57 career scores, a mark that ranks him fifth all-time in Spartan scoring.
Chappelle capped his four-year career with yet another solid campaign. His 15 goals and eight assists give the senior 47 and 32 for his career, respectively. Chappelle’s name is dotted throughout the record books, as he ranks eighth in career goals, sixth in career assists, eighth in career points with 79, and third in face-off wins with 152. Even more telling of Chappelle’s impact on the Spartan program, the midfielder was a three-year captain as his leadership was invaluable to York’s success during his tenure.
Sophomore Ryan McNicholas (Fallston, Md./Fallston) led the green and white in goals from his attack position, notching 27 scores in 2008. Freshman Josh Gamble (Easton, Md./Easton) came on strong toward the end of the season to register 17 goals in his rookie campaign. Midfielders Brian O’Neill (Lititz, Pa./Manheim Township) and Ryan Schab (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip) recorded 18 and 14 points respectively. Kalen Roundy (Ijamsville, Md./Urbana) played in all 17 Spartan games during his freshman season, posting eight goals and five assists, and has the potential to become a potent scorer for the Spartans.
“We have a solid group of offensive players returning next season,” Griffin said referring to these five student-athletes. We have the talent and the potential to score a lot of goals next year.
On the defensive end of the field, York continued to improve. Led by the exploits of Mersinger and Marine, several Spartans posted notable performances in 2008. Matt Keeler (Morton, Pa./Ridley), York’s senior goalkeeper, started all 17 Spartan contests this year, playing 812:24 of the squad’s 1,045:26 minutes. Keeler registered a .494 save percentage on the season, amassing 133 saves. His 437 career stops ranks Keeler second in program history.
Senior long-stick midfielder Mike Stokes (Ellicott City, Md./Mt. Hebron) brought an emotional fire to the squad picking up 52 ground balls and causing eleven turnovers along the way. Junior defenseman Dan Wood (Montauk, N.Y./East Hampton) made a significant impact totaling 25 caused turnovers, the second-best mark on the team, in addition to 49 ground balls. Freshman goalkeeper Chris Collins (Westminster, Md./Westminster) showed a great deal of promise serving as Keeler’s back up this season and is primed for a big season in 2009.
With the defense returning Mersinger, Wood, and Collins to go along with Gavin Scherr (Reisterstown, Md./Franklin) and James Greenwood (Bel Air, MD/Fallston), the Spartan defensive unit looks to be in good shape for next season.
“We lose some talent, some very good talent, on the defensive side of ball,” Griffin said. “But when you look at the guys we have coming back, we certainly have a great core of defensive players. I am excited to see what they do next year.”
Junior midfielder Mike LaRoque (Arnold, Md./DeMatha) and sophomore Zach Scherr (Reisterstown, Md./Franklin) held down the majority of the face-offs duties for the York side. LaRoque captured 66-of-138 while he also picked up 60 ground balls and chipped in with five scores and four assists. Scherr went 61-for-148 including a brilliant showing against #17 Dickinson in which he won 8-of-13 face-offs, helping the Spartans almost top the Red Devils.
“Mike and Zach did a great job for us in face-offs,” Griffin said. “Face-offs are a key aspect of the game and both of those young men worked hard and performed well.”
With the off-season now beginning, the Spartans are looking to 2009 to continue their ascent in the region. The departure of ten quality seniors, including the graduation of 39.2% of their scoring and a great deal of leadership, means that a number of players will need to step up to even greater levels next season.
“We lose some key guys, but we also have key guys returning,” Griffin said. “We made strides in the right direction in 2008 and we definitely want to continue that through the off-season and into next year. I am excited to see what we can do in 2009.”