YORK, PA - It's cold. It is 7 a.m. on a January morning and the 40 members of the 2010 York College men’s lacrosse team are out on Kinsley Field throwing a ball back-and-forth.
Why, one may ask? Well that answer is simple.
“This is how we are going to become one of the best programs in the country,” Spartan head coach Jim Griffin said. “It is not just about being skillful, it is about discipline, about focus. It is about commitment to fundamentals, and you can never work on fundamentals enough. Those are the things that make not only great teams, but great programs.”
The 2010 Spartans open the season with loads of optimism after a
highly successful 2009 campaign. York did end the year with a
relatively average 8-7 mark, but it is what happened within those
15 intercollegiate contests that made it a success. York tallied
Athletic Conference wins over St. Mary’s and Mary Washington while pushing national-powerhouse Salisbury to the brink.
“We proved we can play with the best teams in our conference – which translates into being able to play with the best teams in the country,” Griffin, who begins his sixth year at the helm of the Spartan squad, said. “Those games proved to us that we can compete. We are not afraid of anyone anymore.”
And the Spartans better not be afraid this season as they embark on one of the most brutal schedules in all of Division III. The Green and White will line up against five nationally ranked squads, with four of those five taking place away from Kinsley Field. The Spartans take the field against CAC squads #2 Stevenson and #4 Salisbury, in addition to non-conference foes #4 Haverford, #7 Roanoke, and #20 St. John Fisher. (Rankings according to Lacrosse Magazine’s 2010 Division III Preseason Poll).
“To be the best you have to beat the best,” Griffin commented, echoing the old adage. “You cannot hide behind a soft schedule and say you want to be the best. These games will be extremely challenging, no doubt, but we want to be where they are. We want to go where they have gone. And to do that, we are going to have to step up.”
With that in mind, the Spartans hit the field in 2010 with a myriad of talent and potential throughout the lineup. York returns eight players who started at least five games during the 2009 campaign and bring in a wealth of new talent.
“Our guys will be up to the task,” Griffin said of the Spartans competing against some of the best teams in Division III. “We really like the veteran players that are coming back this year, and we are very excited about the new players we have coming in. If we can gel early, we have the potential to be an outstanding squad this season.”
On the offensive end, the Green and White welcome back their top three scorers from a season ago and four of their top five. Josh Gamble returns as the Spartans’ leading scorer from last season, after he posted 47 points on 30 goals and 17 assists over his 15 games. An exceptionally talented attackman, Gamble has the strength to score on the inside and the deft touch to tally from longer range. A big year from the junior should result in numerous Spartan victories. Joining Gamble from last year’s front line are senior Ryan McNicholas and sophomore B.J. Blaker. McNicholas, who tied Gamble’s 30 goals last year, is a consistent scoring threat. An elusive and ambidextrous finisher, McNicholas will look to combine his ability and experience for an outstanding 2010. Blaker burst on the scene last year as one of the top freshmen in the conference. The rookie notched 26 goals and seven helpers last year and, with a full season of collegiate experience under his belt, should become one of the best attackers in the region this season.
Pushing York’s three returners, juniors Brendan McLaughlin and John Moritmer as well as sophomore John Powell will add experienced depth to the Spartan attack. Kevan Schellenberg, a transfer, will add even more experienced talent while Jordan Mitchell will bring a fresh energy in his first collegiate season.
“We have a very good mix in the attack,” Griffin commented. “Gamble, McNicholas, and Blaker are each extremely talented and are set to do some great things for us offensively. But not only are our first line guys superb, we also have the depth that will help us throughout the grueling lacrosse season.”
Griffin looks for good things from the Spartan midfield this season, which consists of a stellar blend of athletic players. Junior Adam Cooper looks to be one of York’s most talented middies after appearing in all 15 contests in 2009. He is an extremely fast student-athlete who will help the Spartans’ transition game on both ends of the field. Junior captain Russell Tutt brings great leadership to the midfield. Tutt posted a solid 2009, his first in a Spartan uniform, and will look to build on that strong effort as a defensive middie this season. Nick Bach returns for his sophomore season having made an impact as a rookie. A quick player, Bach, who possesses a great shot from the outside, should be a key cog in the midfield this season. Zach Scherr enters 2010, his senior season in the Spartan uniform, as York’s top choice in face-offs. Scherr is a quick and tough player who won over 54 percent of his face-offs last season and will look for an even better performance this year. Patrick Raymond will add vital experienced depth to the midfield after appearing in 11 games in 2009 while junior Kevin Carlson and sophomore Marcus Coppola will look to step up in 2010.
“We have a great group of returning middies,” Griffin raved. “They are all very athletic and bring different but valuable skills. We are looking for this group to be one of our strongest this season.”
Helping the midfield get even better, the Spartans welcome in a slew of new players who bring outstanding talent. Leading that crew is Jamie Lowe as he looks to be one of York’s top freshmen and should be an impact player right away. The 2009 [Frederick] Gazette High School Boys’ Lacrosse Player-of-the-Year, Lowe scored 35 goals and posted 31 assists in his senior year at Urbana High School. Ultra-talented, Lowe is primed to make an immediate splash on the collegiate level. Fellow rookie Dan Schuck is a hard-working student-athlete who will provide York with another solid choice in face-offs as well as defensive midfield. Junior Kevin Topper and sophomore Tyler Roy transfer into the Spartan program as each has the capability to see minutes this season. Rookies Corey Cooke and Eric Selingski will add even more athleticism to the midfield while fellow newcomers Pat Wills, Josh Crego, and Derrike Hill will provide quality depth.
“Our new guys in the midfield are going to add a lot to our program,” Griffin said. “And, I believe, they are going to start doing that this season. It is such a luxury to have freshmen come in and perform well and I think this group can do just that.”
The Spartan defense looks to be the largest question mark for the Green and White in 2010, as the departure of last year’s talented senior class leaves room where others need to step up.
“We had several very good defensive players graduate last year,” Griffin said. “Sure it will be hard to replace them, but that just means other guys have opportunities. Hopefully they will grab those opportunities and run with them.”
Despite the defensive losses from last season, the Spartans do have three senior captains who should provide outstanding performances and leadership for the Green and White. Senior James Greenwood is set to lead the backline in 2010, after starting all 15 games in 2009, and will be called upon for stellar and steady performances. A hulking defenseman, Greenwood’s play as well as his leadership as a captain this season will be key to York’s overall success. Fellow senior captains Josh Muskin and Jason Underwood will also be keys this season. Muskin, a long-stick middie, appeared in 14 games, including nine starts, and his combination of talent and experience will allow him to become an outstanding player on the defensive end. Underwood returns for his senior year in the Spartan lineup and will be a significant contributor as both a defenseman and long-stick middie.
“The three captains on defense are going to be huge for us this year,” Griffin commented on Greenwood, Muskin, and Underwood. “They are going to need to play extremely well and lead extremely well. I truly believe they are each capable of doing both of those things.”
The Spartans do have a veteran-laden core of defensemen, which should prove a valuable asset especially early in the season. Senior Dan Sadler, who played in 14 games last year, has the opportunity to find a starter’s role this season. Fellow senior Jon Silverio returns to the Spartan squad after missing all of last year and should be hungry in 2010. Having spent countless hours in the weight room, junior Bob Braun is an exceptionally strong student-athlete who is ready for a breakout season. Juniors Jim Oleskowitz and Bryce Johnston as well as sophomores Patrick Glenn and Ryan Glavin will add much-needed depth to the defensive ranks.
York’s newcomers will look for immediate contributions as
the Spartans welcome four new faces on defense. Travis
Atwell, a 2009 National Junior College Athletic
Association All-American, comes to the Spartan program from Anne
Arundel Community College and could be an instant impact player.
Another big, tough defenseman, Atwell should give the York squad
added bite this year. Rookies Matt Jovinelli,
Nate Stewart, and Colin Glavin
will each look to push for playing time early in their
“Overall, our defense could be solid, a strong-point of our team, if they all come together and play as a unit,” Griffin said. “The combination of experience, youthful energy, talent, and opportunity that we have this year could equal some great results.”
Looking to back that defensive effort, the Spartan goalies could be one of the top groups in the conference. Led by junior Chris Collins, the Spartan goalkeeping unit looks to be in good shape for 2010. Collins had a superb season last year starting each of York’s 15 contests. A quick yet steady netminder, Collins’s best work last season came against then-#1 Salisbury as he recorded 22 saves in York’s near-miss against the Sea Gulls. In York’s next contest, Collins posted 19 saves in the Spartans’ 7-5 victory over St. Mary’s as he netted CAC Player-of-the-Week honors for his efforts. Simply a fantastic goalie, Collins could become one of the nation’s best this season.
“Collins is exceptional,” Griffin raved. “In my opinion, he is already one of the top goalkeepers out there. He is definitely ready for an unbelievable year.”
Mike Karwoski and Devin O’Neill will each look to push Collins this season. Karwoski, a sophomore, put in a great offseason and has taken hold of the #2 spot and will strive for continued improvement. O’Neill, who competed internationally this past summer, is a solid netminder who gives the unit excellent depth.
“Our three goalies this year are outstanding,” Griffin said. “They can all play at a high level and will push each other, keep each other sharp, throughout the season.”
Although Griffin is high on York’s 2010 roster, he knows that it is going to take a lot of hard work to have a successful year.
“Bottom line, we need to work very hard this
season,” Griffin said. “It is going to take lots of
hard work and dedication to the fundamentals in order for us to be
in every game. But I know that if we can focus day-in and day-out
and commit to the hard work, we can be very
The Spartans begin that quest this Saturday, February 13, when they travel to Salem, Va., for a 2:00 p.m. tilt with #7 Roanoke.
Photo: Josh Gamble returns to the lineup after leading the Spartans in points last year. Courtesy of Steve Doemland (www.stevedoemland.com)