Those are the two buzzwords surrounding the 2007 edition of the York College men’s soccer program. The Spartans open the campaign riding a 40-match unbeaten streak, an active scoreless streak of 855:05, and are the two-time defending Capital Athletic Conference regular season and tournament champions.
Add to those facts that the Spartans return 80.3% of their goal scoring, 75.8% of their assists, and 78.0% of their total points from 2006’s 21-0-3 squad. Those numbers do not take into account a recruiting class that head coach Mark Ludwig calls one of the best in his nine seasons at the helm of the Spartan program.
“This team has a legitimate claim to be a national championship contender,” says Ludwig. “However, there are a number of steps and goals that must be accomplished first.”
Ludwig welcomes back all three of his All-Americans, almost the entire defense, most of the midfield, and all but one forward from last year’s team that finished with the highest winning percentage in all of Division III.
Forward Andrew Wheeler became one of the most decorated players in Spartan history. He was named the Capital Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year, a South Region All-American, and a first-team NSCAA Division III All-American. He also was recognized by d3kicks.com as an All-American as he finished 23rd in the nation in points per game, 36th in goals per game, and 50th in assists per game. Wheeler notched 49 points on 19 goals and 11 assists while he tallied an impressive 11 game-winning goals.
“Andrew had a tremendous season last year,” states Ludwig. “I believe he should be even better this year. He has grown as a player and a person in the last year and that could prove to be extremely dangerous for our opponents.”
Senior midfielder Chris Ports followed up a stellar sophomore campaign with an even better junior season. Ports joined Wheeler on the NSCAA first-team All-American squad, as they became the first two players in the program’s history to earn the highest All-American honors. Ports was first-team All-CAC for the third time in 2006 while he was a South Region All-American for the second straight year. Ports tallied 23 points on seven goals and nine assists as he continues to climb the career-scoring list for the green and white.
“Chris is one of the best players in the history of the program,” states Ludwig. “He is as dangerous as any player in the nation. His ability to deliver pin-point passes and break down the defense on the dribble make him one of the best attacking players in Division III.”
The Spartans’ third All-American is defender Evan Scheffey. Scheffey, a junior defender, is a key cog in the central defense for the green and white. He spearheads a unit that allowed a mere 10 goals in 2,252 minutes last year. The Spartans defense finished sixth in the country in goals against average and tenth in shutout percentage. Scheffey earned third-team d3kicks.com All-American honors.
“Evan is a vocal leader in the back,” says Ludwig. “He will look to once again be one of the top central defenders in the country.”
Wheeler will not lack for partners up top, as the offense should prove to be lethal in 2007. Wheeler is joined by sophomore Jon Ports, senior Jason Mancuso, senior Charlie Barrett, and freshman Van Hare. Ports joins older brother Chris after a year at the University of Maryland where he saw action in six games. Ports is a dynamic attacking player that meshed well with the Spartans in the spring season. His creativity and flair should provide the Spartans with enhanced scoring opportunities in 2007. Mancuso is a quick and technical attacker that transferred to York from Central Connecticut State. He will be expected to contribute to the Spartan attack. Barrett returns to the Spartan lineup after notching nine points on four goals and an assist in 2006. Barrett is a versatile athlete that can play anywhere on the field for Coach Ludwig. Hare begins his first year in the green and white after spending the fall of 2006 to get stronger and prepare him for 2007. He is a tall, lanky target that has a very high work rate with intelligent running.
“I really like this group of forwards,” says Ludwig. “I think we have a chance to be a very high scoring team, which combined with our outstanding defense, gives us a chance to be a team that can dominate matches.”
Ports headlines a midfield group that can dominate possession and control the tempo of matches.
Joining the Spartan All-American in the central midfield are senior Mike Nantais, freshman Sean Smith, freshman Andy Stromberg, senior Ryan Eaton, senior Jason Yarnall, freshman Jack Yutzy, and freshman Erik Temple.
Nantais is a three-year Spartan that has been hampered by injury. He saw action in 13 games last year, recording two assists from the midfield. He is a gifted player that should flourish in the middle of the field. Smith hails from Scotland and is a gifted central midfielder that provides York with some bite in the midfield. Smith will be the Spartans’ first international player during Coach Ludwig’s tenure. Stromberg is a technical midfielder with a good work rate and will contribute with both possession and scoring. Eaton returns as an All-CAC second team selection as a junior. The physical Eaton tallied seven points on a goal and five assists but his value comes in his strong and dominate play in the middle. Yarnall, a Spartan captain, was held back by injuries last year but ended the season strong with steady play during the Spartans’ CAC and NCAA tournament run. Yarnall tallied an assist in 14 games last year. He had an outstanding spring season and has put himself in position for a spot in the Spartan rotation in 2007. Yutzy, a local York County product, will give the Spartans some much needed size in the middle of the pitch. Yutzy is a physical ball-winner that can hold possession or push forward into the attack. Temple returns to the Spartans after a knee injury cost him 2006. Temple is an intelligent player that can win possession and initiate the attack with exciting passing.
The wide midfield will be manned by junior Kurt Lane, sophomore Justin Suchoski, sophomore Travis Williams, senior Matt Detzel, sophomore Mike O’Connell, sophomore Brian Carr, junior Seth Fornwalt, and freshman Lucas Emil.
Lane came on for the Spartans toward the middle of last season. He finished the campaign with a goal and three assists in 23 games. Lane is extremely dangerous in the attack with blistering speed. He is able to cover a lot of ground on the flanks both offensively and defensively. Suchoski had a very good freshman year for the Spartans. He notched seven points on three goals and an assist. Suchoski is dangerous off the dribble and provides excellent service into the finishing area. Williams is an extremely intelligent player that will add to the Spartan flanks in 2006. He tallied two goals and three assists last year, as he possesses excellent game sense. Williams has the ability to make the simple plays whether that be in the attack or in possession. Detzel comes to York from the University of Pittsburgh where he played the previous two years. He was a first-team PA All-State selection at Central York in 2004. O’Connell is another player that suffered with injuries last year, costing him additional playing time as a freshman. He is a creative player on the flank that had an impressive spring campaign which will put him in the mix for 2007. Carr had a strong freshman year as he appeared in all 24 matches, starting 11 of those contests. He has the potential to increase his goal scoring and become more dangerous in the attacking third of the field for York. Fornwalt returns for his third year in the green and white. He will look to regain the form he flashed as a freshman as injuries robbed him of a consistent 2006. He will look to regain his fitness and provide dangerous service from the left flank. Emil is a talented midfielder that has the potential to be one of the most dangerous attacking newcomers in the CAC. He can hold possession or combine with teammates. Emil should find a spot in the Spartan rotation as a freshman either as a flank or central midfielder.
“The group of central and wide midfielders is very deep and very talented,” says Ludwig. “They possess all the abilities that we desire from our midfield. We should be able to control tempo and maintain quality possession with this group of players.”
Scheffey and fellow captain Mike Whalen anchor the central defense, as they are the heart of an outstanding defense. They are joined by freshman Adam Good while sophomore Scott Becker and Barrett could also see time in the middle of the back.
Whalen is a solid athlete that has great composure and also fits into the Spartans’ team defensive concepts. Good is a solid ball -winner that is comfortable with distribution once the ball is won. Becker was very steady as a freshman and should be even better as a sophomore. He is a very composed player and is a shutdown defender. Becker is versatile enough to play in the middle or out wide.
The wide defenders include senior Matt Beale, freshman Tim Liermann, freshman Javier Perez, sophomore Brett Sauerberger, and junior Mark Turkewitz. Beale was a second-team All-CAC defender in 2006, the second time he was honored by the conference. Beale also earned third-team South Region All-American honors for YCP. Beale finished his junior year as one of the most dangerous attacking defenders in the region. Beale tallied 12 points on four goals and four assists from his defensive position. His ability to push into the attack and create scoring chances caise difficult match ups for Spartan opponents. Liermann provides excellent left-footed service to the midfield while he also can push into the attack for the green and white. Perez is an athletic and technical left sided player that can stretch the defense with his accurate passing. Sauerberger returns for his sophomore year after seeing limited time as a freshman. Sauerberger had a strong spring after playing in eight games in 2006. Turkewitz comes to York from Juniata College. He is a hard working wide defender that will have a chance to work himself into the Spartan rotation.
“Our defense is outstanding, both individually and as a group,” says Ludwig. “Their play last fall was a big key to our success and that’s something that we hope will hold true once again this fall. They do a great job of shutting down the opponents’ attack and getting the ball forward to initiate the attack.”
The Spartans are stacked in goal as returning starter Kyle Marks headlines the strong group. Marks is joined by junior Kyle Brooten, sophomore Ryan Hock, and freshman transfer Jeff Butchar.
Marks was a first-team All-CAC pick and a first-team NSCAA South Region All-American in 2006. He was simply outstanding as he posted a record of 20-0-3 with eight shutouts in 2,001:47 in net. Marks registered a save percentage of .895 which ranked him tenth in the nation. His 0.405 goals against average placed him ninth in all of Division III. Hock is net minder that could be starting for a number of other squads in the region. He is a great athlete that did not allow a goal in 139 minutes of action in 2006. Hock had a strong off-season and is prepared to make a run at the number one spot. Brooten was the Spartans’ number three goalkeeper last year and, with more consistency, will have a chance to battle for one of the top two spots. Butchar is a transfer from Rider University. He has excellent size and athleticism that will allow him to compete for time in the net.
“I am not sure any team in the nation has the depth that we have in goal,” says Ludwig. “We have four guys that can be very successful if called upon. Having this group of goalkeepers along with our talented backs makes us very formidable defensively.”
Ludwig knows the schedule will provide the Spartans with a stern task. In addition to the traditionally tough CAC slate, the green and white will host the defending national champion Messiah Falcons while Christopher Newport, Gettysburg, and Arcadia will also visit Graham Field. The Spartan road schedule includes a trip to the CNU/Joe Pombriant Tournament as well as non-conference treks to Lynchburg, Johns Hopkins, and Susquehanna.
“Our schedule is set up to prepare us for the CAC and NCAA Tournaments,” says Ludwig. “I feel that playing a tough schedule is one of the features of this program. Our kids want to compete against the best in the country and this schedule allows us to do that.”
Ludwig believes that this season could be the greatest in Spartan history.
“We will start practice in August looking for daily improvement,” states the Spartan mentor. “Our goal will be to improve each and every day. The attitude of constant improvement will carry us throughout the season. We have a number of goals that we want to achieve but if we don’t see consistent improvement, those goals will be difficult to accomplish.”
The Spartans open their 2007 season on September 1 when they host Albright College at Graham Field.