YORK, PA – The 2007 York College men’s soccer team posted one of the most impressive seasons in school history. The Spartans completed the season sporting a 21-3-1 record, advancing to the Elite Eight, and finishing the year ranked fifth in the country, both for the second consecutive season. York ranked as high as #1 in the nation this season, according to d3kicks.com, a first for the program while their 21 wins ties a program-best set in 2006. Seven players landed on the All-Capital Athletic Conference squad, including sophomore midfielder Jon Ports (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) being named the CAC Player of the Year. Adding to the post-season accolades, five Spartans earned All-South Region honors and Ports was selected a first-team NSCAA and d3kicks.com All-American. Furthermore, junior defender Evan Scheffey was named a d3kicks.com second-team All-American.
“Looking back, this season was very successful for us,” Spartan head coach Mark Ludwig said. “Being one of the last eight teams in the country is always something to be proud of and definitely an honor. I am delighted with our individual awards as well as they reflect both player and team success.”
York opened the season with a nine game winning streak including taking the Joe Pombriant / Christopher Newport University Classic with their third and fourth wins of the year. Over the nine game stretch, the Spartans increased their nation’s best consecutive game unbeaten streak to an impressive 49 contests dating back to last season. During the early season run, the green and white outscored opponents by an incredible 38-5 margin.
“We opened up the season very well,” Ludwig said. “It is always nice to get off to a good start and set the tone for the rest of the year.”
After a tough 1-0 home loss to CAC rival Salisbury, the Spartans got right back on track with another lengthy winning streak this time stretching it to ten matches. Included in the second win streak is a great come-from-behind win against CAC foe St. Mary’s. A first-half Seahawk score put the Spartans in a hole for only the second time all season but a gritty home performance provided for late-game heroics as Ports and Andrew Wheeler (Baltimore, Md./Patapsco) propelled the Spartans to a 2-1 overtime victory.
“That was a big win for us,” Ludwig said. “We lose that game and we have two conference losses. This showed the whole team that no matter what happens we always have a chance to win.”
A mere three days following the emotional overtime victory, national powerhouse #4 Messiah visited York’s Graham Field for a mid-season showdown. Just last season, the Falcons were the last team standing after a convincing 3-0 victory over Wheaton (Ill.) to capture the 2006 crown. The Spartans, who had never beaten Messiah in Ludwig's tenure at York, would take it to the three-time defending National Champions and add a 2-1 victory to their season total. Ports played like a man possessed as he tallied York’s first score a mere 21 seconds into the second half. His constant work rate frustrated Falcon defenders throughout the contest and led the green and white to their 13th win of the season.
“I must admit, it was great to finally beat Messiah,” Ludwig said. “They have established the standard by which Division III teams are measured. It showed our boys that we could play with and beat anyone in the country.”
After picking up a 4-1 CAC win at Wesley College, York then traveled to Johns Hopkins University for a match-up of top five squads. The #5 Blue Jays played host to the third-ranked Spartans as both teams had posted only one loss coming into the match. After an early penalty kick put Johns Hopkins up 1-0, the Spartans battled back as Matt Detzel (York, Pa./Central York) secured the equalizer in the 40th minute. Matt Beale (Baltimore, Md./Archbishop Curley) would tally the game-winner on his own 77th minute penalty kick to give the Spartans the 2-1 victory.
“Beating a pair of top five teams was a great feat for us,” Ludwig said. “We play a tough schedule and grabbing wins against Messiah and at Johns Hopkins was a big boost to our confidence.”
York would then cruise to the CAC tournament championship where they would face the only team that had put a blemish on the Spartans’ stellar 2007 campaign. This time in Salisbury, the Sea Gulls would once again get the better of the green and white grabbing a 2-0 victory, the CAC tournament title, and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
“All losses hurt, but that one definitely stung us hard,” Ludwig said. “I believe if we win that game we have a good chance to host in the NCAA tournament. But Salisbury was just better on that day and they deserved to win.”
Fortunately, the 19-2 Spartans received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament but did have to hit the road for each of their matches. Riding out to Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. for their first round of games, the Spartans captured a pair of wins over Dickinson and Eastern to catapult into the Sweet 16. Having to travel once again, York headed out to Middlebury, Vt. The Spartans would battle the physical Amherst Jeffs to a 0-0 draw before advancing to the Elite Eight on a penalty kick shootout.
“We have bowed out of the tournament the past two years on shootouts,” Ludwig said. “I am glad to get that monkey off our backs and know that we do not need to panic when a game gets to that point.”
York’s season would come to an end the next night falling 2-0 to Middlebury, the eventual National Champions.
“We were definitely tired and beat up going into that match,” Ludwig said. “But at the same time, the game is for a trip to the Final Four so there cannot be any excuses. Congratulations to Middlebury. They were very good and they really proved it the next weekend [by winning the National Championship].”
The past two seasons have seen the Spartan men’s soccer program amass a record of 42-3-3, a conference tournament championship, two trips to the NCAA Elite Eight, and two NSCAA final rankings of fifth in the country. But the Spartans are still not satisfied.
“I am pleased with the success that we have had thus far,” Ludwig said. “But we still want to get better every year, every day in fact. Hopefully the success that we have had the last couple of seasons will only help to build the program as we strive toward our goal of a National Championship. We still have a long way to go but I like where we are at this point and we are extremely excited about next season.”