Spartans Still Dancing; O'Connell's Header Moves York into Sweet 16
HOBOKEN, NJ - The York College men's soccer team pulled out an incredible 2-1 double overtime victory Sunday night over Eastern University in Hoboken, N.J. The Spartans now up their record to 21-2 and advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The Eagles end their season after posting a 13-6-2 mark.
With 3:52 left on the clock in the second overtime, sophomore forward Mike O'Connell (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) knocked home an open goal header to advance the Spartans in the tournament. After an Eastern goal kick was picked off by Andrew Wheeler (Baltimore, Md./Patapsco), the senior forward raced down the field with the ball at his feet. With just the goalkeeper to beat, Wheeler banged his shot off the inside of the near post. The fortunate ricochet came right to O'Connell who sent the Spartans into the Sweet 16.
York opened the match controlling most of the play. Eastern seemed content to sit back, keep their defensive shape, and look for counter-attacks. The strategy worked; at least for a time.
As the clock ticked toward ten minutes into the match, York unnecessarily gave away the ball in the midfield giving the Eagles a free run at goal. The error forced a Spartan defender to make a great tackle just to knock the ball out for a corner kick. Eastern's Ryan Castle hit a marvelous corner to the far post where Taylor VanBrackle banged home the game's first tally. Now up 1-0, the Eagles continued to put ten players behind the ball, daring the Spartans to score.
The rest of the first frame went back-and-forth as neither side seemed to have the better of the play. York did hold a 6-3 advantage in shots, but Eastern goalkeeper Michael Dorsch was up to the challenge allowing the Eagles to go into the break with the one goal advantage.
The Spartans began the second half an inspired group, sprinting all over the pitch and controlling the pace of play. York's high-energy efforts paid off about midway through the second frame when Mike Whalen (Philadelphia, Pa./LaSalle) tallied the equalizer. A melee in front of the Eastern net left Whalen with an opportunity that he simply could not pass up. The junior defender hit a great ball that snuck just over the line before an Eagle defender was able to clear the attempt. The alert linesman signaled that the ball had crossed the line and York found themselves even with the Eagles.
York controlled the rest of the period, tallying eleven shots over the 45 minutes. Eastern was only able to muster one attempt at goal. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they were unable to break Dorsch and the game spilled into overtime.
The first overtime period saw the green and white get two beautiful chances in the first two minutes. O'Connell floated a brilliant header toward the far upper 90 that Dorsch was just able to get his fingers on to tip over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner kick, Jon Ports (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) found Wheeler's head as a senior snapped his shot just above the crossbar. The rest of the period saw equal play from both teams but neither was able to score sending the match into a second overtime where the Spartans came out victorious.
For the match the Spartans held an impressive 27-4 bulge in shots, including 21 shots in the final three frames. York played a great second half and overtime periods to swing the match to their favor.
Credit must be given to Eastern goalkeeper Dorsch. The junior played an exceptional match stopping numerous Spartan attempts that seemed destined to find the back of the net.
York advances to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. The green and white are set to take on Amherst who were 3-2 winners over Western New England. Most likely the match will be played in the New England area, as the Spartan's women's soccer team will be hosting their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds in York.