2008 York College Men's Soccer Preview

   Consecutive NCAA Elite Eight appearances. Consecutive #5 final national rankings. Consecutive Capital Athletic Conference regular season titles. Consecutive CAC Player-of-the-Year honors. Consecutive years of outstanding performances have allowed the York College men’s soccer team to come into the 2008 season with high expectations and even higher hopes.
   “We expect to be a strong side and have a good year,” Spartan head coach Mark Ludwig said. “But obviously the goal is to first win the CAC Conference Championship and then to continue on well in post season play. Our guys do not just want to be good, they want to be exceptional.”
   And exceptional they may be. The Spartans return a slew of experienced talent, including three All-Americans and four All-CAC performers, which could prove to be the right combination to spur the Spartans to even greater heights in 2008.
   “I think everyone involved with the program is excited about what this year could hold,” Ludwig said. “Last year we concerned ourselves too much with expectations and put too much pressure on our performance. We just need to remember to go out every day and have fun, work hard, get better and see what happens.”
   One of the reasons for such excitement is the return of York’s trio of All-Americans in Jon Ports, Chris Ports, and Evan Scheffey.
   Jon Ports suits up for his junior season after a simply brilliant sophomore campaign in which he tallied 46 points on 15 goals and 16 assists. The 2007 CAC Player-of-the-Year was the third Spartan in program history to be named an NSCAA All-American as he was a first-team choice. Ports’ relentless work rate and incredible skill on the ball makes him one of the most dangerous attackers in all of Division III.
   “Jon’s performance last season was truly remarkable,” Ludwig said. “His engine is incredible and he competes hard for 90 minutes, or more if necessary. If Jon continues to develop, he has the ability to have another great year.”
   Senior Chris Ports, Jon’s older brother, returns to the Spartan lineup after missing last season due to injury. A 2006 NSCAA first-team All-American, Chris is a dynamic attacking midfielder whose
creativity, intelligence, and experience could prove to be a lethal combination for York opponents.
   “Getting Chris back is definitely big for our squad,” Ludwig said. “He is a phenomenal player that can control the middle of the pitch and dictate match tempo. He has proven that he can be extremely dangerous in the attacking third and we look for him to make a strong return this year.”
   Scheffey, a senior central defender, has been a d3kicks.com All-American each of the past two seasons. In 2007, Scheffey  started all 25 Spartan contests and was a key leader of a defense that only allowed 0.74 goals per game. A strong yet athletic player, Scheffey brings a hardworking
attitude and intense vocal leadership to the pitch that has allowed him to mold into a formidable defensive presence.
   “Evan has improved his play every year,” Ludwig said. “He is a great leader for not only our defense but the entire team. He is a tough center back that understands the game and simply wants the team to succeed.”
   Joining the Ports brothers in the attack will be several experienced veterans in junior Mike O’Connell, junior Brian Carr, junior Justin Suchoski, and sophomore Lucas Emil as well as new players Justin Brown, Kevin Cramer, Seth Hurley, Greg Levine, and Eric Mackin. O’Connell is an athletic and opportunistic target forward who proved his ability late last season with several quality performances. O’Connell tallied seven goals and two assists in 2007 becoming one of the Spartans’ more efficient scorers toward the end of the year. Carr has been hampered by injuries throughout his career but can be very dangerous in the attacking third as well as track back defensively. A full season of good health for Carr will result in additional quality depth in the attack. Suchoski, who scored three goals and tallied five assists in 2007, provides the York side with a great threat either on the flanks or up top. He is a tricky player who has the ability to take on
defenders and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Emil performed well during his freshman season displaying glimpses of good things to come. His ability with the ball at his feet can be devastating for Spartan opponents as he looks to mold into one of the top attacking threats in the conference. Brown joins the York program after a successful high school career. He is an extremely quick and talented attacking player who can flat out score goals, evidenced by his conference-leading 23 as a high school senior. Cramer is another quick forward with the ability to put the ball in the back of net. Chambersburg High School’s fourth-leading all-time scorer will look to translate his strong prep numbers to the collegiate game.Seth Hurley comes to the program hungry after taking off last season to concentrate on academics. His speed will allow him to compete for time up front or out wide. Levine is another opportunistic scorer. His overall quality positional play and knack for finishing will allow him to compete for time in the attack. Mackin, who served the Spartans as a manager last year, will look to hold down a roster spot in 2008. He is a fast and tricky flank player who can provide good service into the attackers.
   “We have a great deal of talent in our attacking players,” Ludwig said. “There is a great mix of experience and youth in this group that will help the guys feed off each other. We have the ability to score a number of goals and, as long as we gel quickly, be very potent offensively.”
   York abounds with quality compatriots for Scheffey, as 15 players look to join him in the defensive ranks. Junior Scott Becker, junior Travis Williams, junior Kurt Lane, junior Brett Sauerberger, sophomore Adam Good, and sophomore Mark Turkewitz form a strong core of returning Spartan defenders. Becker is a physical back who does not shy away from a hard tackle. He can play either out wide or centrally, giving the Spartans increased versatility. Williams brings added intelligence to the defensive unit and is another Spartan that can play out wide or in the middle. He is one of the top passers on the squad and helps maintain possession. Lane, a solid flank player, can be utilized at both ends of the field. Blessed with incredible pace and an excellent fitness level, Lane’s versatility allows him to be a shut down defender as well as formidable in the attack. Sauerberger came on strong last season and looks to increase his minutes in 2008. His speed on the flanks adds quality on the defensive end and gives him the ability to push into the attack. Good is an excellent ball winning defensive midfielder and can initiate the attack with his long range passing. The sophomore developed a great deal during his rookie campaign and could be a key performer this season. Turkewitz is a solid defender who brings a hardworking attitude to the York side. He will look for an increase in minutes this season with improved play in the back.
   “There is no substitute for experience, especially in the defensive third,” Ludwig said. “Our returning defensive players bring a lot to the table, including that level of experience. These returners are going to be vital to our success this season.”
   Andy Stromberg, Erik Temple, Trey Good, Aaron Good, Matt Swiderski, Nic Easton, Shane Hurley, Kyle Diem, and Jordan Adler each bring an added dimension to the Spartans’
defensive unit. Stromberg, who was sidelined by injury last season, experienced great individual success at the high school level and looks to transfer that to the college game. His technical ability and athleticism will only increase with the more time he sees on the pitch. Temple, who has lost consecutive seasons due to injury, will bring a hunger and drive to the pitch. He is an intelligent player who is a solid ball-winner with the ability to quickly initiate the attack. Trey Good comes to the Spartans after spending last season at Division I Loyola College. He is an attacking defender who can push out of the back and provide quality service to the attackers. Aaron Good transfers to York after two years at Old Dominion University, another Division I program. He is a creative playmaker who can hold down the defensive central midfield with his high work rate and excellent distribution. Swiderski is a central defender with solid ball winning ability. With good size and the capacity to spring the attack, he has the potential to add depth for the Spartans. Easton, a transfer from Division II West Chester University, will add speed out wide. An extremely quick flank player, Easton has the ability to push forward from the defensive third and become dangerous in the attack. Shane Hurley comes to York after one season at Herkimer Junior College, bringing much needed size to the Spartan defense. In addition, he is a ball-winner that can initiate the attack and will compete for time in the back or as a defensive central midfielder. Diem comes to York from Division III Methodist University. He will provide much needed size to the central midfield or defense. Adler brings depth to the center of the park with his steady, clever play.
   “There is strong talent and experience within our group of new defensive players,” Ludwig said. “Hopefully they will be able to gel quickly with the returners and add a lot to our program.”
   Goalkeeping should be an area of strength yet again for the Spartan side. Senior Kyle Marks, junior Ryan Hock, senior Kyle Brooten, and freshman Kyle Connolly form one of the best goalkeeping units in Division III soccer. Marks, a three-year starter and two-time All-CAC selection, has strong hands and reads the game extremely well. York only surrendered 0.80 goals per game with Marks in the net last year, yet his great offseason of conditioning could result in even better
performances in 2008. Hock, the Spartans’ #2 in 2007, has the ability to compete for the top spot this season. He is a first-rate shot stopper who can make athletic saves and keep his team in the match. Brooten has a strong will to succeed and a great attitude that makes him a valuable reserve goalkeeper for the Spartans. He has the ability to make stellar saves and will improve his game with more consistency in 2008. Connolly, an extremely athletic goalkeeper, will have the chance to compete right from the start. He has excellent foot skills, outstanding technique, and big game experience as he won the New Hampshire state championship as a high school junior.
   “Our depth in the goalkeeping unit may be the best we have had during my time here,” Ludwig said. “Each of these guys can make big saves and perform extremely well when called upon.”
   As has been the trend in recent years, the Spartans have assembled one of the toughest schedules in all of Division III. York’s 2008 opponents had an overall winning percentage of .599 last year while their non-conference foes posted a stellar .712 winning percentage in 2007. Seven squads have made the NCAA tournament at least once within the past two seasons, including last season’s CAC tournament champion Salisbury, while Virginia Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins,
Greensboro, and Messiah each made the national tournament at least three times within the past four years.
     “We have a tough road ahead of us,” Ludwig said. “But at the same time, kids come to college to play in big games, to play in great atmospheres. We want those big games to be a hallmark of our program.”
   With a great mix of talent, experience, attitude, and hunger the Spartans will look to reach even greater heights in 2008.
   “We had great seasons the past few years,” Ludwig said. “However, there is a lot more we want to accomplish as we want to get to that next level. To get there, it will take consistent development throughout the year and it will be an entire team effort. Our first focus is to bring back the CAC championship to York College.”
   The Spartans officially kick off the 2008 campaign on August 29 in Newport News, Va. when they take on Virginia Wesleyan in Christopher Newport University’s Joe Pombriant Classic.