December 21, 2008

Spartans Post Memorable 2008

YORK, PA – The 2008 York College men's soccer regular season was one to remember. The postseason, one to forget.
     The Spartans rose to as high as second in the country this year, plowing through one of the toughest regular season slates in all of Division III. Over that span, York went 18-0 defeating eight teams that participated in this season’s NCAA tournament, including eventual national champion Messiah.
     “We had a good run this year,” Spartan Head Coach Mark Ludwig said. “We were able to play well against some top competition and were fortunate enough to get good results from many of those contests.”
     To open the season, the Spartans won the VCAM/CNU Classic courtesy of a 2-0 defeat of Virginia Wesleyan and a 4-1 result over host Christopher Newport, two teams which participated in the 2008 NCAA tournament. 
     “Opening the year can be tough, no matter who is on the field,” Ludwig said. “The players are still trying to figure each other out, trying to get into a flow. But to get wins from two very strong opponents set us up well.”
     York would string together eight-straight victories, before squaring off with Salisbury on September 27. In a rivalry match that consistently grows more passionate with each passing game, York would stretch their winning streak to nine with a 2-1 win over the Sea Gulls. Nearly two weeks later and still unblemished, the green and white bested Messiah by another 2-1 score line before posting a 2-0 triumph over Rutgers-Camden. Each of these three victories came away from York’s Graham Field.
     “It is tough to go on the road and win,” Ludwig said. “But our players brought an intense, business-like focus to every game and were able to get some quality results against some of the best competition in the country.”
     York would finish off their regular season slate with four more victories to stand at 18-0 and #2 in the country. Throughout the regular season, the Spartans outscored their opponents by an incredible 59-3 margin, including a 35-1 in league play.
     “We had a lot of things click for us this year during the regular season," Ludwig said.  "We fell short of what we wanted to accomplish in the postseason."
     After rolling through their first 18 matches unbeaten and untied, the green and white simply ran out of luck in the postseason. The Spartans were ousted from the Capital Athletic Conference tournament in the semifinal round when Wesley College pushed through to the final courtesy of a 3-0 result in a penalty-kick shootout.
     “It was very disappointing not to be playing in the CAC final,” Ludwig said. “But those are the breaks, that is soccer. But we knew we had to refocus our attention to the NCAA tournament.”
     With their outstanding run during the regular season, the Spartans were awarded an at-large bid into the 58-team NCAA National Tournament. Courtesy of their 18-0-1 record, the green and white were given a bye in the first round and chosen to host the second round match. In that round, the Spartans would encounter a familiar foe as Johns Hopkins returned to Graham Field. York had defeated the Blue Jays by a 1-0 result just over two months prior. This time around, Hopkins would force the Spartans into another penalty-kick shootout after a 0-0 tie through 110 minutes. York would once again come out on the short end of the shootout, falling 4-3 to the Blue Jays.
     “That was one of the toughest results I have ever experienced on the soccer field,” Ludwig said. “No excuses. We just did not get it done. However, that does not dim the quality play that we had throughout this season.”
     And quality is exactly right. The three goals that the Spartans’ surrendered during their eight contests against eventual NCAA participants, in which the green and white outscored their opponents 18-3, were the only three scores that the York side conceded all season long. Their stout defensive effort resulted in the nation’s best goals against average of 0.15 scores per game. Coupling that stellar defense with a top-20 offensive output, the Spartans proved to be one of the country’s toughest opponents.
     “Our players played well this year, both individually and, more importantly, as a team,” Ludwig said. “We had a tough defense, a creative offense, and quality leadership; three big keys to success. Once again, we just fell a bit short of where we wanted to be at the end.”
     The Spartans landed eight players on the All-CAC squad, including six first-team selections. Junior forward Jon Ports (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) was named the conference’s Player of the Year for a second consecutive season, while freshman forward Kemal Nuspahic (East Petersburg, Pa./Warwick) was chosen as the league’s Rookie of the Year, the third time in five years that a Spartan has received the honor. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Marks (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury) was named the conference’s top net-minder for a second time in three seasons after surrendering an NCAA-low 0.13 goals per game. With Marks in net, the green and white only allowed a pair of scores over the senior’s 1,371:43 minutes between the pipes.
     The individual accolades continued to roll in for the York side as six players where chosen as All-South Region honorees by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Furthermore, a trio of Spartans captured NSCAA All-American honors. Jon Ports was selected to the first team, his second consecutive appearance, older brother Chris Ports (Baltimore, Md./John Carroll) received a second-squad bid after a first team choice in 2006, and senior Evan Scheffey (Lititz, Pa./Warwick) was honored as a third-team All-American, his first NSCAA selection after two d3kicks.com All-American accolades.
     “What a fantastic honor to have so many players be recognized for their achievements this season,” Ludwig commented on the highest number of Spartans ever honored as All-CAC and NSCAA All-Americans in one season. “But I have said this before, and I will continue to say it as long as I coach. Individual honors come as part of team success. Every one of our players deserves recognition for these awards because of the quality team play we had this season.”
     The Spartans finished the year ranked 10th by the NSCAA, the fourth consecutive season the green and white has finished in the top 10 in Division III. The unprecedented success the Spartans have experienced over the past four seasons has brought the York program to the national stage. A pair of conference tournament titles combined with four trips to the NCAA tournament since the 2005 season, including a sterling 78-5-9 record, has vaulted the Spartans to national prominence.
     “We have experienced quite a bit of success over four seasons,” Ludwig said. “We considered ourselves very fortunate to have accomplished what we have accomplished. Now we have to focus on taking this success to the highest level.”
     The Spartans bid farewell to seven student-athletes, Chris Ports, Marks, Scheffey, Kyle Brooten (Gladstone, N.J./Bernards), Brian Carr (Blairstown, N.J./North Warren Regional), Kurt Lane (Cochranville, Pa./Octorara), and Mark Turkewitz (York, Pa./Dallastown). These seven have each contributed to the greatest four years of success that the Spartan program has ever experienced.
     “Each of these young men brought something different, something positive to our team,” Ludwig said. “But more importantly their collective effort could be felt for years to come. The foundation that they have helped to build will be a great asset to our program going forward.”
     Despite losing a wealth of talent and experience, including two of three All-Americans, the Spartans return a slew of exceptional players as they vie for a return to the top of the CAC and the NCAA tournament.
    “That is what happens in college sports, you have to replenish almost every year,” Ludwig said. “However, the student-athletes we have returning have that ability to take us to the highest level.  As long as everyone, including our staff, works extremely hard during the off-season and learns from our unfortunate ending, we have a chance to be very special again next year.”

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