August 26, 2009

2009 York College Men's Soccer Preview

     One day at a time.
     So often these five words serve as the mantra for teams heading into the season. The 2009 York College men’s soccer squad is a team focused on just that.
     “We are all focused right now on August 6 when we depart for Italy,” Spartan Head Coach Mark Ludwig said referring to the team’s overseas trip taken every three years. “Our focus throughout this season will be the ‘one-day-at-a-time’ approach.  Anything can happen in this game, but if we keep our attention on getting better each day, I think we can be very successful.”
     Despite losing several key components from last year’s 18-0-2 squad, Ludwig welcomes back one of the most talented crews in the history of Spartan soccer. The Green and White return ten players who made at least five starts last season including five all-conference players, three all-region selections, and one first-team All-American.
     “We were fortunate to have had a strong season in 2008, yet still have a great deal of experienced, talented players entering this season,” Ludwig said. “Hopefully that will help us attain positive results again this year.”
     Leading that core of experience and talent is senior forward Jon Ports. Having been nothing short of remarkable during his two seasons in a Spartan uniform, Ports has garnered Capital Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year honors in back-to-back campaigns while also becoming York’s first two-time first-team All-American. The forward tallied a team- and conference-leading 32 points last season on 11 goals and ten assists as he continued to be the unrelenting engine of the Spartan attack. Following a strong offseason, Ports should be prepared to once again lead a dangerous Spartan offense.
     “Jon has become one of the best players we have ever had in my time here at York,” Ludwig raved. “Not only is he exceptionally talented, but his work rate, especially on game day, is incredible.”
     Joining Ports in the attack are a slew of talented returners that bring back over 80 percent of the Spartans’ points from last season including 79.6 percent of York’s goals scored. Sophomore Kemal Nuspahic, the CAC Rookie-of-the-Year in 2008, junior Lucas Emil, senior Aaron Good, senior Justin Suchoski, junior Mike O’Connell, and sophomores Eric Mackin, Seth Hurley, Matt Swiderski, and Justin Brown will each look to better themselves in 2009. Nuspahic made a huge splash in his rookie campaign notching 11 goals and six assists as he quickly became one of the top offensive threats in the conference. Garnering spots on the all-conference and all-region first-teams in 2008, Nuspahic will look to become an even more dangerous attacker in 2009. Emil truly blossomed last season landing on the All-CAC first-team, as well as the All-South Region second-team, for the first time in his career. One of the most technical players on the Spartan squad, Emil is also deadly on set pieces and could provide the Green and White with some special moments this season. In his first year with the Spartan side, Good added his name to an exceptional list of Spartan all-conference performers. Gifted with the ability to play throughout the park, Good, who recorded ten points en route to his second-team All-CAC bid, should garner significant minutes at a few key positions once again this season, giving Ludwig a myriad of options. Suchoski is another dangerous attacker who has flown under-the-radar for much of his career. His 14 points on six goals and two assists last season ranked fifth on the squad while his technical ability and experience should provide for quality chances in 2009. O’Connell opened the 2008 season with loads of promise after a strong end to the 2007 campaign. However, after capturing a spot in the first 11, he suffered a season-ending injury four games and two goals into the season. Despite the setback, O’Connell is now healthy and will be expected to utilize his tall frame and nose for the goal to add to an already potent Spartan attack. Mackin experienced a similar campaign as he too went down with an injury in 2008, this time midway through the season. A quick and efficient flank player, Mackin also returns to the Spartan lineup with a clean bill of health and is prepared to provide the Green and White with quality minutes out wide. Hurley, one of the best pure athletes on the roster, looks to provide the Spartans with another dangerous  wide player in the attack. Swiderski gives the York side an extremely efficient target player whose size and strength will help to sustain Spartan attacks. Brown enters his second year possessing the ability to crack the Spartan rotation as an attacking player.
     “The individuals we have in the attack are each exceptional players who bring something different to the table.” Ludwig commented. “That gives us options and allows us to be creative offensively. These returners know the college game – the speed, the physicality, the quickness – and should be able to help the new players quickly adjust.”
     Those new players the Spartan mentor speaks of possess loads of talent and seemingly limitless potential. Mike Gill, Grant Anikienko, Nathan Birth, Patrick Bradley, Taylor Brummitt, Anthony Bua, and Michael Lansing each add new flavor and ability to the Spartans already capable offensive unit. Gill transfers in from Division I Loyola College and will be expected to contribute right away. An excellent passer, Gill has the ability to not only win possession in the middle of the field but also quickly transition York into the attack. Anikienko brings an athletic presence to the York side who can win possession as well as keep the ball. A two-time Lancaster/Lebanon All-Star, Anikienko will look to compete for time at several spots throughout the attack. Birth, a Millville High School graduate, is a simple yet technical midfielder who is a talented passer. His ability to help maintain possession for the Green and White will lead to dangerous scoring opportunities up front. Bradley hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is another extremely athletic newcomer. He can play a variety of positions and excel at each one. Brummitt comes to the Spartan program looking to duplicate the scoring prowess he enjoyed at Annapolis High School. A two-time Maryland All-State selection, Brummitt tallied 43 goals during his final two seasons, displaying a consistent knack for finishing. Bua is a creative attacking player who will bring flair to the Spartans in the offensive third. A 2008 All-State choice in Pennsylvania, Bua possesses the ability to not only create chances but finish them as well. Lansing’s technical skill in the middle of the field should create several scoring opportunities for the Spartans. No stranger to success, his club team, the Casa Mia Bays, captured the Club National Championship as Lansing will look to bring that aura of accomplishment to the Spartan program.
     “Our newcomers in the attack have the potential to be very good,” Ludwig said. “They each have a solid background and have played high level soccer. We are excited to see how they develop and contribute this season.”
     Compared to the Spartans’ offensive potential, their collective defensive ability could be just as strong. Despite the departure of All-American central defender Evan Scheffey and Kyle Marks, the Spartans’ four-year starter between the pipes, the Green and White look to be in fantastic shape defensively heading into the season. Yet the mystery lies not if there is talent but instead where will that talent line up.
     Senior captain Scott Becker will look to replace Scheffey as York’s anchor in the back line as he returns for his second season as a starting central defender. A tough, physical, and intelligent player, Becker not only breaks up dangerous opposing chances but communicates well with his teammates and thwarts attacks before they materialize into opportunities. Becker also poses an offensive threat as he has become dangerous on corners and set pieces.
     “Becker is a fantastic leader in the back,” Ludwig said of his senior captain. “He has really developed over his three seasons and became an exceptional defender who simply steps on the field and does his job. He is a lead-by-example type of player who simply gets the job done.”
     In front of Becker, in the holding central midfield, the Spartans sport a myriad of options and possible combinations. Aaron Good, junior Adam Good, Emil, senior Travis Williams, sophomore Kyle Diem, and sophomore Erik Temple are returning Spartans who could see time in this area of the field. Newcomers Gill and Cody Pearson could also see time as holding midfielders. Aaron Good’s potential to play anywhere successfully makes him an obvious choice in this role. His athleticism and understanding of the game would allow him to be in the right spots to make plays and get the Spartans into the attack. Brother Adam spent a majority of his minutes in 2008 as a holding central midfielder and could look to do so more permanently this season. Possessing a solid build and superb passing ability, Adam can win the tough tackles – giving York a much-needed physical presence – as well as initiate the attack. Emil could also see time here, especially if Ludwig believes the Spartans need a boost offensively. Williams is another underrated Spartan who started 17 games for the Green and White last season playing mainly as a ball-winning central midfielder. Williams, an exceptionally experienced player, has the ability to calm the Spartans by winning and maintaining possession while his five scores last year prove his ability to produce when pushing into the attack. Diem possesses a great body-type for this position as his imposing frame allows him to be a physical presence while Temple is a hardworking player who brings a hunger and passion for the game. Gill, who is not only a creative player but a dogged ball-winner, has the ability to gain possession for the Green and White, not allowing opponents to reach York’s back line. Pearson comes to the Spartan program from Maryland’s highly successful DeMatha Catholic High School where he was an all-conference and all-metropolitan player in the D.C. area. His tough yet technical play gives the Green and White an added weapon in the middle or on the flanks.
     “Players who win the holding midfield spots need to be all-around players.” Ludwig said. “They need to do a number of things well including defending, passing, and attacking. We have a number of players who have and could excel at this position, and we are pleased with that depth.”
     York’s back line is another area that could sport multiple combinations as the year progresses. Alongside Becker in the central defense could stand Adam Good, junior Trey Good, sophomore Andy Stromberg, Swiderski, or freshman Jorden Messersmith. Adam’s simple and intelligent play as well as quality collegiate experience could make him a strong candidate to begin the season as a center back. Trey Good, a second-team All-CAC selection in 2008, spent a majority of last season as an attacking left back but could move inside in 2009. He is a tough, physical player who moves well and will be significantly more comfortable in the Spartans’ system entering his second year with the Green and White. A combination of a quality end of the 2008 season and a strong offseason bodes well for Stromberg entering this year. Another defensive player who spent most of his time out wide in 2008, Stromberg’s toughness and ability to communicate could make him a good fit alongside Becker. Swiderski, who possesses some of the best physical attributes on the squad, is another Spartan with the opportunity to win a starting center back job in 2009. His 6’2” and 190-pound frame combined with his simple play make Swiderski a solid choice in York’s central defense. Messersmith, who hails from nearby Red Lion High School, was York County’s Player-of-the-Year in 2008 as well as a Pennsylvania All-State selection. Another tough player who possesses great size, Messersmith should get a good look at center back come preseason camp.
     “Center back is such a demanding position,” Ludwig commented. “You have to not only be a good individual defender but a great team defender with great communication. With that said however, we are very confident in the players we have available that they will get the job done and get it done exceptionally well.”
     On the flanks, the Spartans have both veteran experience and youthful exuberance that could be called upon this season. Aaron Good, Williams, and Stromberg are each possible choices based upon their tenacious defending and variety of attacking skills. Trey Good could also find his name penciled in at left back after doing an outstanding job in that role just one season ago. Senior Brett Sauerberger as well as Pearson and fellow newcomer Matt DeLong will also vie for significant time out wide. Sauerberger, a left-footed player, started several matches at left back last season and would be a quality choice to start out wide again this year. A player who possesses exceptional speed, quickness, and an ability to get forward, Sauerberger has a great opportunity to prove he consistently belongs in York’s starting 11 in 2009. Pearson is another player who could perform well at left back as he can defend as well as push forward and provide quality service into the attackers. DeLong’s all-around athleticism and intelligent play should allow him to compete for time in the Spartan back line. A 2008 Pennsylvania All-State choice, DeLong provides the York side with another viable option at either wide back position.
     “Defensively, we have players who have proven themselves capable of playing well at a high level.” Ludwig said. “Now it is up to them to continue to develop while it is up to us, the coaching staff, to put them in the best position for success.”
     Goalkeeping once again looks to be an area of strength for the Green and White as York sports three exceptional net minders who each have the ability to be the #1. Senior Ryan Hock is the front-runner heading into camp having gained quality experience as the Spartans’ top reserve in each of the past three seasons. A long and extremely athletic goalkeeper with strong hands, Hock has been able to build a rapport with his Spartan teammates over the past three seasons, which can prove especially important as the year wears on. Sophomore Kyle Connolly is another quality athlete who has the ability to make outstanding saves between the pipes. He will look to continue his development as well as push for the #1 spot throughout the season. Newcomer Jesse Derksen comes to the Spartan program from Division I Central Florida and nearby Susquehannock High School. Derksen sports exceptional technique, communication, and athleticism as well as a great understanding of the position and the game as a whole. He too will look to push for the #1 spot in just his first Spartan campaign.
     “We are extremely pleased with our goalkeeping situation,” Ludwig said. “We have three players who can all start and be quality #1s. The competition between them will be a positive for our squad as they will keep each other sharp and prepared for each and every contest.”
     As has become tradition, the Spartan schedule remains one of the toughest in the country. York will line up against nine squads who made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 including eventual National Champion Messiah. Right out of the gate, the Spartans kick off the season against a trio of teams, Susquehanna, Medaille, and N.C. Wesleyan, who each found their programs listed among Division III’s best just one year ago.
     “Yes, we have a challenging schedule, but we want to play tough teams, play in big games,” Ludwig said. “As I have said before, we want those big games to be a hallmark of our program. Our players know that when they come to York College, when they put on that York jersey, they are going to play against top competition.”
     Heading into the 2009 campaign, York’s roster is loaded with talent and potential but Ludwig knows that games are played on the field.
     “We are truly going to be a one-day-at-a-time type of team.” Ludwig said. “We cannot look ahead because in every match we face a quality team that will look to get a result against us. Our schedule is demanding, and we are going to get every opponent’s best. Our job will be to bring our best game each time we step on the pitch.”
     That job officially starts on Tuesday, September 1, when the Spartans travel to Millville High School and Millard C. Ludwig Stadium for York’s annual non-conference tilt with Susquehanna University.

 

The 2009 York College men's soccer season preview is for informational purposes only. Any player named in this preview is a potential student-athlete for the Spartans and not guaranteed a spot on the final roster. The final team roster will be selected at the conclusion of fall training camp.