YORK, Pa. – On a brisk, sunny day in early November the York College men's soccer team defeated visiting Mary Washington 2-0 in a Capital Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal match. The victory not only improves their record to 16-4 but also places York firmly in Saturday's Capital Athletic Conference Championship match against Salisbury at home at 2:00 pm.
Although the Spartans had already defeated the Eagles once this season, a 2-0 triumph in Fredericksburg, Va. back on October 13, every postseason match brings a unique intensity that the Green and White would need to not only match but exceed.
And that they did. From the opening whistle to the final horn, the Green and White proved to be nothing less than a competitive, hardworking team. Especially going into the postseason, the Spartan squad knew they had to pick up the level of play to compete for a chance at their fourth Capital Athletic Conference Championship.
"We always want to win," freshman standout Pablo Martinez said. "And the intensity has picked up in the last couple of weeks."
Mary Washington did test the Spartans early however, as Ryan Taibl cracked a shot in just the third minute of play. York's sophomore goalkeeper Jesse Derksen made an outstanding collapse dive to the right holding onto the shot, giving the Eagles no chance for a rebound. Derksen would be tested again only two minutes later on a driven attempt by Mary Washington's Jae Park. Derksen proved up the task yet again to keep the Eagles at bay.
Despite the early pressure from their guests, it would the Green and White that jumped out front first as Mike Gill to put the Spartans on the board in the sixth minute. Midfielder Lucas Emil found Gill at the top of the 18-yard box. From there, Gill took a touch and ripped a dipping shot into the back of the net, for his fifth goal of the season. Off his foot the shot looked as if it would sail high, but the crafty midfielder's shot proved a dipper as it violently careened back down flying underneath the crossbar and into the Eagle goal.
With the Spartans energized from their first tally, York started to press their visitors more consistently as they closed down opportunities that the Eagles may have had to notch the equalizer
The second goal of the day came with only two seconds remaining in the first half. With well under a minute to go in the first 45, York won a corner kick. Alert to the situation, sophomore defender Cody Pearson sprinted up left side of the field to take the corner for the Green and White. As time quickly ticked away, the left-footed Pearson lofted a ball into the Eagles' penalty area. Junior Seth Hurley leapt and knocked a header toward the Mary Washington goal where the right-place, right-time Mike O'Connell lifted a lunging attempt past Eagle goalkeeper Blake Weiss. After beating Weiss, O'Connell's shot proved low enough to get under the crossbar and just high enough to not allow the Eagle defender stationed on the post to head it away.
"Seth Hurley got up over two guys, I don't know how he got up," O'Connell stated postgame, "but it just ended up landing on my feet and I just went for goal." With this amazing showing of pure athleticism, the Spartans recorded their final tally of the match and garnered a spot in Saturday's CAC Championship.
Despite Mary Washington's desperate attempts at a comeback during the second half, the Green and White held taught and recorded their 14th clean sheet of the season.
York's 16th victory of the season moves them into the championship game of the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament were they will face the Sea Gulls of Salisbury University whose record currently stands at 12-3-4. The CAC final will be played at York's Graham Field with a start time of 2:00 pm. The winner not only garners the 2010 CAC Tournament title but also the automatic bid into the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Photo: Mike O'Connell scores and then celebrates his 45th minute goal on Wednesday in York's 2-0 win over Mary Washington - courtesy of Zach Clabaugh - www.sharpedgefoto.com
Game story written by Aubrie Smith - York College Athletic Communications practicum student