YORK, Pa. – Having gradually built at program over the previous four years, the York College women's lacrosse team enters the 2012 campaign with undoubtedly their most talented, experienced, and deep squad to date. Spearheaded by the vision and passion of head coach Jen Muston, who is in her fifth season at the helm of the program and the reigning Capital Athletic Conference Women's Lacrosse Coach of the Year, the Spartans are primed for a stupendous season.
"We have an opportunity to have a great year," Muston said. "We started to realize some quality success on the field last season. With the players we have coming back in addition to our crop of newcomers, we believe that this could be a terrific year."
Highlighting York's optimism heading into the campaign is the return of five All-CAC performers, four of which were also selected IWLCA All-Metro Region. And they are all juniors.
"Each of these five players put together nothing short of quality seasons for us last year," Muston said. "We are going to be looking for this group to step up even more this year and truly take an enhanced role in our team and our program."
Wayson, who has been an offensive juggernaut for York in her first two seasons, leads an attacking group that could prove exceptionally deep. In just two seasons, the she has smashed the program's career points and goals with 150 and 117, respectively. (Previous bests were 126 points and 94 goals.) Last year, Wayson totaled 78 points on 60 goals and 18 assists as she landed on the all-league and all-region lists for a second-straight season.
In addition to Wayson's tremendous talents, the Green and White sport a core of solid offensive players who could each step up on any given day. Erica Mulford, Lauren Kula, Melissa Ritchey, Jenna Hiponia, Kasie White, and Meaghan Doak give the Green and White experienced players who each have the ability to score in big games. Senior Rachel Klado, sophomore Megan Brown, and newcomer Tessa Berger provide depth for the Spartan attack.
"We have several extremely talented players in the attack who will compete with one another to secure a spot," Muston said. "This group has played together for the past several seasons. They know each-others strengths and how to play off these to create scoring opportunities. With so much depth and talent in this position, it will allow us to have an answer for the different kinds of defenses that our opponents will throw our way. "
Schultz has molded into possibly the top all-around player on the Spartan squad and provides the Green and White with an excellent midfielder who will look to boost the performance of those around her. The junior midfielder notched 42 goals, collected a team-best 58 draw controls, picked up 25 ground balls and caused 13 turnovers. Those numbers led to her second All-CAC appearance and her first showing on the all-region squad. A year older, wiser, and stronger, Schultz could post a remarkable 2012.
Joining Schultz in the midfield is a bevy of talented Spartans who will be key components to lifting the Green and White to new heights.
"This year we expect our midfield to be fast and fit so that we can out run other teams to create scoring opportunities," Muston said. "We also have a lot of depth and subbing options in this position, which will allow us to keep fresh legs on the field. We expect a lot out of our middies as they play a role in virtually all aspects of the game."
York sports a core of veterans in the midfield including senior captain Ashley Kanzler, Kerri Nicolich, and Kim Nicolich. These four saw a combined 54 games last season and will look to provide solid midfield leadership in 2011. A strong crop of freshmen will bolster that midfield group as Sarah Castle, Karlie Dougherty, and Allison Green enter the collegiate ranks.
"Our midfield combines veteran talent with freshmen speed," Muston said. We have added four new freshmen middies to the lineup this year and they all posses a great deal of speed, which will benefit our midfield."
Perhaps the strongest unit for the 2012 Spartan squad lies within their experienced and talented defensive unit. York returns a vast majority of a defense that put together a tremendous effort in 2011. Defensively, the Green and White ranked 17th in all of Division III in scoring defense, posting a 7.94 goals against average. Headlined by Vautier and Hall, York's defensive unit it primed for a strong 2012.
Vautier begins her junior campaign as an outstanding defender. Her first-team all-conference and second-team all-region selections came on the heels of a 43-ground-ball, 31-caused-turnover performance, both team-highs, while she also snagged 32 draw controls. She enters the year giving York a very experience defensive presence as she has played in every one of the Spartans' 33 contests over the previous two seasons.
Hall landed on the All-CAC list following a strong sophomore campaign in 2011 and will look for an even better showing in 2012. She secured 20 ground balls and 13 draw controls as she started each of the Green and White's 17 games.
"We have some extremely talented and aggressive upperclassmen defenders on our squad," Muston said. "Combining this group with the middies on Defense will make for a very dangerous and hard-to-attack- against defensive unit. This year we fully expect our defensive unit to repeat this performance and keep our opponents scoring opportunities at a minimum."
Returners Jess Soroka, Kristin Virag, Catey Christian, Michelle Moore, and Kerry Felton will look to bring additional experience to the defensive end, while freshman Jessica Canine adds even more depth.
"With a very athletic group, we like to be aggressive on the defensive end and create opportunities to get the ball back," Muston said. "We expect a lot out of our defenders this year as we have a few styles of defense that are very proactive styles. Much like the midfielders, we expect our defenders to be fit and fast to keep up with this style of play."
Nicklas put together a quality 2011 in the Spartan cage, resulting in appearances on the all-conference and all-region second-teams. The goalkeeper posted a 7.81 goals against average over her 17 starts and registered 88 saves.
Kelsey Evans enters her junior season having put together a solid campaign in 2010 and will look for a return to form this season. Ashley Smith joins the Spartan squad for the 2012 slate after a quality freshman year at FDU-Florham.
"Like our attacking unit, this is another part of our team that we have a lot of strength in talent and depth," Muston said of her goalkeeping unit. "Having three talented goalies really adds to our depth and creates an opportunity for our defense to be extremely dangerous. We have plenty of options here and all three of these goalies have the potential to succeed at high levels."
As the Green and White prepare for the upcoming 2012 campaign, the Spartans are set to square off against a challenging yet opportunity-filled slate. Throughout the schedule, York takes on five participants in the 2011 NCAA Tournament (Messiah, Franklin & Marshall, Mary Washington, Salisbury, and Stevens Institute of Technology) including two of which who reached the Elite Eight (F&M and Salisbury). Each of those squads begins the year ranked in the IWLCA 2012 Preseason Poll. Despite the tough road however, the Spartans are poised for a standout 2012 campaign.
"It is important for us to compete against some of the best teams in Division III," Muston concluded. "Obviously this is going to be a testing season for us but one with great possibility. As long as we focus on getting better everyday we have the opportunity to be very successful."
The Spartans, 20-2 winners over Hood College on Tuesday, February 21, to officially open their 2012 slate, host Goucher College in York's first home contest of the season on Friday, February 24, at 4:00 pm.
PHOTO: Leah Schultz looks to move the ball upfield during a Spartan contest in the 2011 season. Courtesy of Zach Clabaugh - www.sharpedgefoto.com