YORK, PA – Capital Athletic Conference tournament champions. NCAA Sweet Sixteen. A program-record fifteen wins. Each of these feats amounted to a trio of historic accomplishments for the 2007 York College women’s soccer team.
“We had a wonderful season,” Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner said. “I am so proud of our girls and so happy for them for this year’s success.”
The Spartans entered the season returning all but one starter from last year’s 14-4-2 squad. Forward Erin Kuhn (Turnersville, N.J./Washington Township), midfielder Emily Sullivan (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding), and defender Katie Kegerreis (Honey Brook, Pa./Twin Valley) began their senior campaigns after each earned All-CAC first-team honors as juniors. Combined with second-team selections in defender Kali Macgregor (Rockville, Md./Academy of the Holy Cross) and forward Jill Stanley (Stewartstown, Pa./Kennard-Dale) and the Spartans were primed for a big run in 2007.
“We were all excited to get the season going,” Sterner recalled. “You never know what is going to happen over the course of a season but we felt like we could be very successful.”
Opening the year with a pair of dominating 6-0 and 5-1 victories over Widener and McDaniel respectively, gave York all the more reason to be excited about the rest of the season. The Spartans proceeded to win their next two to move to 4-0 to open the campaign. Hitting a bit of a bump, the green and white would go 1-2-1 over their next four matches including a 3-1 loss to Virginia Wesleyan.
“It was a little bit of a roller coaster ride,” Sterner said. “Starting 4-0 and scoring multiple goals in each game, then suddenly having a difficult time putting the ball in the back of the net. It was frustrating but I knew we had the talent to work through the drought.”
On September 22, the Spartans picked up a much-needed double-overtime win at Mary Washington. Freshman midfielder Steph Mergler (Street, Md./North Harford) tallied in the 101st minute to give the Spartans the CAC victory. After a 2-0 win at DeSales, York then ran into a pair of strong opponents in conference rival Salisbury and eventual NCAA Runner-Up Messiah. The Sea Gulls handed York a 2-1 loss while the Falcons blanked the Spartans 4-0.
“The win at Mary Washington was big for us,” Sterner said. “I think it showed us that we could win games at crunch time. We were definitely in the Salisbury game and it could have gone either way. Messiah was also a tough loss but they are a very good squad.”
Over their next four game stretch, the green and white recorded three wins and a tie to move to 10-4-2. Included in this period of four matches was a decisive 3-0 win over St. Mary’s, the team that knocked the Spartans out of the CAC playoffs last year on a penalty kick shootout.
The Spartans’ final two regular-season matches would bring a pair of blemishes that could have effectively ended York’s season. A 2-1 overtime loss to Eastern and a 1-1 draw with Catholic could have damaged the Spartans’ psyche heading into the CAC tournament. However instead of packing it in, the Spartans rallied and really hit their stride in the post season.
“I just told them to go out and have fun,” Sterner said. “Even though we are a competitive college team that does not mean the fun should be taken out of the sport. That seemed to sink in and we went on a great run.”
That great run began with a 2-0 win over Villa Julie and a 3-0 victory against Mary Washington to open the CAC playoffs. Both teams had taken the Spartans to overtime in previous matches but York’s free and loose yet focused attitude allowed them to earn decisive victories.
“I was impressed with how we played to open the CAC tournament,” Sterner said. “We played as well as we played all year and that is a good thing at the end of the season.”
Salisbury was next on the docket for the Spartans in their conference tournament run. Although the Sea Gulls had defeated York earlier in the year and were hosting the final, York still came into the game with a renewed attitude, ready to play. After a scoreless first half, junior defender Caitlin Allen (Langhorne, Pa./Council Rock) put the Spartans on the board in the 66th minute with her second tally of the season. Sullivan would add to the Spartan advantage only 13:20 after Allen’s goal. Now up 2-0, the Spartans weathered Salisbury’s final flurry and took home their first CAC tournament championship to go along with their inaugural trip to the NCAA tournament.
“What a great feeling that was for all of us,” Sterner said. “I was so happy for all our girls and especially the seniors who had worked so hard each of their four years to accomplish this goal.”
The Spartans next traveled to Pomona, N.J. to open the NCAA tournament, taking on host Richard Stockton in their first match. In hard fought game, the underdog Spartans came away with the 2-1 victory behind an early Kuhn goal and a tally and assist from Mergler. Nearly 24 hours later, the green and white faced Virginia Wesleyan, a team that had defeated York handily at Graham Field earlier in the season 3-1. The prior victory may have caused the Marlins to look past the renewed York squad. Ten minutes into the second half, Spartan forward Stanley scored the match’s only goal courtesy of another Mergler assist. York’s stellar defensive unit kept the potent Virginia Wesleyan offense to a mere three shots on goal and left New Jersey with two victories to earn a trip to the Sweet 16.
“Winning our first two NCAA games that we ever played was a great feat for us,” Sterner said. “We just really played well together and carried the momentum we gained from the CAC playoffs over to the NCAA tournament.”
The good news just kept rolling in for the York side as the Spartans were informed that, due to a scheduling conflict, they would be hosting the next two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Included in the pod were Messiah, Wittenberg, and Ithaca along with the Spartans. Unfortunately for York, their late season prowess would come to an end in their next game falling to Messiah 3-0.
“Of course I would have loved to continue playing, to keep moving on,” Sterner said. “It was disappointing to have our season end but we definitely accomplished a great deal this year. I am so proud of the way our team really came together during our playoff run.”
The record-setting campaign included numerous individual accolades. Kuhn, Sullivan, and Macgregor earned All-CAC first-team spots while Stanley and Kegerreis were selected to the second-team. Furthering the conference awards, Sterner was selected by her peers as the CAC Coach of the Year.
Sullivan and junior goalkeeper Meagan Cahill (Crofton, Md./Arundel) were chosen as ESPN The Magazine CoSIDA District II Academic All-Americans with Sullivan a first-team selection and Cahill being named to the third-team. Macgregor was picked as a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Mid-Atlantic Region player garnering a spot on the third-team.
“While it was certainly fantastic to receive the individual accolades,” Sterner said, “our primary focus remains the overall success of our players and our program.”
Although the graduation of several key talents in Kuhn, Sullivan, and Kegerreis and the senior leadership of Ashley Gross (York, Pa./Eastern York), Jenna Knaper (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion), and Emily Wolf (Crofton, Md./Arundel) will leave holes in the Spartan line-up for 2008, Sterner is still excited about the prospects of next season.
“We have a good number of talented players coming back and we want to continue to build our program,” Sterner said. “If everyone works hard over the off season, including myself, then I think we have a good chance of being a quality side again next year.”