Defending Capital Athletic Conference
That’s where the York College women’s soccer squad sits heading into the 2008 season. It’s a position that the program is a bit unfamiliar with, however, the Spartans are very comfortable wearing the crown.
The 2007 season was one for the record books. The Spartans, after two previous trips to the Capital Athletic Conference championship game, captured the title with a 2-0 road victory at Salisbury. That punched their ticket to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The green and white was not satisfied with just making a tournament appearance as they again went on the road and defeated Richard Stockton and highly touted Virginia Wesleyan in the first two rounds of the tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. The road came to an end in the round of 16 as York fell to Messiah College, the eventual national runner-up.
Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner knows that this season will be different for the green and white. The Spartans will be the hunted instead of the hunters, something Sterner feels this team is equipped to handle.
“Last year was so special,” says the 2007 CAC Coach-of-the-Year. “The way we struggled a bit to start the year, and then the way we really turned it on towards the end of the year. I believe this team understands that we are now the team that everyone wants to beat. The entire theme in the off-season is that we have to work even harder than we have before because teams are going to be giving us their best effort every time out. Every other CAC team wants to beat the champions from the year before. It gives those teams something to hang their hats on.”
Sterner must replace a great group of six departed seniors including the top two leading scorers in the history of the program. Erin Kuhn and Emily Sullivan leave YCP as the two most prolific offensive players in school history. Kuhn owns school records in single season goals (17), single season points (43), career goals (49), and career points (129) while Sullivan ranks second in single season goals (14), second in single season assists (10), second (37), and third (32) in single season points, second in career goals (49), first in career assists (34), and second in career points (116). Sterner must also replace two-time All-CAC defender Katie Kegerreis as the Spartans are expecting to reload for 2008.
“Certainly losing a senior class like last year’s group is tough,” says Sterner. “Emily, Erin, Katie, Jenna Knaper, Ashley Gross, and Emily Wolf formed the most successful class in the history of the program. They were a group that fought through tough times to end their careers in the way they did was a testament to their toughness and leadership. We will miss them but they did a great job of preparing the rest of the team for success this year.”
Sterner turns to another good senior class for leadership in 2008. All-CAC defender Kali Macgregor headlines a class that features fellow All-CAC forward Jill Stanley, defender Caitlin Allen, goalkeeper Meagan Cahill, and midfielder Sam Shultz.
Macgregor may have been the best player in the CAC last year. She is a shutdown defender who is very strong and has a great head for the game. Macgregor is a leader on and off the field and brings a great enthusiasm to the squad. She earned NSCAA all-regoin accolades last year.
“I felt Kali had the most impact of any player in our conference last year,” says Sterner. “She is such a tough kid and she leaves everything on the field each and every day whether it is practice or a game. Kali is a great role model for all of our players both on and off the field. I really expect her to have an outstanding senior year.”
Macgregor will team with Allen to give the Spartans a strong backbone on defense.
Allen is a player that emerged as a key player on defense last fall. She has the ability to push up and join the attack while she can also get back to maintain the integrity of the defense. Allen got the game-winning goal in the CAC championship game last season.
“Cait has worked very hard and made herself into an all-conference caliber player,” states Sterner. “She is a steady performer that is one of the key members of the defense.”
Macgregor and Allen headline the defense but there are three other very talented players that make the Spartan defense the strength of the team. Junior Lauren Stewart, junior Jackie Moser, and sophomore Ally Wivell give Sterner a group that is deep in experience and in talent.
Stewart is quietly one of the best players on the Spartan squad. Her toughness and skill give Sterner a versatile player that can play back on defense while she can also push up into the midfield and kick start the Spartan offense.
“Lauren is one of the best players that no one really knows about. She has been fantastic in her first two years and her play is one of the reasons for our success last year,” says Sterner.
Moser is another talented defender who has emerged as a leader for the green and white. Moser battled injuries early last year but bounced back to finish very strong. She will serve, along with Macgregor and Allen, as a Spartan captain in 2008.
“Jackie is a tough, physical player that fits right in with how we play defense,” says Sterner. “She is a leader that will hold her teammates accountable and have high expectations for herself.”
Wivell is the youngest player in the group, but she earned her stripes last year after stepping on the field and replacing Kegerreis after the senior standout injured her knee in the October 10 game against Gettysburg. Wivell entered the lineup on October 12 and the Spartans allowed just eight goals over the final 10 games of the season with Wivell in the lineup. Three of those eight goals came in the Sweet 16 loss to Messiah.
“Ally did a great job of stepping in as a freshman and playing great,” says Sterner. “I have high expectations for her to be even better this year. She has a better idea of what we expect and the other defenders feel very comfortable with her back there.”
The Spartan goaltending situation is a bit unsettled. Cahill returns for her senior year, but she missed time in the fall and the spring with injuries. Cahill finished the year with a 0.83 goals against average, a save percentage of .773 and seven shutouts in 19 starts for 2007. She will be pushed by a slew of newcomers giving York strong depth in net.
The Spartan midfield and attack is far more unsettled than the defense. Sterner will count on Stanley and All-CAC team member Steph Mergler up top at forward. Stanley finished last year with 20 points on eight goals and four assists. She had four game-winning goals for the season, tying her with Mergler for the team lead. Mergler finished a stellar freshman campaign with 15 points on five goals and five assists from the midfield. Those are numbers that should increase with her move to forward.
“Jill and Steph are both quality players,” says Sterner. “Jill has been a three-year starter and is a consistent producer for us. Steph has tremendous upside and a work ethic that is nothing short of amazing. I expect us to be strong up top with Jill and Steph. We have a number of quality recruits and some returning sophomores that will give us good depth and skill up top.”
The midfield sees Shultz, junior Kaitlyn Harney, junior Meghan Rowland, sophomore Allie Jensen, and sophomore Ilana Kline. This group has potential to be very good but they will need the preseason to gel and become a conducive unit. Sterner welcomes in a large group of midfielders, many of which could battle for significant playing time as freshmen.
“Our group of returning midfielders has potential but they need to step up and make themselves factors,” says Sterner. “I feel that when we add newcomers to the mix, we will be strong in the midfield. How quickly they come together will help determine our level of success early in the year.”
Sterner is excited to get the 2008 campaign under way.
“I feel we have a very talented team coming back, and I think our recruiting class is one of our deepest in the history of the program,” says Sterner. “We are a very attractive option for talented high school players, and that has helped us continue to be one of the best teams in our conference. While last year was amazing, it is now history. We have focused on making new history this fall. It is an exciting time to be involved with the York College women’s soccer program.”
The Spartans open the season on August 30 at the Susquehanna University Tournament.