YORK, PA - It’s hard to repeat.
The 2008 York College women’s soccer season proved just that.
After notching the program’s first Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship and reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2007, the Spartans had high expectations coming into this year.
“As our team recognized this season,” Spartan Head Coach Vicki Sterner said, “it is difficult being the defending champions. We learned that you need to be 100 percent ready for every game. Everyone wants to knock you off. You get every team’s best shot.”
Despite the target being placed squarely on their back, the Spartans were still able to post a solid 11-7-2 record and reach the CAC title game.
Finishing the regular season with a 3-0 win over Wesley, the York side registered a pair of exciting victories in the CAC tournament before heading to the league championship match. The Spartans used a late header goal from senior tri-captain Kali Macgregor (Rockville, Md./Academy of the Holy Cross) to push past Mary Washington, 2-1, in the quarterfinals before ousting rival Salisbury in the semis courtesy of a penalty-kick shootout. York’s run came to an abrupt end in the final against St. Mary’s as the Seahawks just edged the Spartans, 1-0.
“We had a very good season,” Sterner said. “There were the ups and downs that every season brings, but we grew as a team and as a program. We had our struggles, but really came on strong at the end of the year.”
Following a season-opening tie to Susquehanna, the Spartans won two in a row over Lycoming and CAC foe Hood. York tallied a trio of scores in each of those two wins, showing flashes of brilliance and the potential that the season held.
“Starting out is always difficult because you are not totally in-sync yet,” Sterner said. “I thought we played pretty well and seemed to come together a little bit in those first three matches. Unfortunately, we then hit a bit of a rough patch.”
The next part of the schedule did not fair as well for the Spartan side, as the green and white had a tough time stringing together wins. Over their next four games the Spartans lost, won, lost, and then won again before dropping two tough games to Salisbury and Messiah. York played well against the Sea Gulls but fell in double overtime 1-0 and then lost to eventual national champion Messiah by a 3-0 margin.
“We just had a tough time putting the ball in the back of the net,” Sterner said of the difficulty of consistently winning matches. “And it was not just one person or one unit; it was the whole team, coaches included. Sometimes you just hit a drought, and that is just what happened.”
Following the loss to the Falcons, the Spartans seemed to hit their stride winning their next five contests including a pair of overtime thrillers. With their mid-season mark now standing at 9-4-1, the Spartans looked primed for another run as the regular season crept to a close
“At the time, we were in good shape,” Sterner said. “Winning five straight, with three of those on the road, allowed us to be in good position toward the end of our schedule.”
With three CAC matches left on the regular season docket, the Spartans looked to continue riding the wave of momentum from their previous five games. That did not happen. Stumbles against St. Mary’s and Stevenson left the green and white with a 4-3 conference mark with only Wesley remaining. York was able to stay above .500 in league play courtesy of the 3-0 defeat of the Wolverines in the Spartans’ final regular season contest.
“Those losses stung,” Sterner commented. “But I also think that we learned a lot from those defeats. We were able to make some adjustments, which set us up well for a run in the tournament. No, we did not bring home the title but we were there, we had a chance. Sometimes that is all you can ask for.”
A trio of Spartans received CAC accolades for their strong performances during the 2008 campaign. For her exploits, Macgregor received her third bid to the All-CAC squad, landing on the first team for the second straight year. Senior Jill Stanley (Stewartstown, Pa./Kennard-Dale) and junior Lauren Stewart (West River, Md./Southern) also found their names listed among the CAC’s elite as both also were chosen to the first squad.
“Kali, Jill, and Lauren each work so hard, not only in games but in training as well,” Sterner said. “It is marvelous to see three players who put all they can into the game receive this recognition.”
In addition to her All-CAC honor, Macgregor was also named to the All-Mid-Atlantic Region second-team according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
“I just cannot say enough about Kali,” Sterner said of one of the top defenders to ever don the green and white. “She’s tough, she’s a leader, and most importantly she’s a great person.”
Looking forward to next season, the graduation of five seniors, including Macgregor and Stanley, leaves the Spartans with several holes to fill. However, with the level of talent returning to York roster in combination with Sterner’s ever-strong recruiting efforts could spell a return to the top of the conference in 2009.
“Even though we do lose quite a bit, we also have quite a bit coming back,” Sterner said. “As long as everybody works hard over the off season, including myself, I believe that next year could be a special season.”