The 2009 York College women’s soccer
campaign is a season full of expectations and excitement. The
Spartans, two years removed from their 2007 Capital Athletic
Conference championship, and one year after their 2008 CAC
Tournament championship game appearance, have reloaded for another
run at a conference title.
Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner begins her 14th year at the helm of a program that owns a 60.7% winning percentage during her tenure. Sterner welcomes back a core of experienced players in addition to an influx of talented newcomers that should provide the Spartans with a very strong starting unit and depth that may be unprecedented in the history of the program.
Sterner turns to a core of senior leaders that provide the Spartans with tremendous on and off the field leadership. Seniors Lauren Stewart, Jackie Moser, Kat Torode, and Kaitlyn Harney give York a strong contingency of seniors that have NCAA Tournament experience and have made two CAC championship game appearances. Stewart and Moser provide the Spartan defense with a strong backbone while Torode gives York a playmaker in the middle of the pitch. Harney battled injuries last year but brings an athletic presence to the Spartan midfield.
“I feel very good about our core leadership,” says Sterner. “Not only do I like our senior leadership, but we have a strong group of juniors that gives us experience and poise that will help us achieve our goals for this year.”
Sterner will rely on a strong defensive unit early in the year until the offense jells. Stewart and Moser are joined on defense by returners Ally Wivell, Allie Jensen, Megan George, Kathryn Leyendecker, and Melissa Schneider. Wivell returns as an experienced starter with a big leg as the Spartan sweeper. She is a consistent player that always puts herself in position to make plays for the York defense. Jensen will make the adjustment to defense after spending her first two years up front. She will attempt to fill the role of departed regional All-American Kali Macgregor. Jensen is a strong, physical player that battled injuries last fall but she is healthy and ready to give the Spartans a technically talented player in the back. George earned more playing time last year as she played in 19 games, starting seven of those, with most of those starts coming late in the year. George played strong but missed the spring season due to surgery. She is expected to be back at full strength in time for the fall campaign. Leyendecker saw action in just 11 games last year but worked extremely hard to put herself in the Spartan plans in 2009. Schneider played in 12 games last year and should have the chance to compete for time in 2009.
“Obviously losing Kali and Caitlin Allen are key losses for us,” states Sterner. “However, I am very excited about the returning players. Lauren is one of the best players in our conference. I don’t think you can appreciate how good a player she is until you see her play a number of times. She is extremely consistent and provides us with outstanding play each and every day.”
“Jackie also provides us with a veteran presence while Ally has been a starter for a year and a half. Our defense should again be strong despite some key losses to graduation.”
Some Spartan defensive newcomers include Kat Snipes as she will look to earn time on the defensive side of the field for the Green and White.
The Spartan goaltending will be in capable hands with the return of sophomore Sarah Spanarkel and junior Desiree Halaka. Halaka went 9-5-1 with four shutouts in her 1262 minutes of action in 2008. She posted a .769 save percentage and a 0.86 goals against average. Spanarkel came on at the end of the season to record a mark of 2-1-1 with a shutout in 462 minutes. She had a .786 save percentage and a 0.58 goals against average. Spanarkel and Halaka will be joined by newcomer as the threesome battle for the starting netminder spot.
“I feel very good about our goal-keeping situation,” says Sterner. “We will have options and quality depth in goal.”
The Spartan midfield is another area of strength for the Green and White. Torode returns for her second year on the squad as a key playmaker in the middle of the field for the Spartans. She has great vision and the ability to distribute the ball to the front runners for the Spartans.
“Kat has the opportunity to be a very good player for us this year,” states Sterner. “Her ability to make plays for our forwards could be a huge key to the success of our offense.”
Joining Torode in the midfield will be Harney and fellow senior Meghan Rowland. Harney battled injuries as a junior but is ready to have a big senior year. She is a good athlete that gives the Spartans a dangerous player out wide, especially on free and corner kicks. Rowland saw action in 17 games last year, notching three points on a goal and an assist. She will have the opportunity to garner quality playing time thanks to her experience and ability.
Junior Carly Bock and sophomore Stephanie Rice are two other Spartans that will be major players in the midfield for the Green and White. Bock came on strong during the 2008 campaign as she tallied seven points on two goals and three assists. She is a very talented athlete that is a hard worker with tremendous endurance. She can carry the ball down the field and then feed the finishers while she also has a strong shot that can score from distance. Rice is also very athletic and really stepped up during spring practice, putting herself in position to be a key member of the midfield. She scored four points on a goal and two assists in 20 games last year. Rice brings a fresh confidence as she feels more comfortable in the system.
“We are in very good shape in the midfield,” states the Spartan mentor. “We have a very nice balance of returning experience and talented first-year players.”
Jackie Ford and Caitlin Aversa are two newcomers that should have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the Spartan fortunes in 2009.
One area where the Spartans have some questions coming into camp will be the forwards. There is a group of returners led by junior captain Steph Mergler and junior Ali Jones. Mergler is a strong leader that will spend most of her time up top in 2009. Mergler finished last year with 14 points on four goals and six assists. She is a very hard worker that has experience as a finisher on the club level. She is a player that puts herself in position to make positive plays for the Green and White.
“Steph is a very hard worker that has provided us with tremendous leadership,” says Sterner. “I think she is very comfortable and has the potential to have a huge season for us. I think last year she pressed early on and that hurt her. However, I believe this year she will be able to get off to a good start.”
Jones elevated her game as a sophomore and the coaching staff believes she is ready to continue that progression as a junior. Jones picked up 13 points on five goals and three assists including a trio of game-winning goals. She had a very strong spring campaign and should get a number of quality scoring chances in 2009.
“You can see how comfortable and confident Ali is after experiencing some success last year,” states Sterner. “She has the potential to be an all-conference type of player and I am excited to see how she performs this season.”
Lacey Phillips, Erin Mummert, Brittany Nechay, and Ilana Kline are other returners that will have the opportunity to earn time on the field for the Spartans. Transfer Lauren Ward will compete for time up top for the Spartans.
“I think we have great potential in our group of forwards,” says Sterner. “It may take a bit for this group to jell but once they do, we should have a pretty explosiveoffense.”
While Sterner obviously likes the team that has been assembled, there are still some tweaks that will occur early on in the season.
“We have a few small question marks, but I believe the talent is here to be a significant competitor for the 2009 CAC title. I think the kids felt like we missed an opportunity to repeat last year because we just didn’t click. I was impressed by the quality of play during the spring practices, and I think we have a highly motivated squad.”
Sterner believes that quality depth will play a role in the Spartans’ potential success in 2009.
“I really like the quality of our starters and our reserves. We have the type of depth that will serve us well during the year. I am also excited to see how the junior class responds. They were freshmen when we went to the NCAA Tournament, and I believe they are ready to step up and be important parts of a team that hopes to win a conference championship and get back to the tournament.”
The Spartans open up their 2009 campaign on September 1 with a home date against a traditionally strong Eastern University squad. The Green and White open their conference slate two days later with a trip to Hood College.