The York College women's soccer team enters the 2010 campaign with the expectation of success. That shouldn't surprise anyone associated with the program as the Spartans have won at least 10 matches in each of the last 11 seasons.
However, this year's Spartans is a diverse group. A core of nine seniors and 10 freshmen make for an interesting mix of experienced returners and talented, yet inexperienced, newcomers.
Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner enters her 15th season at the helm of the program as she approaches 160 career wins. Sterner is the only head coach in the program history and is looking forward to seeing what her squad can accomplish this year.
"It certainly is an interesting mix of upperclassmen and newcomers," says Sterner. "One of the big keys to the season is seeing how quick these kids can mesh on and off the field. I believe the talent is there but we have a long way to go to be the type of team we want to be. We will need to continue to work hard each and every day."
"I think our leaders have done a good job of setting the tone so far. It really started last spring and has carried over through the summer. Our returners came back in great shape and our newcomers are also fit," says Sterner.
Mergler, Wivell, and Halaka combine with fellow seniors Allie Jensen, Ali Jones, Carly Bock, Megan George, Erin Mummert, and Brittany Nechay to give the Spartans' their last link to the 2007 CAC Champion and NCAA Division III Sweet 16 team. However, that is history according to the seniors.
"They have told me that they want to create their own legacy," says Sterner. "They want to have a great season so this team can be recognized on it's own merits. The seniors realize they each need to have great seasons for us to accomplish what we are capable of. They have done a very good job of establishing the internal expectations early in the preseason."
Mergler and Jones spearhead the Spartan offensive attack from their positions in the attacking third. Mergler led the Spartans in scoring with 24 points on eight goals and eight assists as she earned first-team All-Capital Athletic Conference accolades for her efforts. Mergler finished the year with 11 points on four goals and three assists in the Spartans' eight CAC contests. Jones finished the season with 17 points on seven goals and three assists. She got off to a fast start to the season with a goal and an assist in the season-opening win over Eastern followed by two goals in the CAC win over Hood, recording game-winning goals in both of the Spartans' first two wins. Jones struggled with staying healthy as nagging injuries cost her some productivity during her junior year. Joining Mergler and Jones at forward are Mummert, Nechay, juniors Lauren Ward and Lacey Phillips, sophomore Caitlin Aversa and freshman Megan Arther.
"I certainly feel like we have great talent with Stephanie and Ali and we have good depth," says Sterner. "However, it's still about results and I want to see that group be more consistent and be constantly attacking and putting pressure on our opponent's defense."
Sipes, Bock, and junior Stephanie Rice lead a midfield that is only lacking experience. Freshmen Jackie Ford, Kristi Hepner, and Lauren Fowler are each expected to contribute in the midfiel while junior Kathryn Leyendecker and sophomore Jena Arnister will also have a chance to earn significant playing time in the midfield. Aversa and Arther will have the potential to move back from the attacking third to the midfield during the course of the year. Freshman Jackie Gibet and Katie Solomon provide York with great depth in the midfield as they make the adjustment to the collegiate game.
Sipes is a physical player that isn't afraid to stick her nose in the action and is a player that can distribute to teammates while she can also finish around the goal. Sipes earned second-team All-Capital Athletic Conference accolades after scoring nine points on four goals and one assist during her standout freshman campaign. Bock is one of the most fit and athletic players on the Spartan squad. She has good speed and plays quick on the outside. Bock has nice touch on service into the box while she also has the ability to finish around the net. She finished the season as one of four Spartans to reach double figures with 12 points on three goals and six assists. Rice is a very athletic player that is quick and has great straightforward speed. She is dedicated to making herself into a very good collegiate player and had a strong spring in preparation for her third year in the Green and White. Rice tallied nine points on four goals and one assist including two game-winning goals. She is one of the most fit players on the squad and will likely log extended minutes during the year.
"I am excited about the potential of the midfield," says Sterner. "We need to do a good job as coaches of getting the right mix of players on the field. There is a great deal of competition for playing time and the talent level is high. We have some inexperienced players in the mix but they are good players. Having kids work hard to earn their spots in practice makes us a much better team overall."
Wivell, George and Jensen are the stalwarts on the Spartan defense in 2010. All three are returning starters who each provide a little different set of skills to the York defense.
Wivell has been a starter since her freshman year. She is highly respected member of the squad and is one of the most experienced players on the Spartans. Wivell brings a tenacity and determination to the Spartan defense as she has played in 62 career games. George is the steady two-year starter and came back to camp after a spring training marred by injury. She has the ability to be an aggressive on-the-ball defender while she has a knack for making the right play on the outside. George has played in 56 career matches for the Green and White. Jensen is a physical player that isn't afraid to play strong on the ball. She has a big leg that is valuable on set pieces in the Spartans' offensive half. Jensen made the transition from playing up top at the start of her junior year and has blossomed as a defender for York. Providing the Green and White with additional defensive depth are junior Emily Cook, and freshmen Paige Yeager, Dale Mason, Alex Kauffman, and Cassie Castle.
"I believe our defense can be strong again this year," states Sterner. "We have good, vocal leadership and talented newcomers that can help make us a stout defense. Ally, Georgie and Alli are all experienced players that have great composure on the field."
Sterner is blessed to have four talented goalkeepers battling for time on the field. Halaka, junior Sarah Spanarkel, sophomore Katie Meehan, and freshman Melanie Glessner each bring something a little different to the Spartan net.
Spanarkel earned a majority of the playing time last year as she recorded a 1.41 goals against average, allowing 23 goals in 1,468:20 of play. Spanarkel registered 56 saves, good for a .709 save percentage as she posted a record of 12-5-1 with three shutouts. Halaka logged 286:21 in goal as she allowed just three goals for a 0.94 goals against average. She made ten saves for a .769 save percentage as she won both of her starts last year. Meehan saw limited time as a freshman but is an athletic goalie that will push for additional time as a sophomore. Glessner is a tall, athletic keeper that came into camp recovering from a broken arm suffered during the summer.
"I like the competition in goal," says Sterner. "We have told all of them that the keeper that plays best during the course of practice will get opportunity in games. I think they have each worked hard to put themselves in a position to earn field time this year."
Overall, Sterner holds guarded optimism.
"I think in the past, we have been more vocal about what we believe we can do. This year it's different. Our kids are confident but not overly so. We feel like we need to work hard everyday to become the team we believe we can be. However, right now we are still a work in progress."
The Spartans open their season on Wednesday, September 1 with a trip to Eastern University. York begins the campaign with three road games before making their home debut on Saturday, September 11 against Stevenson in a huge early season Capital Athletic Conference contest.