The York College 2011 women's soccer campaign opens much differently than it has over the last four years. Gone are any ties to the 2007 Capital Athletic Conference champions or the NCAA Sweet 16 team.
That suits Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner just fine.
"We are a completely different team than we were last year," says Sterner. "I think things just never, for whatever reason, meshed. We just never got on the same page last year and the results showed that."
Sterner said goodbye to seven starters including all three All-CAC selections from last year. In their place, 12 newcomers arrive, giving Sterner a fresh start with a crew of talented, if inexperienced, players.
Sterner is excited about the possibilities in 2011.
"This is a significantly different team," says Sterner. "I like how hard they work. I like how they work together and I really like the ability of players we have on this team."
The Spartans' mentor also knows there is a great deal of versatility on this year's team.
"We have a number of different players that can play multiple positions on the field," states Sterner. "I am excited about the number of quality, hard working soccer players we have on the team. It may take a little time to find the right mix but I am confident we have the players that can make that happen."
Sterner puts her most experienced player in goal as senior Sarah Spanarkel returns for her fourth year in the Green and White. Spanarkel has started 41 games in her career and has arrived in camp in great shape and ready for an outstanding senior season. Sophomore Melanie Glessner has pushed Spanarkel during the preseason but Glessner heads into the campaign nursing an injury suffered during the preseason.
"I feel good about our goalkeeping situation," states Sterner. "Sarah brings experience and a good technical feel to the position. Melanie is a talented player that just needs to stay healthy. She has the ability to be a very good goalie for us when called upon."
The defensive unit, much like the rest of the squad is a mix of experience and newcomers. Senior captain Kathryn Leyendecker is joined by senior Emily Cook, sophomores Dale Mason, Paige Yeager, Cassie Castle, and Megan Phillips. The freshmen are a strong group that will contend for significant playing time during the year. That group includes Clare Chatham, Kayla Kovalsky, Jenn Lindsay, and Julie Comstock.
Sterner believes the talent is there for a good defense.
"Dale and Paige are both playing very well during the preseason," says Sterner. "Kathryn is giving us great leadership while Emily has also done a good job early on. I really like this group of freshman. They will each get an opportunity to prove what they can do on the field and I think they can contribute as first year players."
The midfield features junior captain Jackie Ford, seniors Lacey Phillips, a captain in 2011, and Stephanie Rice, sophomores Megan Arther and Kristi Hepner, and freshmen Traci Mohl, Taylor Folk, and Beth Bunn.
"Jackie has really been good so far this fall and has given us good leadership," says Sterner. "Lacey and Steph have also been good though they are both a little banged up heading into the start of the season. Megan came into preseason in great shape and looks very solid on the outside for us. The three freshman will also contend for significant minutes."
The forwards could provide the key to the success of the Spartans this year. The Green and White struggled to find the back of the net last year and Sterner is hoping the squad can apply more pressure on York's opponents.
"I think we can find a group of forwards that can finish around the goal," says Sterner. "We have to become more consistently dangerous in the offensive third for us to reach our goals this year."
Sterner will rely on senior Lauren Ward, juniors Jackie Gibat, Caitlin Aversa, and Jena Arnister, sophomores Jordan Snook and Tyler Frantz, and freshmen Mary Hunkeler and Dani Bock to provide York with scoring punch.
The Spartan mentor is excited to start the year.
"I am not sure we have ever started a year with such a young and inexperienced team," says Sterner. "However, the talent that is on this team is exciting. We have a challenging schedule and that will prepare us for our conference slate. I am excited about the potential of this season."
The Spartans open the season with a three game home stand starting with a non-conference match against the University of Scranton on September 1. The Green and White open their conference slate on September 17 at Stevenson University.