YORK, Pa. – Six. Just six. Over their 18 contests last season, the York College women's soccer team surrendered a miniscule six tallies to their opponents, an astounding defensive statistic that ranked the Green and White second in all of NCAA Division III in goals against average at a remarkable 0.304.
"We certainly put together a quality team effort defensively last season," Spartan head coach Vicki Sterner said as she enters her 17th season at the helm of the program. "With a number of our players returning from that campaign, we are optimistic about what this season may bring."
That stout defense returns five of six starters from last season, including d3soccer.com All-American goalkeeper Melanie Glessner (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) and All-Capital Athletic Conference selection Dale Mason (Langhorne, Pa./Neshaminy). Glessner proved one of Division III's top netminders last season as she ranked first in the country in save percentage (0.941) and second in goals against average (0.312). Entering her junior season, Glessner will look to once again lead an experienced Spartan defensive unit. Mason, a senior center back, possesses outstanding athleticism and pace to hang with opponents' dynamic front-runners. A starter throughout her career, Mason sports significant experience from her 54 matches for the Green and White, which should be a key ingredient to York's defensive success in 2013.
"Mel and Dale have done a great job for us, especially considering our results last season," Sterner commented on two of her defensive standouts. "However, we need to remember that defense is so much about organization and working together and we have a number of outstanding defensive players."
Among those student-athletes are juniors Jenn Lindsay (North Massapequea, N.Y./Plainedge) and Clare Chatham (Ellicott City, Md./Mount Hebron) along with sophomore Chelsea McDowell (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson). Lindsay has proven an extremely solid and steady center back while Chatham is as tough as they come on the outside. McDowell is a dynamic presence on the left that has the ability to make a strong tackle in the defensive third and follow that up with a dangerous attacking run on the other. Newcomer Emily Cronise (Hagerstown, Md./Boonsboro) should bring additional toughness and bite to the Spartan squad.
"Defensively we hope to be strong," Sterner commented. "To repeat last season's results will be difficult but certainly not out of reach. We are looking to produce more in the attack this season which should definitely help alleviate some of that defensive pressure."
On the attack, the Spartans will look to become more dangerous in the final third. Returning All-CAC forward Beth Bunn (Lothian, Md./Calverton School) embarks on her junior year and should become a consistently steady presence in the attack. Bunn netted six goals, including four game-winners, a season ago and will have an opportunity to up that number this year.
Notably, the Spartans welcome back former offensive standout Jordan Snook (Stewartstown, Pa./Kennard-Dale), who enters her third season of collegiate soccer. In 2011, Snook led the Green and White with 20 points on eight goals and four assists and brings into this season an experienced yet rested and rejuvenated player who has a nose for the goal. Junior Taylor Folk (Beavertown, Pa./Midd-West) is a calming and technical player in the middle of the field who can set up opportunities for others while herself getting involved in the attack. Fellow junior Traci Mohl (Lebanon, Pa./Lebanon Catholic), who possesses a tremendous passion for the game, brings even more technical ability to the midfield and looks to bolster the attack in 2013. Jamie Sokolis (Perry Hall, Md./Perry Hall) embarks on her sophomore campaign after playing in 17 of York's 18 contests, drawing 13 starts. That experience should aid Sokolis in becoming increasingly dynamic throughout the season. Freshman forward Jordan Neiheiser (Reading, Pa./Berks Catholic) provides additional athleticism and pace up front and should become a regular for the York squad.
"We believe that we have the potential to find the goal more often this year," Sterner said. "That was a clear focus for us in the offseason. We certainly hope to realize that potential early and often in 2013."
Looking toward their swiftly approaching regular-season slate, the Spartans open up on the road with Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. on August 31 at noon. Following up with tough non-conference foe Elizabethtown, York hosts the Blue Jays in their first home match of the season on September 4 at 4:00 pm. The remainder of the non-conference portion includes 2012 Landmark Conference champion and NCAA Tournament participate Scranton as well as nearby Gettysburg who finished 2012 at 12-6 and is picked second in a tough Centennial Conference in 2013.
York's traditionally competitive Capital Athletic Conference schedule gets even more difficult this season with the addition of Christopher Newport University. Perennially among the top squads in their former conference, the USA South, the Captains have appeared in each of the last six USA South Tournament finals and sport a winning record in each of their previous eleven campaigns. Frostburg, the reigning CAC champions, are a quality side that will vie for yet another appearance in the NCAA Tournament while Salisbury and Mary Washington provide even more toughness within the league.
"We understand that we will need to be focused throughout the season," Sterner commented. "It will not be an easy road, that's for sure, but if we can find a high level of consistency, in both training and matches, we could find some quality results this season."