March 22, 2012

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York (Pa.) Realizing Potential in Breakout Season

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Paired with a strong junior class, a group of sophomores has stepped up for York during its 8-1 start to 2012. Melissa Ritchey (11 goals, 19 assists) is one of them.
© York

The Spartans of ancient Greece used oracles to predict the future. The Spartans of modern day York College of Pennsylvania are more practical. Coach Jen Muston was able to pinpoint her team's breakout season a few years in advance thanks to logic, preparation and solid recruiting.

"To be honest when I recruited the [current] juniors I knew their junior year would be our breakout as a team," Muston said. "We have sort of been building to this point. It's been several years of just kind of recruiting and getting the right players in here to the right levels."

It's been quite the breakout for the 17th-ranked Spartans, who've opened the season with eight wins and only one loss, by one goal to No. 8 Franklin & Marshall, and on Tuesday downed No. 19 Stevenson, 14-9.

York has topped 20 goals in a game four times and has allowed only one opponent to reach double figures. Through eight games the Spartans have the best scoring margin in Division III among teams that have played more than one game. York ranks eighth in goals per game and seventh in goals against.

All this while already facing three teams that were ranked in the Top 20 this season.

The pumped up schedule, F&M and upcoming Top 20 opponents Messiah and Stevens, were added to the non-league schedule this season, was another part of York's long-term plan. If the Spartans were to break out in 2012, make it against the best.

"We've been talking about it for a while now," Muston said. "Competing with teams in our conference. Add harder teams to our schedule and challenge those teams to get us to the next level. It's nice to finally see those results. We still have a long way to go. We're happy about where we are, but we're not gonna settle."

With a talented young team that has just four seniors, the Spartans won't need to settle anytime soon.

The investment in the junior class is paying dividends. Junior Kim Wayson leads the team with 29 goals and 17 assists. Goalie Kelsey Evans is sixth in D-III in goals against average (4.52) and 22nd in save percentage (.552). Leah Schultz leads the team with 35 draw controls, with nine against Stevenson alone. Katie Vautier is a defensive force all over the field.

"Two full years that they've had to play with each other and get used to each other," Muston said. "Not only that but we've had two classes of quality freshmen."

Maybe the biggest difference this year is how the sophomores have stepped up. The next three leading scorers after Wayson are sophomores Erica Mulford (20 goals, 10 assists), Melissa Ritchey (11 goals, 19 assists) and Jenna Hiponia (18 goals, four assists).

York will need contributions from all levels to compete this year in the Capital Athletic Conference, one of D-III's toughest. Conference foes No. 2 Salisbury (7-0) and No. 16 Mary Washington (5-2), which beat York by five last season, loom in the coming weeks.

"There are four ranked teams and any given week there can be a fifth," Muston said. "You can't go into any CAC game thinking you're gonna win. You have to do your homework."

The studying has paid off. York has three Capital wins already, highlighted by Tuesday's win over Stevenson. York was ready for Stevenson, but not due to any magic.

"We prepared for two and a half days," Muston said. "Watched film on them. Made sure we were prepared. You can't go into a game against a really good team like that unprepared. It was nice to see. You could tell the girls were ready. It was a nice way to put everything together."


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