YORK, PA – The York College men's lacrosse team enters their 2014 season with high expectations after a record-setting 2013 campaign.
Head coach Brandon Childs begins his third year at the helm of the program with a squad loaded with returning experience, dynamic talent, and most importantly, a group of driven and intelligent players who are determined to push the program to unprecedented heights.
Childs returns his starting attack, starting midfield, and his goalkeepers from last year's 13-win season. The only area of concern is on defense where graduation has left the Spartans without two starters.
The Spartan attack is highlighted by the return of All-American and Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year Tyler Hutson (Winter Mills, Md./Westminster). Hutson had the most prolific offensive season in school history as he tallied 78 points on 58 goals and 20 assists. He recorded six man-up goals and put 68% of his shots on goal. He was the first York College men's lacrosse player to earn CAC Player of the Year honors. Hutson scored a conference-leading 20 goals in six CAC games last season.
Childs knows how talented Hutson is but believes the best is yet to come.
"Tyler is an extremely hard worker and I expect him to be even better this year," says Childs. "It is a huge blessing when your best player is also one of your hardest workers. He strives to get everyone involved in the offense which makes us a dangerous team to defend."
Hutson is far from alone on the attack as sophomore Andrew Gamble (Easton, Md./Easton) returns after a freshman year that saw him score 47 points on 30 goals and 17 assists, good for 8th in the CAC in goals scored. Junior Tyler Davis (Finksburg, Md./Westminster) is another dynamic attacker who finished with 41 points on 19 goals and 22 assists during his sophomore year. Davis was third in the league in points scored in conference games while he led the CAC with 10 assists in his six conference contests last year.
"Andrew and Tyler are two talented players for us on the attack," says Childs. "They each bring different aspects to the offense and when they are playing well, we are tough to stop."
Also returning on the attack for the Green and White is sophomore Dakota Randall (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Mira Costa). Randall, who missed part of the season with an injury, tallied 21 points on five goals and 19 assists in just 13 games last spring. Freshman Jamie Lilly (Davidsonville, Md./St. Mary's Annapolis) is a first year Spartans who is expected to see time in the attack.
The midfield is an area of great strength for the Green and White. Senior captain Seth Krolus (Westminster, Md./Loyola Blakefield), senior captain James Lowe (Monrovia, Md./Urbana), junior Chris Varela (Easton, Pa./Easton), sophomore Joseph Joseph (Hollywood, Md./St. Mary's Ryken), senior Andrew Taylor (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park), and sophomore Andrew Warburton (Frederick, Md./Governor Thomas Johnson) give Childs a talented core of returning players who give York a deep rotation in the midfield.
Krolus, a first-team All-CAC pick last year, finished the season with 27 points on 15 goals and 12 assists. He notched 65 ground balls and was on the field more than any other Spartan over the course of the year.
"Seth is not only a great player, he is a fantastic leader and the type of player who personifies our program," says Child. "He is a two-way player who makes and impact on defense and helps facilitate our transition to offense on the clear."
Lowe, a second team All-CAC pick as a junior, is a dynamic playmaker who has continued to get better each season in the Green and White. Lowe finished last season with 33 points on 19 goals and 14 assists in his 17 games. He scooped up 26 ground balls and notched a pair of man-up goals.
"James is a player who can create for others while he can also get his own shot," says Childs. "He is a very enthusiastic player who has really matured and made himself into a player who can push his teammates in a positive way."
Varela is a player who Childs feels has made tremendous improvement since last year, his first with the Spartans. Varela tallied 18 points on 17 goals and one assist in 2013. He registered five man-up goals while he also recorded 18 ground balls.
"Chris might be our most improved player," says Childs. "He is a talented player who rounds out our first midfield unit. I expect him to do big things this spring."
Joseph had a good freshman year last season with nine points on six goals and three assists. Taylor recorded eight points on four goals and four assists while Warburton missed last year due to injury. Freshmen Christopher Lees (Barto, Pa./Boyertown), Dan Mangle (South Riding, Va./Middleburg Academy), and sophomore Garrett Widlake (Catonsville, Md./Mt. St. Joseph) are three other midfielders who will have a chance to see the field for York.
York is set in the defensive midfield as All-CAC junior Andrew Thomas (Limerick, Pa./Spring-Ford) returns as one of the top defensive midfielders in the CAC. Thomas played in 15 games and scored nine points on four goals and five assists. He is a tough player who has the knack of making the right play for the Spartans. Freshmen Taylor Tolbert (Chambersburg, Pa./Chambersburg) and Dennis Young (Spring City, Pa./Spring-Ford) are a pair of newcomers who should see time at defensive midfield for the Green and White.
Juniors Tyler Fields (Catonsville, Md./Mount St. Joseph) and Dale Kowatch (Frederick, Md./Gov. Thomas Johnson) give York great experience coming back at long stick midfielder. Freshman Jake Kitchenman (Philadelphia, Pa./Neshaminy) is expected to join Fields and Kowatch as a player who will see time as an LSM.
The defense is an area of question, but not concern for the Spartans. While first-team All-CAC defender Justin Gordon and current assist coach Ryan Cassidy graduated, Childs is plugging in a number of very good athletes who will have a chance to make the Spartan defense even better than before.
"I think we are going to be pretty athletic defensively but we are lacking experience," says Childs. "We will have to have guys come together quick but I feel the pieces are there to have a good defense. It has been an area of intense concentration during the fall and in the preseason. I am looking forward to seeing who steps up and assumes a leadership position on defense."
The duo of senior Kevin Braun (Chadds Ford, Pa./Saint Mark's) and sophomore Josh Kluver (Abington, Pa./Abington) provide York with a pair of athletic and tough defenders who bring experience to the defense. Braun played in 16 games with 18 ground balls and seven caused turnovers. Kluver played in all 17 games off the bench for York but made an impact with 35 ground balls, and a team-leading 24 caused turnovers.
Freshmen Garrett Barker (Bel Air, Md./C. Milton Wright) and Sam Lundin (Newark, Del./Delaware Military Academy) are a pair of new Spartans who are expected to have a significant impact on the Spartan defensive efforts.
Childs returns all four of his goaltenders from last year including second team All-CAC pick Caleb Abney (Forest Hill, Md./Fallston). Abney is joined by sophomores Christian Koch (Sykesville, Md./Century) and James Anderson (Pasadena, Md./Annapolis Area Christian) and senior Joey Bellavia (Seauket, N.Y./Ward Melville) and give the Spartans impressive depth in net.
Abney finished his freshman year with a 6.87 goals against average and a .657 save percentage. Abney went 10-3 in 13 starts as he recorded 151 saves for the year. Koch was 1-1 in four games including two starts for YCP. He had a 9.91 goals against average and a .500 save percentage. Bellavia made two starts last year as he was 2-0 with a 10.96 goals against average and a .452 save percentage. Anderson saw action in five games off the bench as he had a 6.30 goals against average and a .667 save percentage.
"We are very deep in goal," says Childs. "It has been an open competition all fall and remains so in the preseason. We are fortunate to have four guys who could be in goal and give us a chance to win. They all each bring something a little bit different to the team. "
The Spartans will have a pair of new faces at the face off X. Freshmen Jake Katchmark (Centreville, Va./Westfield) and Mikey Allen (Owings, Md./Northern) will be expected to compete for the position. Both are athletic players who will look to improve on York's 51.1% face off percentage from last year.
"We are young at the X but I think we have some talent," says Childs. "It can be tough to rely on freshman at that position but we believe Jake and Mikey will give us a chance to compete and get possession."
The Spartan squad will be put to the test early as they open the season on February 15 against the defending Division III National Champion Stevenson. That isn't by accident as the Spartan schedule got an upgrade after the Green and White narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last spring.
"We needed to upgrade our schedule," says Childs. "We were close to being an NCAA Tournament team but I think some of our games held us back. This year, the schedule is pretty tough including ten road games. The addition of Christopher Newport in the CAC also provides a boost to our schedule. I think we will be challenged but I believe our kids will rise to the occasion."
While Childs knows the expectations on the Spartans are increased, he also knows that the only thing that matters is the Spartans performance on the field.
"Everyone can talk about how good we should be, but really the only thing we care about are the things we can control as a team. I expect us to be good, but ultimately, that will be determined by how we play on the field."
The Spartans were picked to finish third in the CAC, one point behind defending champion St. Mary's for second place. York received one first place vote in the poll.
The Spartans open their season at Stevenson which kicks off a three game road trip to start the season. The Spartans' home slate starts on Saturday, March 1 when they host McDaniel in a non-conference contest. Conference play starts on March 15 at home against Mary Washington.