Spartan Men Perfect in PK's as York Advances to Sweet 16

YORK, PA – The York College men's soccer team couldn't find the back of the net in the regulation or overtime in their NCAA Tournament second round match against Rutgers-Camden on Sunday in York. In the penalty shootout, the Spartans couldn't miss.

The Spartans converted all four of their kicks while the Scarlet Raptors missed the cage on two of the four attempts as York advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. It will be the fourth time in school history that the Spartans have advanced to the Sweet 16.

The penalty kick session began with the Scarlet Raptors' Mike Ryan converting the first attempt despite Spartan netminder Jesse Derksen (York, Pa./Susquehannock) getting a hand on the attempt. Senior Justin Facer (Prospect Heights, Ill./North Allegheny) stepped up and promptly tied the shootout as he buried the ball into the net.

RCU's Joe Auleta was next up and he hit is attempt very high and wide, giving the Spartans a change to seize momentum. Freshman Eli Bjerk (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater), who had not played in the 110 minutes of game action, came off the bench to cash in on the big second shot as the Spartans took a 2-1 lead. The Scarlet Raptors gave York another huge break as Zak Piccoline pushed his shot outside the right post, putting York in the drivers seat. Senior Cody Pearson (Crofton, Md./DeMatha Catholic) drove home York's third shot as they were one conversion away from winning.

After RCU's Brian Hill finished his chance to draw the visitors to within 3-2, junior All-CAC defender Aaron Beale (Baltimore, Md./Archbishop Curley) finished off the match with a crisp shot into the netting as York's season remains alive.

The game didn't lack for drama despite the defensive orientation of the match.

The first half was much of what you expected from two of the top programs in the region. The Spartans had a great chance a mere 30 seconds into the game as Daniel Baxter (Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall College) captured a loose ball in the Spartans' offensive third and unleashed a shot that narrowly missed target, sliding over the crossbar for the game's first shot.

York had another great opportunity with 13 minutes left in opening half as Baxter drove the end line and fed a pass to the top of the box where Austin Johnson (Avalon, N.J./Middle Township) ripped a great one-timer that RCU's Mike Randall saved as he glided to his left to make the stop.

The Scarlet Raptor's best first-half chance came on a play that didn't result in a shot with just over five minutes left in the opening stanza. Forward Mitch Grotti made a beautiful run down the right sideline as he slipped behind the Spartan defense. Grotti drove the ball down to the end line where he slotted a great centering shot. Fortunately for York, the Scarlet Raptors' trailing attackers were just late as the ball tracked harmlessly through the box towards the left sideline.

Rutgers-Camden had a fantastic chance to end the game in regulation with just over 11 minutes left. C.J. Finley penetrated into the six-yard box. Derksen came out to challenge the ball so did defender Patrick Ward (Prince George, Va./Prince George). Finley used the opportunity to slip a pass to the Raptors Ryan who was charging hard and had an open goal. Ryan would not be able to settle the ball and York would clear the dangerous chance, keeping the game scoreless.

The Spartans had a great flurry over the final 1:50 of regulation as they earned three consecutive corner kicks. The first one resulted in a beautiful header by Johnson that skimmed off the crossbar. The other two corners didn't yield a quality chance as the two squads headed for the extra session.

In the first overtime, York senior Antonio Bua (Lancaster, Pa./Lampeter-Strasburg) got a breakaway that Randall came out to challenge. Bua's shot was just redirected as it appeared the ball might have a chance to trickle across the line.

York had a second great chance in the first overtime as Matt Yackel (Hopewell Junction, N.Y./John Jay) hit a sharp grounder off a rebound that Randall made a sprawling save to keep the game scoreless with 1:47 remaining in the first extra session.

The second overtime but featured five shots on goal but none of the attempts were particularly dangerous as the squads headed to the penalty shootout to see who would advance to the Sweet 16.

Derksen earned the win in net with four saves in his 110 minutes of work. Randall was fantastic for the Scarlet Raptors as he registered seven saves in the tie.

York finished the game with a 22-7 advantage in overall shots while the shots on goal were a much closer 7-4 edge for the Green and White. York had seven corners while Rutgers-Camden did not attempt a corner in the match.

The Spartans are now 18-2-3 overall while the Scarlet Raptors see their season come to a close with a mark of 17-2-3.

The Spartans now advance to face Messiah in the Sectional semifinals on Saturday, November 17. The site and time of the game will be announced on Monday. Please check back at www.ycpspartans.com for complete Sweet 16 details.

Aaron Beale converts his match-winning PK.

Photos courtesy of Zach Clabaugh (www.sharpedgefoto.com)