YORK, Pa. – Over the previous eight seasons, the York College men's soccer team has become one of the most successful programs in the country. The Spartans sport such as resume' that would indelibly prove such a statement. One would be impressed with their number of NCAA Tournament appearances (eight straight), their multiple Capital Athletic Conference championships (six in eight years, including four consecutive), and their lofty winning percentage (0.83) over the last eight seasons.
Yet, none of that counts for much, if anything, this year. At least not according to Spartan head coach Mark Ludwig.
"Each year is a new year," Ludwig said as he enters his new year, the 15th of his career at the helm of the Spartan program. "This is a new group of players, some of which have never won a single match in a Spartan shirt. We need to take every day, every session, every moment to build and grow. No one is going to give us anything."
Having become one of the most successful programs in the country is a double-edged sword. On the one side, a program can be privileged to attract an ever-increasing quality of player who will seek to uphold what has been built. But on the other is the potential for complacency, especially with every opponent you meet looking to knock you off your pedestal.
The 2013 edition of the York men's soccer team will look to be a squad that is, proverbially, a greater whole than the sum of its parts. Undoubtedly, the Spartans have outstanding talent and quality players up and down the roster; however, the key will be how those student-athletes mesh throughout the season.
"We have a lot of really good players, some who will become great," Ludwig commented. "There are many guys on this team that can contribute and do so at a high level. We all need to realize however that in reality, we all need each other in order to achieve the type of success we want to achieve this season."
A number of those really good players are seasoned veterans looking to uphold the aforementioned Spartan success. Aaron Beale (Baltimore, Md. / Archbishop Curley) embarks on his senior campaign as he returns to the middle of the York defense. Honored as a NSCAA All-Region and All-CAC performer a year ago, Beale will look to not only be a key cog in shutting down opposing offenses but also be a solid leader for the Spartans. Fellow senior Taylor Brummitt (Annapolis, Md. / Annapolis) enters his final year with the Green and White sporting the title of York's top returning point-getter from a year ago. The forward netted seven goals, including three game-winners, while notching a pair of assists.
"Aaron and Taylor have been doing a great job for us as leaders," Ludwig commented on two of his senior standouts. "Great leadership is going to allow us to stay focused and improve day-in and day-out."
Joining Brummitt in the attack, seniors Austin Johnson (Avalon, N.J. / Middle Township), a 2012 All-CAC pick, and Chris Weaver (Baltimore, Md. / Archbishop Curley) will strive to bring experienced firepower to the final third, while sophomores Brendan Saberton (Wilmington, Del. / Salesianum) and Greg Bechard (Newark, Del. / St. Mark's) add even more danger to York's offensive capabilities. Newcomer Charlie Versen (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. / The Masters) will have the opportunity to find time in the Spartan lineup.
"There are a number of options in the attack," Ludwig noted. "We can have contributions from numerous players on any given day."
Through the midfield, sophomore Daniel Baxter (Baltimore, Md. / Calvert Hall) returns for his sophomore campaign and, having played in all 24 matches last season, brings experience to that area of the park. The midfield is also where a number of newcomers could make their mark as transfer Tobi Iguade (Bowie, Md. / DeMatha Catholic) and freshmen Vincenzo Marna (Belle Mead, N.J. / Montgomery) and Anthony Flores (Leesburg, Va. / Loudoun Valley) each provide significant promise for the Green and White.
Defensively, the leadership duties fall on the shoulders of Beale who has proven to be a tremendous center back over his time with the Green and White. Alongside the All-Region selection, both Ryan Donahue (York, Pa. / York Suburban) and Patrick Ward (Prince George, Va. / Prince George) figure to be prominent players within the defensive unit. Both entering their sophomore campaigns, Donahue and Ward each saw time in 20-plus matches last season. Rookie Cristian Bonilla (York, Pa. / Dover Area) has the potential to garner significant minutes within the Spartan defense in 2013.
"There in significant potential in both of those areas," Ludwig said of York's midfield and defense. "Right now, we are looking for the best combination of players."
In the goal, junior Brad Schmidt (Moorestown, N.J. / Delran) is the early leader to grab the #1 spot. Athletic and strong, Schmidt started for York in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, a match in which he nabbed a 1-0 shutout. Charlie Johnson (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin), another big, strong goalkeeper, will push Schmidt for time in just his freshman season.
"Our goalkeeping situation is different than it has been in recent years," Ludwig said. "We are going to turn to one of three guys who do not have much York College game experience, but that is not to say they cannot be successful. There is certainly quality ability in the net and, as with the rest of the group, we will see which guy steps up and earns the #1 spot."
York will embark on yet another challenging schedule on August 30 as open up with Lycoming during the Spartans' annual trek to Millville, Pa. The Spartans' early season non-conference slate includes 2012 NCAA National Champion Messiah (at home on September 24) and NCAA Sweet 16 participant Susquehanna (in Selinsgrove, Pa. on September 16).
The competitive CAC gets even more daunting this season with the addition of Christopher Newport. The Captains, ranked as high as 13th last season, were a 2012 NCAA Tournament participant and will look to prove their mettle early in conference play. Aside from CNU, the Spartans will square off with traditional rival Salisbury, a squad the Green and White have met in two of the previous four CAC finals.
"As a team, we need to realize that we need to be prepared and engaged in every match," Ludwig said. "No one is going to roll over for us because it says 'YORK' on the front of our jerseys. We need to bring a level of intensity to the field every time we go out, both in training and matches. If we do so, we have the potential to capture great results."
PHOTO: Aaron Beale prepares to strike a ball during a match last season. Courtesy of David Sinclair - http://www.davidsinclairphotography.com/