York College’s Erica Mulford (11) attempts a shot against Washington & Lee in Wednesday’s NCAA tournament game.
York College's Erica Mulford (11) attempts a shot against Washington & Lee in Wednesday's NCAA tournament game. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

Never before in the history of the York College women's lacrosse program have the Spartans won an NCAA Tournament game.

Not in the previous seven seasons since the program first began in 2006.

Not in the previous five years that head coach Jen Muston had been leading the program.

And not in their debut in the NCAA Division III Tournament last year, when the Spartans were upset by Montclair State in the opening round, 14-13.

So when York took a six-goal lead over visiting Washington & Lee by registering double-digit goals in the first half of Wednesday afternoon's first-round NCAA game, the Spartans felt anxious. The York players were on the cusp of making program history.

York’s Megan Stine, left, is defended by Washington & Lees Emily Conway.
York's Megan Stine, left, is defended by Washington & Lees Emily Conway. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

Unfortunately for the Spartans, they would have to wait a little bit longer to seal the deal when a nasty storm barreled over the York College campus a few minutes into halftime. Fans, referees, players and coaches retreated into the Grumbacher Center for cover. What resulted was a three-hour delay, mostly because of lighting in the area.

At one point, there was concern it might get too dark to complete the game at York, where there are no lights on the outdoor fields. Muston said there was discussion that the teams could possibly take a trip across the Susquehanna River to complete the game under the lights on the turf field at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster County.

But the storm finally moved out and the skies cleared. The second half began at 6:55 p.m., roughly three hours after the delay had first been issued.

York, ranked No. 9 in the nation in the latest D-III rankings, would add three more goals the rest of the way to defeat Washington & Lee 13-6 to advance to the Sweet 16. When the final horn sounded at 7:45 p.m., nearly five hours after the game started, the Spartans (14-4) rushed the field to celebrate with junior goalie Ashley Smith (eight saves).

York’s Kim Wayson, right, drives against Washington & Lee’s Olive Waxter in Wednesday’s game.
York's Kim Wayson, right, drives against Washington & Lee's Olive Waxter in Wednesday's game. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

"It's just awesome," York senior Leah Schultz said. "No one makes it into the Sweet 16. Last year we didn't. It's just incredible to be one of 16 teams (left) in Division III, especially in my senior year. I just have no words for it. I'm excited to see where we go."

Schultz, who was one of seven York players to earn All-Capital Athletic Conference honors this season, led the Spartans with six points on five goals and one assist.

The win was especially big for Muston, who earned her first NCAA Tournament win in her coaching career since taking over the York program in 2008 and building it into a winner.

"It's great," Muston said. "It's what we've been building for the past five or six years that I've been here and trying to get the program to the next level and break through the ice of winning the conference championship, which is something we haven't done, and getting wins in the NCAA Tournament. We fell short of that goal last year and we really wanted to move forward this year."

Next game: The Spartans move on to face No. 6 F&M (15-4) at Salisbury on Saturday. In its second game of the season back in February, York lost at F&M, 13-6.

"I think we've worked out a lot of kinks since then," Muston said. "I think we've gotten better. We're kind of in our prime right now and hoping we're peaking at the right time."

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.