York College men's soccer coach Mark Ludwig asked his team one question before its showdown with rival Messiah on Tuesday.
It was a question that every one of his players wanted to answer in the affirmative, but only one could.
The question was: Raise your hand if you've ever beaten Messiah.
Only Ludwig, in his 15th season at York, and fifth-year senior Taylor Brummitt could honestly raise their hands.
For almost everyone in that locker room, those recent losses lit a fire from within.
After 90 minutes of tough, physical play, every Spartan is now able to raise his hand when asked that same question.
For the third contest in a row, the Spartans, who have allowed just two goals all season, pitched a shutout. And thanks to a timely goal by Brendan Saberton in the final minute of the first half, York (8-1) was able to snap its four-year winless streak and hand the Falcons their first loss of the campaign, 1-0.
Messiah came into the game ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III. York is ranked No. 12.
"It couldn't get any better," said York goalie Brad Schmidt, who recorded five saves. "We've been looking forward to this game all year. It's like the bench-mark game."
Schmidt was put to the test midway through the first half when Messiah (8-1) was able to sustain some offensive pressure. The Falcons earned four of their nine corner kicks during a 10-minute spurt between the 30- and 20-minute mark of the half.
The Spartan defense stood tall during that stretch, although Schmidt was forced to make one acrobatic save on a one-timer to sustain the shutout.
"Around the box they are extremely good," Schmidt said of Messiah. "We were trying to keep them out wide as best as possible. But they got one or two shots, and the one save I had to come out and they hit a cross and I managed to get my arms on it."
The contest appeared to be headed for a scoreless tie at the intermission until Saberton scored a huge momentum-shifting tally.
"Definitely excited to get that heading into the half," Saberton said of his second goal of the season. "Just a nice touch from Christian (Bonilla), and I didn't hear anybody behind me. So I just took a shot. I actually didn't realize how much time was left in the half."
Saberton's scorcher came from about 30 yards out with just 29 seconds left in the half.
"Brendan is opportunistic," Ludwig said. "Just when you think you know what he's going to do, he does something different. In his year and a half being here so far, he creates things out of nothing. And he basically did that. I don't think they thought there was going to be an opportunity, and then the ball is in the back of the net. And that's why he gets the time that he does."
Neither team generated much offense in the second half, when each team recorded just one shot on goal.
Schmidt gave a big shout-out to his defense for keeping his box free from prime scoring chances.
"The defense has been making it easy for me," Schmidt said. "They're the ones that deserve the credit, because they are playing excellent so far."
And so too have the Spartans, who are riding on Cloud 9 after downing perhaps the most storied NCAA Division III men's soccer program in the nation.
"At the end of the game, they all asked, 'now how many people have beaten Messiah?'" Ludwig said. "So everybody in the room can raise their hand now."
Notes: Messiah outshot York, 14-12, and had a 9-3 edge in corners.
OTHER YORK COLLEGE NEWS
YORK GOLFERS WIN TOURNAMENT: The York College golf team shot a team score of 296 on Tuesday to win its second tournament in as many days in capturing the Ursinus College Fall Invitational at Raven's Claw Golf Club in Pottsville. The Spartans finished 18 strokes better than second-place Messiah in the 14-team field. Two Spartans tied for the individual championship - junior David Boslough and freshman Anthony Wagner at even-par 71. Boslough earned the individual title on the match of cards. York's Kevin Long finished fourth at 76. Sophomore Ryan Wolbach shot 78 to tie for ninth in the 67-player field.
SPARTAN SETTER HONORED BY CAC: York College sophomore setter Allie Donahue has been named the Capital Athletic Conference Women's Volleyball Player of the Week. Donahue led the Spartans to a trio of wins for the week. She totaled 191 assists in 18 sets, including a trio of matches in which she had 40 or more assists. She also added 10 kills, 14 service aces, 46 digs and five block assists. She had a career-high 53 assists in the four-set win over Elizabethtown on Friday night.
SPARTANS FALL IN FIELD HOCKEY: Elizabethtown rolled to a 6-1 field hockey victory over York on Tuesday. The Blue Jays improved to 4-3, while the Spartans fell to 3-5. Spring Grove High School graduate Kiersten Wetzel, a freshman, had York's only goal.
-- Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.