This year's York College women's soccer roster is essentially the same as last year's.
The Spartans graduated just three seniors from the 2012 team that had a mildly disappointing 8-3-7 overall record, including a 3-1-2 mark in Capital Athletic Conference action.
Yet, there was York on Wednesday afternoon beating conference rival Mary Washington by a commanding 3-1 score in a CAC semifinal, advancing to the conference title game for the first time in five years.
The difference in the team this year?
"I think it was just the past years we weren't as connected and we wanted to change things this year," junior Kayla Kovalsky said.
Kovalsky led the host Spartans (12-4-2) on Wednesday with a pair of second-half goals. She had entered with just four goals all season for York, which is aiming to win the program's second conference tournament title -- York accomplished the feat in 2007.
"This year everyone came together. Our team has a totally different dynamic this year," Kovalsky said. "Everyone works together. We're playing for each other and you can tell on the field."
Teammate Clare Chatham, a junior midfielder, has played a large role in getting the York players to gel. Chatham's assist on Kovalsky's first goal after intermission moved Chatham into a tie for the CAC lead in assists (eight).
"The whole bonding thing is so important for a women's team," longtime York coach Vicki Sterner said. "They play for each other. That's really what it is. When you play for each other you play harder. You dig deep."
The Spartans didn't have to dig as deep as they did earlier this season at Mary Washington (10-10) on Oct. 12.
"We figured it was gonna be a dog fight. When we were at their field they were up 2-0 and we came back and won then in overtime," Sterner said. "So we knew that they would have that sense of urgency and revenge. We went out really strong."
York also boasts one of the best midfields in the CAC, according to Sterner, which has contributed to the team leading the CAC in the least amount of goals allowed this season. In addition, the Spartans returned standout goalie Melanie Glessner, who last year had the best save percentage (.941) of all NCAA Division III goalies to earn All-America honors from D3soccer.com. Glessner, a junior, recorded seven saves in Wednesday's victory.
York, which went 6-1-1 in conference play in the regular season, will next face the winner of Salisbury vs. Christopher Newport. York won at Salisbury, 2-1, back on Sept. 28 and lost at Christopher Newport, 1-0, on Oct. 19. The Spartans are just three wins shy of tying the program mark in single-season wins (15), set by the special 2007 team.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.