The York College men's lacrosse team enters its 2014 season with high expectations after a record-setting 2013 campaign.
Head coach Brandon Childs begins his third year at the helm of the program with a squad that appears loaded with returning experience and talent.
Childs returns his starting attack, starting midfield and his goalkeepers from last year's 13-win season. The only area of concern is on defense, where graduation has left the Spartans without two starters.
The Spartan attack is highlighted by the return of All-American and Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year Tyler Hutson. Hutson had the most prolific offensive season in school history last season when he tallied 78 points on 58 goals and 20 assists. He was the first York College men's lacrosse player to earn CAC Player of the Year honors. Hutson scored a conference-leading 20 goals in six CAC games last season.
"Tyler is an extremely hard worker and I expect him to be even better this year," Childs said. "It is a huge blessing when your best player is also one of your hardest workers. He strives to get everyone involved in the offense which makes us a dangerous team to defend."
Hutson is far from alone on the attack. Sophomore Andrew Gamble returns after a freshman year that saw him score 47 points on 30 goals and 17 assists. Junior Tyler Davis finished with 41 points on 19 goals and 22 assists during his sophomore year.
The midfield is an area of strength for the Spartans. Senior captain Seth Krolus, senior captain James Lowe, junior Chris Varela, sophomore Joseph Joseph, senior Andrew Taylor and sophomore Andrew Warburton give Childs a talented core of returning players in the midfield.
Krolus, a first-team All-CAC pick last year, finished the season with 27 points on 15 goals and 12 assists. He notched 65 ground balls and was on the field more than any other Spartan over the course of the year. Lowe, a second team All-CAC pick as a junior, finished last season with 33 points on 19 goals and 14 assists in 17 games. He scooped up 26 ground balls. Varela tallied 18 points on 17 goals and one assist in 2013.
York is set in the defensive midfield. All-CAC junior Andrew Thomas returns as one of the top defensive midfielders in the CAC. Thomas played in 15 games and scored nine points on four goals and five assists.
The defense is an area of question. While first-team All-CAC defender Justin Gordon and current assist coach Ryan Cassidy graduated, Childs is plugging in a number of good athletes.
Childs returns all four of his goaltenders from last year, including second team All-CAC pick Caleb Abney. Abney is joined by sophomores Christian Koch and James Anderson and senior Joey Bellavia. Abney finished his freshman year with a 6.87 goals against average and a .657 save percentage. Abney went 10-3 in 13 starts.
"We are very deep in goal," says Childs. "It has been an open competition all fall and remains so in the preseason. We are fortunate to have four guys who could be in goal and give us a chance to win. They all each bring something a little bit different to the team. "
Put to the test early: The Spartan squad will be put to the test early. They are scheduled to open the season Saturday night at defending NCAA Division III national champion Stevenson. That isn't by accident. The Spartan schedule got an upgrade after York narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last spring.
"We needed to upgrade our schedule," says Childs. "We were close to being an NCAA Tournament team but I think some of our games held us back. This year, the schedule is pretty tough, including 10 road games. The addition of Christopher Newport in the CAC also provides a boost to our schedule. I think we will be challenged, but I believe our kids will rise to the occasion."
The Spartans, who were 13-4 last season and 5-1 in the CAC, were picked to finish third in the CAC, one point behind defending champion St. Mary's for second place. York received one first place vote in the poll. Salisbury was picked to win the league.
The Spartans have a three-game road trip to start the season. The Spartans' home slate starts on Saturday, March 1, when they host McDaniel in a non-conference contest. Conference play starts on March 15 at home against Mary Washington.