For the most successful senior class in York College men’s lacrosse history, Saturday is going to be a busy day.
The school will host its graduation ceremony early that afternoon, and then those Spartans will again take to Kinsley Field in the NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse tournament.
York advanced to Saturday’s second-round with an 11-6 victory at home against Eastern University (14-6) on Wednesday in a first-round match-up. The Spartans will next play host to Washington & Lee (16-3), the Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion, which defeated Sewanee on Wednesday, 9-5. The York-vs.-Washington & Lee round-of-16 contest is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. In the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association NCAA Division III poll, York was ranked No. 7, while Washington & Lee came in at No. 20.
Wednesday's win is the 17th on the season for the Spartans (17-3), setting a new school record. It also pushes the senior class to a 56-21 mark, that includes a 23-6 Capital Athletic Conference record and a pair of CAC title game appearances — with a victory this year — and two trips to the NCAA tourney.
Wednesday's win also matched the furthest the Spartans have advanced in NCAA competition, so a win Saturday would mean yet another program first in a season that saw York capture its initial CAC tournament title.
"I thought our seniors played really well today," York coach Brandon Childs said. "I thought our defense and goalkeeping were good and gave our offense an opportunity to keep getting possessions. The name of the game today was our ability to get those 50-50 ground balls."
With the Spartans hanging on to a trim 4-3 lead to start the third quarter, York found its footing offensively to blow the game open.
Just 19 seconds into the third quarter, and the Spartans a man down, Brendan McGrath scored the first of his two goals to push York ahead 5-3.
Just 1:14 later, senior captain Andrew Gamble worked behind the net before finding an open Hunter Davis atop the perimeter. Davis ripped home a goal before more crisp Spartan passing led to McGrath finding Davis in the same spot for another goal to make it 7-3. Gamble completed York’s 4-0 run to start the third with his goal at the 6:27 mark.
After the game, Childs credited a big defensive stand early out of the halftime break as the catalyst for getting his team going.
“I just told my team we just have to stay the course, our shots will drop and we’ll stick that,” Childs sad. “The first play of the second half, where we scored that man-down goal off a tough ground ball, certainly set the momentum. And then we won the man-down face-off that allowed us to get the next goal. Those two big plays that turned into goals for us (were) probably the difference.”
The Spartans were able to make the explosive quarter hold up thanks to its signature stout defense. It's one that entered play Wednesday ranked 12th in the nation at 6.79 goals allowed per game.
Senior goalie Caleb Abeny, who along with Gamble was a first-team All-CAC selection this year, stopped 15 of the 21 shots he faced to collect the victory.
The Spartans were dominant on the stat sheet, out-shooting the Eagles, 46-30. They were able to maintain possession for large chunks thanks to a 29-15 edge in ground balls, a 13-6 margin in face-offs and committing half as many turnovers (six) as Eastern (12).
“The defense was playing great,” Abney said. “They weren’t allowing very many inside shots, it was outside shots I was able to read quite well. I knew we were getting a lot of looks on offense and it was just a matter of time until they fell, so I had a lot of confidence in the offense. And when you have confidence in your team, it allows you to really play well and play without a level of stress in your mind.”
York’s offense was paced by a pair of goals and an assist from both Davis and McGrath. Austin Glab scored a pair of goals in the first quarter and Nick Magnusson chipped in with a goal and an assist.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.