While the York College men’s lacrosse team has always been reasonably successful, this year’s squad took the program to new heights.
A season in which they defeated seven top-10-ranked opponents culminated in the program’s first-ever Capital Athletic Conference championship.
That has certainly raised the bar for the program in the future.
However, even in special seasons, there can be moments of disappointment. That was the case Wednesday afternoon when the seventh-ranked Spartans played host to No. 5 Gettysburg in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal.
After falling behind early, York rallied back with a strong third period to take its first and only lead of the day. The Spartans rallied again in the final quarter after the Bullets put together a two-goal blitz over a nine-second span.
Despite evening the score with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in regulation, the Spartans really never got another chance to claim one more historic triumph. Gettysburg won the opening face-off in overtime, called timeout, and then allowed Mike Distler to do his thing.
Distler, who had a chance late in regulation to win it for his side, didn’t miss on his second opportunity, scoring the game-winner 36 seconds into the extra session to help Gettysburg earn a 7-6 victory.
The Bullets (17-2) advanced to the Final Four opposite Salisbury on Sunday at a time and location yet to be decided. Salisbury beat Denison on Wednesday night in overtime, 11-10. York’s season concluded after an 18-4 campaign.
“It was hard for me to put into words what I wanted to say (to my seniors),” said York coach Brandon Childs. “They were my first recruiting class and they’ve done a lot to put this program in the place in which it is today.”
York set a school record this season with its 18 victories and advanced further in NCAA action than any previous Spartans team.
The home team had been riding a hot streak since upsetting No. 1 Salisbury to capture the CAC title. The Spartans cruised past Eastern (11-6) and Washington & Lee (12-6) to set up a rematch with Gettysburg, a team they defeated back in March, 9-7.
The Bullets, however, came out like a team on a mission. The visitors dominated play in the first quarter, taking a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into play while out-shooting the Spartans 11-3. The advantage grew to 3-0 early in the second stanza when Distler scored.
York, however, answered back with a goal by Hunter Davis just more than a minute later that seemed to stem the tide. The defenses took over for the rest of the half and there was further scoring.
“We’ve been having these long (defensive) stands where we just keep going and going,” Childs said. “And I think that’s what allowed the rest of our team to stay calm and collected.”
One of the key identities of this York team has been its strong play in the third quarter. That again was true Wednesday when the Spartans flipped the tables on the Bullets. York ran off three straight goals over a three-minute span to take the lead, 4-3. The final tally came off the stick of Brendan McGrath.
Gettysburg answered back with a three-goal blitz, the first of which came off an outstanding play by Tommy Heller. The smallish Heller bested York goalie Caleb Abney (listed at 6 feet, 6 inches, 245 pounds) to even the score.
Then two goals within a nine-second span put the Bullets ahead 6-4 with 9:26 left. The Spartans, however, chipped away, getting a score from Austin Glab before McGrath evened it up. But it was only moments later when Distler finished things off, ending York’s dream season.
While the disappointment was obvious, the journey that this team took this year will not soon be forgotten.
“This has definitely been one of the more memorable years that I’ve ever had,” York senior James Anderson said. “This was a group effort by the whole senior class that started this summer before we even got back to campus. We talked about what we wanted to accomplish and we did it. We won the CAC Championship, got to the Elite Eight and won all these games.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.