Hunter Davis, Thomas Pfeiffer and Brendan McGrath are all household names for fans of the York College men’s lacrosse team.
Guys such as Kevin Witchey, Wyatt Kennedy, J.D. Beck and Jack Michael, however, fly under the radar when it comes to drawing attention. Still, they are just as important to the Spartans' success as the team's high-scoring trio.
Now that the regular season is over and the York men move into postseason mode, the play of defenders such as Witchey, Kennedy and Beck, and the play of Michael in goal, will likely determine if the Spartans can obtain their ultimate goal of a national championship.
Cruising to semifinal win: Wednesday evening at home in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals against Frostburg State, the top seed from York put forth a totally dominating efforts on both ends. Davis filled up the stat sheet with four goals, while the defense held the Bobcats to just three scores in an impressive 10-3 triumph.
York (17-1), ranked No. 2 nationally in NCAA Division III, advances to the CAC final at 3 p.m. Saturday, when it will host rival Salisbury (18-1, ranked No. 3). Saturday’s title game marks the fourth straight time the two programs have met in the CAC final. York won its only title in 2016, while the Sea Gulls have claimed the crown the last two seasons.
“They are kind of the standard in Division III men’s lacrosse,” York coach Brandon Childs said of Salisbury. “They are pretty strong all over. We’re going to have to win possessions and turn those possessions into opportunities to put the ball in the goal.”
York did that quite well early on against a Bobcats side that put the Spartans on their toes in the regular season during a 13-8 victory three weeks ago. In the previous clash, Frostburg (10-8) held a 5-3 lead at the intermission before York took over the game in the second half. Wednesday evening it was the hosts grabbing an early 5-0 lead after one period.
“We just try to win the game over the course of the entire 60 minutes,” Childs said. “And last time we played (Frostburg) they gave us all that we could handle. I thought we played with a lack of discipline, so today the focus point was to play disciplined and show that we valued the ball.”
Defense has been strong for York: That approach is hardly anything new in the sport. Most often, the team with the most possessions is the one that prevails. When play gets elevated at the postseason level, however, it's often how a team plays without possession that can be just as meaningful.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Davis, who was named as one of the Players of the Weeks by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) two weeks ago, pointed out the play of the defense as critical to York’s success this season.
“People look at the stats and they think that Thomas and I are the best players on the team,” said Davis, who is tied with Pfeiffer for the team lead in goals with 48. “But I do not think that about our team. Kevin, J.D., Wyatt and our goalie, Jack, are just so good on the defensive end and it just goes so unnoticed because they’re not leading the stats and scoring the goals. But they play their (butts) off.”
Spartans on a roll: York heads into its showdown with Salisbury on quite a roll. Since falling to No. 1 RIT back in mid-March, the Spartans have won 11 straight. In all but one of those triumphs (a 20-11 victory over Southern Virginia) the York men have held the opposition to single digits in scoring.
To end the Sea Gulls’ two-year reign in the CAC title game, the Spartans will have to again play a complete game. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Davis, who scored five times in York’s 11-9 triumph vs. Salisbury two weeks ago, to have another big game.
“Hunter is on quite a tear right now,” Childs said. “He’s actually most competitive person I’ve ever coached and I think he might be running out of daylight here, so to speak. You can really tell by the way he’s playing right now that he wants to keep this thing going.”
Looking to reach new heights: To hear it from Davis, his passion is somewhat fueled by the desire of his 11 fellow seniors and himself to take the York program to uncharted territory. The York men have never made it to the Final Four in men’s lacrosse. The closest they have come is the quarterfinal round back in 2016, which was Davis’ first year with the program.
“The guys (on the team) are just so cool,” Davis said. “We are just so close and I’ve never been on a team like this before. And everyone is so kind. There’s an impression that lacrosse guys are kind of stuck up, but everyone on this team is just so humble. Even the guys that don’t play in the game, they all work their butts off in practice to make us a better team.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.