York College field hockey advances past Alvernia to MAC Commonwealth final

The No. 15 Spartans will play No. 10 Messiah in the final on Saturday.

Ryan Vandersloot
For the York Dispatch

There was no stopping the York College field hockey team Wednesday evening.

Taking on Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth rival Alvernia at Kinsley Field in a conference tournament semifinal, the Spartans had laser-like focus on advancing to Saturday's title game.

After a scoreless first quarter, near-disaster struck York College, as two players were given yellow cards in the second quarter. That effectively put the Spartans down two players for nearly three full minutes, a span in which the Golden Wolves cashed in for the game’s first goal.

Instead of hanging their heads, the York women responded. Or, more accurately, dominated.

The Spartans tilted the field in the third stanza, striking for two goals — a penalty stroke by Lindsay Cowan and the go-ahead goal by Maycee Collison — two minutes apart. The visitors couldn’t mount much of a rally, as York College put the clamps on the Alvernia attack and held the Wolves without a shot on goal to secure a thrilling 2-1 triumph.

York College's Mya Gerena (8) against Alvernia University during their semi-final field hockey game in York on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

The No. 15-ranked Spartans (15-4) will now take on backyard rival Messiah, a 6-1 winner over Albright in the other MAC semifinal. Saturday’s final — the first MAC title contest in program history for York — will be hosted by the No. 10 Falcons with a 1 p.m. start time. A victory would give the Spartans an automatic invite to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time in school history.

“I’m really happy with how we went out and performed,” York coach Katie Fost said. “Unfortunate circumstances caused us to be two players down and they got a goal, but I’m really proud of the fight and culture that the girls dug into. They said, ‘Hey, we’re not done here,’ and they went out hard in that third quarter.”

That third stanza was vintage York hockey, as the Spartans dictated the flow of the action over the 15-minute period. York outshot Alvernia by a 7-0 margin in the quarter, with Cowan getting the team even on a penalty stroke.

Cowan, who was one of the two players to get a card in the second quarter, made amends as she scored her third penalty stroke tally in as many chances this season.

“We knew that Lindsay has been doing big things for us when we get to penalty strokes,” Fost said. “She’s someone that has a lot of confidence out there. People can scout strokes, but if it’s a good stroke, it’s going to go in. So, we know that when Lindsay is at the stroke mark that we have a really good chance to score.”

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Cowan’s tally was exactly the jolt York College needed. The Spartans immediately pressured the Golden Wolves' next possession, earning a turnover that eventually led to Collison’s game-winning goal.

“We always say that for the next two minutes (after a goal), to play our game,” Collison said. “And just play as hard as we can.”

Collison did that, as she made a beeline for the edge of the crease. York was able to move the ball up the field quickly, allowing Collison to get into position.

“I kind of just ran in (to the crease) and I saw an opening and I said, ‘I got it,’” Collison said. “I just went in and it took a few taps, but I finally found an opening and pushed it to the left corner and it went in.”

Wednesday’s victory tied the school record for wins in a season at 15, a mark set back in 1998. It also advanced the Spartans to a conference title game for the third time in program history. The previous two appearances — both setbacks — occurred in the Capital Athletic Conference against rival Salisbury.

With a chance to earn a berth into the NCAA draw, Fost and her crew will have to get past a Messiah side that earned a 3-2 overtime victory when the teams met on Oct. 12. The York coach was quick to point out a few key areas where her team will need to improve if they hope to better the previous outcome.

“We’ll be looking to fine-turn our outlets,” Fost said. “We got stuck down in our corner and had a hard time attacking out of that. So, we’ll be looking to do that as well as be smarter with our substitutions. In a game like that, it’ll be incredibly fast and our kids are going to need the opportunity to breath a little bit. It’s going to be a chess match of when to put people in and pull people out.”