York College women's soccer rolls into MAC Commonwealth final with 5-1 win
The Spartans rolled past Lebanon Valley, setting up a title matchup with Messiah on Saturday.
It was certainly a good night to be a York College Spartan.
Shortly after the Spartans' field hockey team punched a ticket to the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth championship game with a home win, the women’s soccer team did the same.
The hosts quickly removed any potential drama from the equation in their semifinal clash with Lebanon Valley College. The Spartans scored two goals in a two-minute span to take control before adding a trio of tallies in the second half to roll to an impressive 5-1 victory.
York College (12-3-4) moves on to the final opposite Messiah, a 4-0 winner over Widener in the other MAC Commonwealth semifinal. The Spartans will travel to Grantham, Cumberland County, on Saturday for the final against the Falcons, a team that will be looking for revenge after York earned a 1-0 win earlier this season.
Head coach Kelly Wakeman's team entered the tournament coming off a 1-0 home win over Lebanon Valley last Saturday. But the Spartans knew they had to take care of business again.
“We did gain a few players back who were injured when we saw them (last Saturday),” Wakeman said. “But soccer is a funny game. You can be out there and creating all these opportunities, but you have to find the back of the net. To me, it speaks to the mental fortitude of the team to keep persisting even though they may not have capitalized on those early chances.”
York outshot LVC by a 7-1 clip over the first 25 minutes of action but had nothing to show for it. The continued pressure, however, resulted in the game’s first tally as Ashlynn Weger scored her fifth goal of the season off a header pass by Erin Snyder off of a corner attempt.
The celebration of Weger’s goal barely concluded before the Spartans went up 2-0 on a blast from the foot of Makayla Harper. It was the senior’s fifth shot of the contest already, which came just two minutes and 15 seconds after Weger’s.
Leading 2-1 at the break, the Spartans put an exclamation point on the victory with three goals over a five-plus minute stretch midway through the second half. Senior Anna Morton (Spring Grove) scored the final two goals to send the hometown fans into a frenzy.
“You have to credit our seniors,” Wakeman said. “They are the ones that really saw us through it.”
Wakeman is hoping to see an encore performance Saturday as her squad takes on a Messiah squad that has been the pinnacle of the MAC Commonwealth over the past two decades. The Falcons had an over two-decade unbeaten streak in MAC play (150 contests) broken back on Oct. 12, when the Spartans scored a huge win for Wakeman and the program.
Prior to that loss, the last time Messiah lost a regular season game in the conference was back in 2000 against Moravian, a team that featured Wakeman among its standouts.
“Yeah, we ended a streak of over 22 years,” Wakeman said. “But, to me, you want to play your best soccer at the end of the year, and you want your team to maximize their performance. I just want to give them the very best season that they can have and putting the right pieces in play.”
One of those pieces was Morton, who missed Saturday’s contest with LVC due to a concussion.
“At least, from watching on the bench, I don’t think we were finishing as much as we could,” Morton said. “We had a lot of chances at the goal, but we just couldn’t finish, but today that’s what we did.”
Morton certainly did, as she had no reservations about playing in what could be her last home match.
“I was like, ‘This might be the last game of my career, so I’m just going to go out there and give it my best,'” Morton said.
It will take a similar effort to dethrone a Messiah team that had never lost to the Spartans prior to Oct. 12. While the Falcons may have revenge on their collective minds, the YCP women are looking to check off a big item of their own — a berth into the NCAA draw.
“I just think Saturday’s game is so important,” Morton said. “It’s one that could get us into the NCAA Tournament, but it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to go out there and execute our game plan and really just play true to ourselves. I really believe that this is the best soccer that we’ve been playing all season long.”