York College field hockey tops DeSales in first-ever NCAA Tournament game

The Spartans earned a 4-2 home victory and a matchup against No. 1-seed Salisbury on Saturday morning.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

Sure, there were some nerves.

After all, the York College field hockey team was playing in, and hosting, its first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament contest Wednesday evening against DeSales University at Kinsley Field.

Those nerves, however, quickly wore off after the opening few minutes of action. They gave way to a frantic game that saw five goals scored in the first half. And when it was all said and done, the York College women added one last tally in the fourth period to claim an impressive 4-2 triumph in front of their home fans.

York College's Sara Pique (13) against Alvernia University during their semi-final field hockey game in York on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

Wednesday’s victory — a school-record 16th of the season — earned the Spartans (16-5) a ticket to the second round against No. 1-seeded Salisbury at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“I feel like this has been a long time coming,” senior Hannah Huffman said. “This team and our captains and this year …we’ve all kind of just bought into this culture, and I feel that’s why we’re having the success we have.”

Part of that culture includes staying focused on the game plan, and the plan was clear early. The No. 13-ranked Spartans, who earned an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing second in the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth, took the action to the MAC Freedom champs from the get-go, registering a 10-1 edge in shots in the first period.

Despite the aggressive start, the York women found themselves even after the first 15 minutes. Much like they’ve done all season long, the Spartans kept their collective foot on the gas in the second period, scoring twice more to gain a 3-1 lead. York College continued to press and attack, which led to a 21-3 edge in shots on goal in the first half.

“The intensity definitely picked up from the start, just knowing that this could be our last game,” Huffman said. “But we all kind of just kept it calm and treated it like a regular game.”

While the defense has been stingy all season, the Spartans were stung twice by DeSales in the first half. Shortly after goals 28 seconds apart from Maggie Spadafora and Connie Harburda, the Bulldogs earned a penalty corner before clawing back to 3-2 with 2:23 left in the half.

After intermission, the play wasn’t nearly as one-sided, as York held just a 7-5 edge in shots on goal. The Spartans, however, were able to fend off a more aggressive DeSales side, keeping the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half to lock down the victory.

“We came in and had this game plan,” York coach Katie Fost said. “So, it was just like, ‘Let’s go out and execute it.' And we did.”

Now the Spartans move on to face Salisbury for a familiar rivalry matchup. The teams are former Capital Athletic Conference foes, and they also played earlier this season, with the Sea Gulls earning a 1-0 victory over York on Oct. 5.

“Salisbury is always a fun team to play,” Huffman said. “But this one just means a little bit more.”