York College men's lacrosse puts it all together to win MAC Commonwealth title
The Spartans topped Stevenson, 14-9, to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It was a good day,” York College men’s lacrosse coach Brandon Childs said, “for sure.”
Indeed it was for Childs and his No. 9-ranked Spartans on Saturday afternoon at Kinsley Field. Playing perhaps one of their better games, if not their most complete, of the 2023 campaign, the York men dominated MAC Commonwealth conference rival Stevenson in the league’s championship contest.
Spearheaded by the trio of Jack Grayson, Will Harnick and Jacob Wilhelm, the Spartans overcame a slow start over the first three minutes of play with a six-goal spurt that propelled York to its third straight MAC Commonwealth crown with a 14-9 triumph.
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By capturing the league title, the Spartans — who have won nine straight to improve to 14-5 — assured themselves a berth in the upcoming NCAA Division III Tournament. The bracket was revealed Sunday night, with York College opening its tournament against Cabrini at the campus of No. 1-seed Tufts. The Spartans' first game will be Saturday, with a potential second contest Sunday.
“I think it was the first time all year where ... I don’t know how to exactly put it into words, but we just had the right energy,” Childs said. “We played like a pretty clean game in all facets. There were times during the year where the offense was pretty great, but the defense wasn’t quite there and vice versa. But we picked a good day where it all seemed to come together.”
After falling behind 2-0, the trio of upperclassmen quickly made things right. Grayson got the hosts on the board 76 seconds after the Mustangs stunned the home faithful with their quick start. Harnick put York up 3-2 with a pair of scores in a 49-second span before Grayson scored on the man-advantage to make it 4-2.
Wilhelm finally got into the act late in the first period as the midfielder found the net twice to extend York’s lead to 6-2 and erase Stevenson’s early momentum.
“That first possession after they went up 2-0 was a really good possession for us,” Childs said. “We worked the ball around to get a good shot and then Jack scored. I think the guys just responded with their play instead of anything that was said to them on the sidelines.”
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It was no shock to Childs that Harnick was one of the catalysts in the quick turnaround in the first period. The senior attacker scored four times Saturday to extend his school-record mark of 71 goals for the campaign.
“Harnick has really been the story for us,” Childs said. “He has the school record, which was 60 coming into the season, and he’s well beyond that. He’s kind of led us all year long, but it seems like every game we have someone else step up and pitch in. And Wilhelm and Grayson, two seniors as well, shouldn’t be a surprise that they did it in the conference championship game.”
The Mustangs cut the deficit to three a couple of times but were never able to string together a streak as York’s draw controls (14-of-25) and defense (10 caused turnovers) refused to allow a comeback.
Now Childs and his squad will gear up for NCAA bracket play next weekend. Despite being a consensus top-10 team in national rankings, the Spartans did not earn a home contest and were paired with unbeaten No. 1-seed Tufts in the round of 16. After making the Final Four a year ago, York's five losses — all to other top-10 nationally ranked foes — proved costly in seeding.
“I really don’t know,” said Childs, who has led York to the NCAA Tournament eight times, after Sunday's win. “We’re such a fascinating team, because we’re ranked ninth in the country, but in the eyes of the NCAA criteria we’re not that high. One-goal losses to some really good teams let the voters in the polls know that we are (good), but maybe not in the eyes of the NCAA. Usually I think I have my hand on the pulse with this sort of thing, but this year is pretty different.”