York College's conference champions prepare for NCAA Tournaments

The Spartan lacrosse teams, as well as softball and women's golf, will play on after winning MAC Commonwealth titles.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

Four York College spring sports teams will compete in NCAA Division III Tournaments, with three putting their seasons on the line this week.

The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams both punched their tickets on Saturday, with the men beating Stevenson and the women defeating Messiah for the MAC Commonwealth championship. And York College softball made a miraculous run to the MACC championship over the weekend, winning five straight elimination games — including two over top-seeded Lebanon Valley — to extend their season.

The women’s golf team, meanwhile, won the rain-shortened MACC tournament at the end of April and will compete at NCAAs beginning Tuesday outside Orlando, Florida.

York College's Kiersten Blanchard (16) against Messiah during the Commonwealth Women's Lacrosse Final in York on Saturday, May 6, 2023.

Women’s lacrosse: At least two NCAA Tournament games will be held at York College’s Kinsley Field, with Stevens and Scranton squaring off at 1 p.m. Saturday for the right to play the Spartans at the same time Sunday. York College (16-3) enters the dance on an eight-game win streak and already has a victory over Stevens to its name this season.

Should the Spartans win Sunday, they’ll advance to a quarterfinal matchup against either Salisbury, Washington & Jefferson or Meredith. A clash with Salisbury, the top seed from that pod, would be a rematch from earlier this season, when the Sea Gulls shut down the Spartans, 11-5.

York senior goalie Bella Garabo has been one of the best players at any position this season, saving 56.1% of shots and winning MACC tournament MVP honors. Senior Kiersten Blanchard has led a balanced offense with 66 points (42 goals, 24 assists), while sophomore Zoe Kluegel and freshman Sydney Mentzer (York Catholic) have notched 47 and 40 goals, respectively.

Men’s lacrosse: A year after making the Final Four, York College will face an uphill battle to reach the quarterfinals this spring. Despite being a consensus top-10 team in national rankings, the Spartans have been placed in the same first-weekend pod as No. 1-ranked Tufts, which boasts an 18-0 record. York will face No. 19-ranked Cabrini at 3 p.m. Saturday in Medford, Massachusetts, for the right to play again at 3 p.m. Sunday in the round of 16.

York College celebrates a 14-9 win over Stevenson University during mens’ Middle Atlantic Conference lacrosse championship action at York College’s Kinsley Field in Spring Garden Township, Saturday, May 6, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Spartans began the season 5-5, although all five losses came against other top-10 teams and three were by a single goal. They’ve reeled off nine straight wins, culminating in a commanding performance against Stevenson in the conference title game. Cabrini (14-4) dominated Atlantic East Conference competition this year en route to a league title.

Senior Will Harnick extended his York College single-season record to 71 goals during Saturday’s victory, while sophomore Ben Mayer has posted 43 goals and 22 assists for York. Senior Vinny Facciponti has won 65.6% of his faceoffs, setting a program career record for faceoff wins in the process. Junior goalie Jack Keller has saved 60.6% of shots and the Spartans are 12-1 since he took over as the starter.

Women’s golf: The Spartans three-peated as MAC champions April 30 in Fleetwood when the second round of the two-day tournament was canceled due to unplayable course conditions after heavy rain. York had a 15-stroke lead after the first round of competition and was awarded the title.

Members of the York College women's golf team post with their MAC championship banner on Sunday at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood.

Senior Natalie Robson, who won the conference tournament for the MAC Player of the Year Award in 2021 and 2022, was third after one round this year. Freshmen Tori Blanc and Grace Strickland placed fourth and tied for fifth, respectively, to earn All-MAC first team honors. York’s conference tournament lineup featured four freshmen alongside the lone senior in Robson.

The NCAA Tournament begins Tuesday at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. York College is one of 29 teams in the field, which will be cut down to 15 after Thursday’s completion of the third round. 

Softball: York College will have a full week to celebrate its stunning run to the MACC title, as the NCAA bracket will not be revealed until next Monday. But after finishing the regular season just above .500, the Spartans know there’s more softball to play.

After closing the regular season with six straight conference wins and earning the No. 3 seed in the league tournament, York College moved to the brink of elimination with Thursday’s 9-4 loss to Messiah. The Spartans extended their weekend with a 2-0 triumph over Eastern and a 4-2 revenge victory over Messiah on Friday. Needing to beat top-seeded tournament host Lebanon Valley twice Saturday, York summoned the strength for two upsets, winning 4-3 and 5-4 to take the title.

The Spartans jumped out to early leads and held on both times against the Dutchmen. York took a 4-1 lead in Saturday’s first game and pitcher Amanda Criss worked around 13 hits (all singles) for a complete-game victory. She came right back and tossed another compete game in the finale, and York College’s five-run second inning withstood a three-run rally from LVC in the sixth.

Criss improved to 13-7 on the year with a 1.94 ERA and 18 complete games in 20 starts for the Spartans. Natalie Rietema has been a steady second starter, posting a 2.70 ERA and 10-9 record. Alyssa Harhigh has been the offensive star, slashing .372/.500/.645 with seven of York’s 11 home runs and 19 of the team’s 38 steals.


The weekend wasn’t quite as fortunate for the Spartan baseball team, which was eliminated from the MACC tournament by Lebanon Valley in a two-game sweep. York College fell to the No. 5 seed with last Tuesday’s loss at Widener, and after rebounding with a 7-5 win over Messiah in the play-in game, the Spartans met their match in the tournament’s top seed.

The Dutchmen took Saturday’s contest 8-2, pulling away with five runs in the fifth inning. On Sunday morning, York scored twice in the fourth and fifth to take a 4-2 lead into the final frame. But with two on and two outs, LVC’s Logan Brewer — a Biglerville graduate — blasted a three-run homer to end the Spartans’ season in a flash.

York College finished the campaign 20-20. Among the departing seniors are outfielder Robby Elzinga (Northeastern) and pitcher Zach Reed (South Western).