ARMOLD: Scheffey sees something to build on during first year at York College
Evan Scheffey had just watched his first season as head coach of the York College men's soccer team end in cruel fashion Wednesday.
So it would have been justified if the coach wanted no part of looking toward the future, just yet.
Scheffey, however, was able to quickly translate his inaugural season into a positive light, focusing on the pleasing path his team is taking toward achieving his goals.
Coming into the season, Scheffey was given the tough task of restoring his alma mater to a winning tradition set in place by his predecessor, Mark Ludwig.
The Spartans are one of the more respected programs in NCAA, Division III, having made nine straight trips to the NCAA tournament from 2005-2013.
Scheffey was one of Ludwig's defensive standouts, a four-year starter, three-year captain and two-time CAC champion during his time from 2005 through 2008.
York has also won the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament eight times, capturing the crown each year during a stretch running from 2009 to 2013.
In 2014, however, York posted a 7-6-5 mark and missed the postseason. So, the first order of business for Scheffey was returning the Spartans to their annual spot in playoff action.
Things didn't get off to a great start for Scheffey, but he recognized his team's rebound as a building block in his quest to restore school glory on the pitch.
"It's tough to swallow a loss this soon," Scheffey said Wednesday before reflecting on the year. "But the way I look at it, we started 2-6-1 our first nine games, played some good competition, had the lead in a few and didn't finish. Credit to these guys, they were resilient, they persisted, we turned things around. I think there's a lot of pieces going forward."
A 7-1-1 finish to the regular season propelled the Spartans back into the postseason.
Phase one was now complete.
Strong senior class: Still, given York's past, Scheffey's goals include chasing a CAC title as well as the priority for all teams — an NCAA crown.
He knows such things won't come overnight, but gives credit to his senior class for helping lay the foundation.
"Getting back (to the CAC playoffs) was the biggest thing," Scheffey said of his goals for his first year at the helm. "It's our job as a coaching staff to set standards and expectations. We're looking for a group of guys to continue working toward those expectations."
Even though it came in such a painful way, Wednesday's loss can also help keep things moving in the right direction.
A younger group now has the added motivation that such an experience can provide. And in an odd way, confidence can be extracted from tough losses as well. This growing group should now have faith in its ability to compete at a high level.
The Spartans will also be armed with the knowledge of how to face adversity going forward. Not just on a game-to-game micro scale, but on the macro level, knowing how to manage the ebbs and flows of the season.
However, continuing to move the momentum forward will be a tall task.
End of career for Suburban grad: Wednesday's loss saw the conclusion of seven Spartan careers, including that of center back Ryan Donahue, a York Suburban graduate.
The captain's end came in the most excruciating fashion — a mishap in the defensive zone by the steadiest of Spartan defenders resulted in St. Mary's lone goal of a 1-0 overtime win.
But Scheffey was quick to laud Donahue's contributions to the program, noting the play was anything but exemplary of what the team has gotten from the defensive stalwart.
"Ryan's been a stud for us all year. Even being a great player, he's been a great leader," Scheffey said of Donahue. "He's really grown into that leadership role for us through the year. He's saved us more times than I can count this year."
Looking ahead: York will also see the departure of forward Brendan Saberton, who tied for the team lead this season with six goals. Greg Bechard, who finished third on the team with five goals, will also be gone.
The Spartans will look to junior Nigel Robinson as the offensive leader next year. Robinson tied Saberton for the team lead in goals scored with six of his own.
Sophomore Joel Teston returns his team-leading eight assists next year to help Robinson lead the attack.
Anchoring the defense will be Charlie Johnson, who will be back for his senior season in net.
In all, the Spartans look to be in good hands with Scheffey at the helm and eight starters from Wednesday's match slated to return.
"We have some good younger players and good younger leaders to build around moving forward. But certainly, the seven seniors helped continue the tradition that's been established over the past few decades here," Scheffey said.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org; @EADispatch on Twitter.