Success has become the expectation for Betsy Witman's York College women's basketball program.
The 2014-15 season was a rare exception.
A young, inexperienced, injury-plagued Spartans' squad struggled a bit last season, finishing 12-15 overall. It was just the second losing season in the past decade for York.
Now, a year older and wiser, the Spartans appear poised to reclaim their normal perch among the elite teams in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Witman's Spartans are off to 4-0 start this season, including an impressive 74-69 overtime triumph over traditional power McDaniel on Sunday in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic title game at the Grumbacher Center. McDaniel entered that game at 3-0 and is coming off a 24-4 season.
Over the years, Witman has fueled her program through a pipeline of York County recruits. This year's unit is no different.
Her 18-team roster features seven county players, with many of them playing pivotal roles. Four of Witman's top five scorers are former York-Adams League standouts.
“We try to get the best of the best in York County,” Witman said. “We're really happy to keep them right here.”
York's undisputed leader is 6-foot, 1-inch junior forward Sam Hruz from White Marsh, Maryland, who was the CVC MVP. She's averaging 16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
The next top four York scorers are local women: Red Lion High School graduate Morgan Kuehne at 11.3 points per game, Susquehannock grad Katie Wagner at 11.0 ppg, York Catholic grad Karli McFatridge at 7.8 ppg and West York grad Sarah Shearer at 6.3 ppg. Shearer and McFatridge are juniors, while Wagner and Kuehne are sophomores. The other York County players on the roster are all freshman: Dallastown grad Debria Hendricks, Dallastown grad Katie McGowan and York Country Day grad Logynn Fuller.
“We have a really strong junior class,” Witman said. “Their leadership is tremendous. They learned a lot last year and really stepped up this year. They worked hard over the summer.”
Witman doesn't want to get carried away just four games into the season, but she said she's not surprised by her team's strong start.
“The girls are playing pretty well so far,” she said. “It hasn't always been pretty, but they've found a way to win.”
Witman expressed concern about her team's shooting (just 39.6 percent from field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range) and turnovers (20.5 per game).
“It's hard to believe we're 4-0 when you look at the statistics,” she said.
Those weaknesses, however, have been offset by some real strengths.
“We're playing really good defense and and rebounding the ball well,” Witman said. “We also have very good depth compared to some of the teams we've come up against. We're going to get quality minutes off the bench.”
The numbers bear that out. York is outrebounding its opponents by more than 10 rebounds per game and holding foes to 32.7 percent shooting from the field, including 26.1 percent from 3-point range. In addition, York has six players averaging 5.0 points per game, or higher. None of those players are seniors, which bodes well for next season, as well.
As for this season, if York can improve its shooting and take care of the ball, while continuing to rebound and defend well, the outlook looks extremely promising.
“It's a long season and we don't like to overwhelm the players with too many goals, but our goals are always the same — to win the CAC and get to the NCAA (Division III) Tournament. But it's a process.”
Capturing a CAC title won't be easy. York tied for fifth in the conference a season ago and was picked to finish fourth by the league's coaches in the preseason.
The Spartans, however, may have a secret weapon in their efforts to exceed those expectations.
“We have really good chemistry on our team,” Witman said. “They women really support each other and are friends on and off the court.”
That type of camaraderie can come in handy during a long, hard season.
There's no doubt that the Spartans are off to a surprisingly good start. A few months from now we'll find out how well they can finish what they've started.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.