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York’s boys soccer team is coming off one of its biggest out-of-conference wins in years, defeating a stacked Chancellor squad that returned 17 players from last year’s team that advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals.
The victory marked the end of York’s pre-spring break schedule, and expectations for this year’s team are starting to rise with the Falcons sitting at 6-0 on the season.
By the metrics – quality starters, big-game experience, a deep bench and solid coaching – the Falcons are set up for a deep postseason run, one that might yield a state tournament appearance for York.
Should the Falcons break through and make the state tournament, it would be ending a string of near misses in postseason play.
With a lineup composed heavily of freshmen, many of whom are now seniors on this year’s team, the Falcons suffered a down year in 2013, falling in the Bay Rivers District quarterfinals.
In 2014, York rebounded and found itself playing Culpeper for a spot in the state tournament, a game the Falcons ultimately lost 2-0. Most recently, York’s season came to a disappointing close last year during a 4-3 loss in overtime to Kettle Run in a regional semifinal game that would have guaranteed the Falcons a spot in the state tournament.
York has never won a state championship in boys soccer and has not made the state tournament since 1996.
Those near misses, when paired with York’s hot start this season, have York Coach Ryan Hagerty hoping this is the year his Falcons can reach new heights in the postseason.
“The last couple of years, we were one win away from reaching the state tournament. Those are really the hardest games to lose,” Hagerty said. “When you’ve been so close so many times … that’s been the most difficult thing.”
This year’s talent-laden roster has been masterminded by Hagerty, who forced senior standouts like Max Poelker, Gavin Homan, Bailey McClure and Cameron Dail to see early action as freshmen during the 2013 season.
York struggled in the short term as the freshmen became accustomed to playing at the varsity level in the Bay Rivers District, which Hagerty called “one of the best around.” However, Hagerty’s plan of building for the future is finally coming to fruition with one of the most experienced rosters in the area.
“We took some lumps and we took some bruises, but we knew down the line there would be some optimism going forward,” Hagerty said about his plan to build the team. “You kind of have to see long range instead of short range.”
With his ideal roster assembled, Hagerty has also started scheduling tougher teams, such as Chancellor and Group 6A opponent Frank W. Cox — York is a Group 3A school — earlier in the season. Hagerty’s hope is to have York prepared for whatever talented teams they might face during a regional or state tournament game.
Some of York’s seniors, including Poelker and Homan, feel this year’s team is more experienced and prepared to handle a postseason run than in previous seasons because of the early challenges they have faced.
And while York’s players and coaches are happy with their 6-0 start, they are far from satisfied. Everyone in York’s program knows there is a long and difficult road ahead of them, especially if they plan on making a run to the state tournament.
“We can’t let this [start] get our heads too high,” Poelker said. “We have to come back from spring break ready to go and with more intensity.”