York is the three-time defending CAC men’s soccer champions, but the Spartans have taken different paths in each of those years on the way to winning the playoff title. Each time, Salisbury was a factor in the Spartans’ championship charge.
The Spartans finished second in the regular season in 2009, but top-seeded Salisbury, which tied YCP in the regular season, was upended in the conference semifinals, giving YCP a home game in the title match. In 2010, top-seeded York captured the crown by defeating Salisbury in a title-game shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw. Last year, the third-place Spartans needed two road wins, including a 1-0 championship game decision at Salisbury, to three-peat as CAC champs.
The historical strength of the CAC is led by York, Salisbury and Mary Washington. The Spartans and Sea Gulls have each won five playoff titles in the last 10 years. One or the other, and six times both teams, have played in the CAC championship game every year since 1993.
Mary Washington preceded York as a dominant team throughout the 1990s, winning eight of the first 11 championships and playing in the title game 11 of the first 12 years of the CAC. Second-year coach Jason Kilby is aiming to get the Eagles back in the title game for the first time since 2006.
Strong teams at Frostburg State, Marymount, St. Mary’s and Wesley give the CAC no easy games during conference play. Three have veteran coaches who have led their teams deep into conference playoffs in the past, and SMC second-year coach Alun Oliver is a four-time All-CAC honoree for the Seahawks who served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for several years before taking over the reigns of the program.
The season opens for the seven teams, primarily with tournaments and a few non-conference matches, on Labor Day Weekend. CAC play kicks off on Sept. 15, with teams trying to battle for the six playoff openings. The first round of the CAC Tournament is slated for Oct. 28, with the title game scheduled for Nov. 3. The CAC champion earns an automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Here is a glimpse at each CAC team heading into the 2012 campaign:
Frostburg State showed vast improvement in its second year in the league last fall (11-3-5) and the Bobcats should be even better this season with the return of seven starters. The Bobcats also return two All-CAC performers from a year ago that happened to be the team’s top scorers. Seniors Ryan Russell, the CAC Player of the Year, and Shawn Baker should be the cornerstones for FSU’s run at a CAC Title.
Looking to rebound from an off year, Marymount will rely on their experienced defense to lead them this season with a senior laden backfield. Senior defenders Darian Chuquillangui and Edwin Rivera, both of whom missed out on the 2012 season with injuries, are back to team with returners Chris Piriz and Remy Torrico. Senior Mike Madigan is back between the pipes for the Saints with junior Alexander Cortez competing for playing time. Manning the midfield will be senior Santiago Canseco and juniors Nick Gruber, Cory Van Heest and Onar Yousefi.
Under the direction of second year head coach Jason Kilby, Mary Washington will look to continue its development into one of the top programs in the region in 2012. The Eagle defense will welcome the return of All-CAC junior David Heller, as well as sophomore goalie Tyler Back, and defenders Matt Willett, Tommy Sangbouasy and Kevin Shavalay. Offensively, sophomores Nick Shepherd and Jacob Doyle and senior Omar Ismail will provide experince up front.
Coming off of the regular season Capital Athletic Conference championship in 2011, Salisbury will look to build upon that success with the return of all five 2011 All-CAC selections. Senior goalkeeper John Vnenchak, senior midfielder Jimmy Mundy, junior forward Trevor Sharpe and junior defender Larry Cornish earned first-team honors a year ago while junior defender Chase Humphrey was selected to the second team. Along with conference success, the Sea Gulls also aim to return to the NCAA tournament for the 11th time in program history.
Second-year head coach Alun Oliver leads a young squad in 2012, comprised of 14 returning letterwinners and 13 newcomers. The Seahawks hope to build upon last season's strong performance as the team's leading scorer, Matt Braun, and starting goalkeeper, Austin Brown, are back to lead St. Mary's back to the CAC Tournament.
Always a contender in the CAC, the Wolverines and head coach Steve Clark will look to advance to the conference tournament for the fifth time since joining the league in 2007. Helping their cause should be the return of Joshua Chelleh, who led the CAC with 11 assists while finishing second in points (27) and third in goals (eight). Fourteen other letterwinners also return to Wesley, who opens their 2012 campaign at the Johns Hopkins Tournament on September 1-2 against Rutgers-Camden and William Paterson.
The three-time defending CAC Champion York College Spartans enter the 2012 campaign with a wealth of talent highlighted by a trio of returning All-CAC first-team players. Forward Antonio Bua, centerback Aaron Beale, and midfielder Cody Pearson. The Spartans finished last year on a roll as they went 8-1-2 over the final 11 games after their uncharacteristic 3-5-3 start. Also returning for the Spartans are juniors Matt Yackel (2010 CAC Rookie-of-the-Year), Taylor Brummitt, and Austin Johnson.