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2020-21: A Penn College year of overcoming celebrated

After a quiet start, Pennsylvania College of Technology athletes had a roaring finish.

A 2020-21 school year that began with the fall and winter sports seasons being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic ended with an unprecedented spring that saw new heights reached.

In marking the college’s seventh season as a member of the North Eastern Athletic Conference and fourth as a full-fledged member of NCAA Division III, two Wildcat teams – men’s golf and women’s softball – competed in NCAA tournaments after winning conference championships while the men’s lacrosse team finished second in the NEAC during its first season and the baseball and women’s tennis teams reached the conference semifinals.

Individually, Penn College had (as of May 30):

  • Thirteen All-NEAC first-team selections.
  • Twelve All-NEAC second-team honorees.
  • Six NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team honorees.
  • Two All-Region softball honorees.
  • Two NEAC Coaches of the Year.
  • One All-Region baseball honoree.
  • The NEAC co-Golfer of the Year.
  • The NEAC Men’s Lacrosse Newcomer of the Year.
  • The NEAC Men’s Tennis Player of the Year.

“We had an amazing year given the circumstances with COVID. In realizing we lost two seasons with fall and winter being canceled due to COVID, our student-athletes, coaches and staff still did amazing things this past year,” Director of Athletics John Vandevere said.

“We have renovated the athletic training room and the adjoining office for the athletic trainers. UPMC Field had shot clocks installed. We will also be renovating both the athletics office suite and wrestling room this summer after receiving a generous donation for those projects,” Vandevere continued.

“(In addition to the individual athletic accomplishments) Academically, we broke even more records, recording our largest semester GPA with a 3.31 in the spring, which brought our overall department GPA to a 3.26 (which is again another record). Fifteen of our 16 teams had a GPA above 3.0, 88 student-athletes made the Dean’s List and 33 students had a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring semester. We also inducted 23 members into the Chi Alpha Sigma National Honor Society for student-athletes. This is all during a COVID year where learning was a little more difficult than normal, our student-athletes were just amazing this year!” Vandevere said.

“We also had amazing success in our community. The athletic department contributed 1,336 hours to community service, raised $6,419.61 and had 1,069 total participants. The money raised was our highest ever for charity!” Vandevere said.

“What I am most proud of is that, as a department, we persevered and rose to the occasion in beating COVID,” he continued. “We had amazing success with testing protocols with phenomenal support from the Victor Group, Ellen Cero from Health Services and from our three athletic trainers – Derrick Winters, Meridith Boucher and Kaitlin Bottorf.

“We went the last two months of testing without one positive test. (For) eight consecutive weeks and (for the) duration, we only had five test positive for COVID. Our Tier I personnel made significant sacrifices so they could participate in the game they love, and I could not be more proud of them and what they all accomplished this past season and year. I will always remember this year, not only for COVID but for what we accomplished through it.”

A sport-by-sport review of the 2020-21 year (alphabetically) for Penn College teams, most of which played a conference-only schedule:

Baseball
In their 15th season under coach Chris Howard, the Wildcats finished 10-13 and reached the NEAC semifinals before bowing out as Howard saw his career mark go to 299-206.

“You always want to win the last game you play but I’m excited about the future. And one of the reasons we have a bright future is because of what seniors like Brittan Kittle, Ethan Ketterman, Brayden Lippert, Christian Perna and Joe Fatzinger helped build,” Howard said.

Kittle, of Millville, and Ben Bretzman, of Bendersville, were named to the NEAC first team, and Jacob Carles, of Bernville, was named to the NEAC second team. Kittle was also named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Division III All-Region Mid-Atlantic third team, becoming the first Wildcat in program history to earn an all-region honor. He leaves Penn College as its all-time leader in hits (169), home runs (22), runs scored (113) and doubles (43). And Connor Burke, of St. Clair, was named to the NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

Basketball (men)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. In three seasons under coach Geoff Hensley, the Wildcats are 10-41.

Basketball (women)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. In two seasons under coach Britni Mohney, the Wildcats are 7-17.

Cross-country (men/women)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Esports
In its first full season as a varsity sport, at the third annual PA Cup Championships in February with competition among 11 schools and 17 counterparts, Penn College’s Overwatch team finished third.

“The PA Cup is a special event for our esports team. In 2019, the PA Cup was the first competition for our team and me as head coach,” Joshua Young said. “In 2020, we just opened the Wildcat Den, our esports facility, on the week of the PA Cup. We made it to the finals and finished fourth. This year didn’t disappoint.”

During the NACE Overwatch Fall Cup, after a 6-4 regular season Penn College reached the playoffs and finished 17th out of 85 teams. In GBCC Overwatch Cup, it placed second in the league with a 5-1 record.

Looking ahead, Young said, fall tryouts are scheduled for League of Legends on Aug. 23, Overwatch on Aug. 24, Rocket League on Aug. 25, Valorant and Fortnite on Aug. 26, and Apex Legends on Aug. 27.

Golf
Although the fall season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, coach Matt Haile’s 12th edition more than made up for it with a spring season that included winning the NEAC crown and becoming the first Penn College team to compete in the national tournament.

Kohltin Bartlow, of Montgomery, was the co-medalist and co-Golfer of the Year in the NEAC and tied for 71st among 191 players at nationals. Bartlow and Sean McNamara, of Lancaster, were named to the NEAC first team while Alex Acree, of Brookville, was named to the NEAC second team. Bartlow was also named to the NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

“One thing I’ve always loved about coaching here is the fact that we have welders, diesel technology, construction management students – your typical blue-collar workers – that can compete with the best of them. I think players that may have passed on our programs will see the opportunity of competing at the national level. This is our first time as a program advancing, but I don’t see it as our last and I look to keep building upon this in the future,” said Haile, who was honored as the NEAC Coach of the Year.

Men’s lacrosse
In their first-ever season, the Wildcats went 4-1 during the regular season and finished 4-2 after reaching the conference championship under first-year coach Jordan Williams, who also was in his rookie season as a head coach.

“This season exceeded all of our expectations on and off the field. We transitioned from a club program and found success at (the) Division III level right away, which no one including myself saw coming. I am extremely grateful for the young men who took the leap of faith to be a part of year one. We look forward to building off the solid foundation we laid this year with the addition of our incoming class and are excited about the opportunity to compete for a NEAC title again next season,” said Williams, who was named the NEAC Coach of the Year.

Also for the Wildcats, Daniel Jackson, of Phoenixville, was named the NEAC Newcomer of the Year while he and Quinn Caviola, of Ridgefield, Connecticut; Benjamin Guaragno, of Spring Grove; Angelo Varcadipane, of Boonton, New Jersey, were named to the NEAC first team and Stephen Lepore, of Palmyra; Danny Harkins, of North Wales; Dylan Klemas, of Narvon; Isaac Hernandez, of Monroe Township, New Jersey; and Andrew Gobbi, of Haymarket, Virginia, were named to the NEAC second team. And Graham Purdy, of Hillsborough, New Jersey, was named to the NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

Soccer (men)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. In six seasons under coach Tyler Mensch the Wildcats are 28-61-6.

Soccer (women)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. In three seasons under coach Christa Matlack the Wildcats are 22-17-1.

Softball (women)
Guided by coach Angie Hunley, Penn College captured its first NEAC title and represented the conference in a NCAA Division III Regional tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where, despite going winless in two games, Hunley termed it “a fantastic learning experience!”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team. They earned this experience and will certainly pave the way for the future of the Wildcat Softball program!!” Hunley added of her squad, which went 19-5 and finished among the top 48 of 414 DIII teams in the country.

“I can’t wait until next year to build on what we did this year. Returning as many players as we are, we expect to be competitive. We expect to give ourselves the opportunity to come right back to a competition like this,” added Hunley, whose teams have gone 24-9 in two seasons.

Several Wildcats earned postseason awards as Olivia Hemstock, of Northford, Connecticut; Kyla Benner, of Bethlehem; Jordan Specht, of Frederick, Maryland; Margaret Mangene, of Boalsburg, were named to the NEAC first team and Ivvy Morder, of Mechanicsburg, was named to the NEAC second team. Also, Hemstock and Specht were named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Northeast All-Region third team; Lesley Fritz, of Muncy, was named to the NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional All-Tournament team; and Hemstock was named to the NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

Tennis (men/women)
After the fall seasons were canceled due to the pandemic, coach Jessica Bower’s teams rebounded with nice springs as the women ended 2-3 (2-2 during the regular season) and the men 1-4, although Tucker Phillippe-Johansson, of Mattituck, New York, became the first Penn College men’s No. 1 player to complete a perfect 5-0 season.

“The ladies had their best season in years and that is something to be very proud of. I am very proud of every player because they all fought hard,” Bower said.

Phillippe-Johansson was named the NEAC Player of the Year and also named to the conference’s All-Sportsmanship Team. He also was named to the NEAC first team while earning second-team honors were men Daniel Gianelle, of Salisbury, Maryland, at No. 6 singles; Gianelle/Tommy Cavanagh, of New Hope, at No. 3 doubles; and women Georgia Macensky, of Wellsboro, at No. 3 singles, and Marcie Harman, of Nescopeck, at No. 6 singles. Harman also was named to the NEAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

In her two and a half seasons, Bower’s men’s teams have gone 7-11 and her women’s teams 4-14.

Volleyball (women)
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Wrestling
Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. In four seasons under coach Jamie Miller, the Wildcats are 25-56.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

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