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Eyeing a better new year, student-athletes persevere in ‘preseason’

During a normal October, Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s and women’s basketball players and wrestlers are highly anticipating their November season openers.

Not this year.

After the college and the North Eastern Athletic Conference announced that it had postponed all winter sports through the rest of 2020, Wildcat coaches and athletes are taking a different approach while holding out hope that competition can begin after the new year.

Wrestling
“We are still working hard and practicing as best we can,” wrestling coach Jamie Miller said. “Wrestling is a long season to begin with and, most years, we can start official practices about three to four weeks before our first competition. This year, we have about two months to build our strength, conditioning and some really simple technique work before our first competition.

“It’s actually a pretty good opportunity for us to hammer out what a normal preseason should look like. Having gone through it this year with the coaching staff, next year guys will be able to hit the ground running in August with a preseason plan that gets them in pretty good shape for the start of the season in October.

“Outside of practice, our hope was to do more community service, which we are still working on (we normally work with the Lycoming County Special Olympics Weightlifting team, but unfortunately that was canceled this year). We’ve done a lot of leadership development work as a team. As a coaching staff, we’ve been working hard on creative recruiting options and getting prospective student-athletes to campus. Short of competitions, it’s going to be a very active fall semester for us!

“As far as competitions go, it’s really hard to say when/whether or not we will compete. We are the highest contact sport, there’s no doubt about that. We also have a history of being prepared and sanitary for maximum contact. Further, if we were to wrestle another team, each of our 10 competitors would only come into contact with one member from the opposing team. For example, our 125-pounder will only contact the other team’s 125-pounder – no other contact would be made between teams. So in some ways, competition is somewhat difficult to foresee, but there are also some advantages our sport has over others in terms of keeping participants safe.”

Women’s basketball
“Over the summer, I took to a lot of reading, and one of the books I read was ‘Untamed’ by Glennon Doyle. In her book, she talks about how humans have the uncanny ability to learn, to grow, to overcome and to adapt. And she states, “We can do hard things,” second-year women’s basketball coach Britni Mohney said. “We’ve taken this quote and started making it our own. That through the pandemic and through the adversity that we face, ‘We can do hard things.’ We will adapt and we will conquer whatever comes our way.

“For this semester, we are focusing on the things we can control. We are working on being mentally stronger as we talk about the situations we have faced as students and athletes in these unprecedented times. We are working on our leadership and team culture, being fundamentally sound and smart players of the game. We are becoming stronger in areas that we normally would not get the time to do in a normal season.

“Our safety and health are first and foremost. We will continue to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the NCAA, the NEAC and Penn College.”

Men’s basketball
Said men’s basketball coach Geoff Hensley, “I am very proud of my team for the manner in which they have responded to the uncertainty of this season. Our student-athletes have been extremely patient and positive during these challenging times. They have been doing the right thing, on and off the court, and they have been doing everything in their power to keep the hopes of our season alive. We are taking everything one day at a time and keeping our eyes on the horizon that our season could be right around the corner.

“We started practices last week with certain restrictions such as wearing a mask, dividing the team into two pods and maintaining 6-foot distancing from each other at all times. And I can say that I have been more than impressed with how our players have accepted and adhered to the new guidelines.

“We have adjusted our practices to be focused around skill development to facilitate maximizing their individual potential until we can resume full team practices. The practices have been more like workouts and specifically created to enhance the development of each player in terms of ball-handling, shooting, passing, scoring and decision-making.

“I have already seen great strides in improvement with the limited amount of time we have spent on the court. We have a great group of young men who show up to every practice with a great work ethic, with a ton of positive energy, and with a mindset to learn and grow and get better.

“Coming off a very successful season last year, our returners have done an outstanding job leading the way for the newcomers. Brody Baker, of Lock Haven; Jesse White, of Harrisburg; and John Saxe, of South Williamsport, have accepted leadership responsibilities within the team and have been stepping up to continue to build our program.

“We have some key, new pieces that should see early contributions in the season as we lost six great seniors last year, including four starters which accounted for 67% of our team offense. We welcomed eight new players to our team this semester, and combined with our returning core group of eight players, I am very optimistic about the potential of this team. After making the NEAC playoffs for the first time in program history, we can definitely sense the urgency and desire to not only return to the playoffs but now advance and start competing for championships.

“As with every year in college basketball, a new season means new hopes and possibilities. We are focused on controlling what we can control, which is our work ethic, our attitude and our approach to each day and every practice.

“True character is revealed most during times of challenge and adversity and I cannot be more proud how our student-athletes have responded and persevered during this uncertain times. This is a true example of how nothing is guaranteed in life and it has certainly put into perspective how we should cherish every practice and every game because we never know when it could be our last.

“As of right now, our outside competition has been postponed until January; that gives us this fall semester to get in the best shape physically, maximize our individual skills and start becoming the best team we can be. If we have games, we will be thankful and appreciative. If we do not have games, we will continue to persevere and adapt and overcome. Either way, we will keep moving forward, we will keep doing the right things on and off the court and we will be better men for having gone through these challenging times.”

In the classroom
On Sept. 25, it was announced that both the Penn College men’s and women’s soccer teams had received the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award for the 2019-20 academic year. It was the third consecutive year receiving the honor for both squads.

In order to receive the award, a team must have a collective 3.0 GPA or higher. Penn College joined 341 men’s teams and 562 women’s teams nationwide that earned the award and was one of 183 schools that had both its men’s and women’s teams honored.

“I’m extremely proud of the hard work that our student-athletes put into their academics,” women’s coach Christa Matlack said. “Each day, they spend countless hours devoted to their coursework and strive to be better and do better. This award is well-deserved recognition for their academic success.”

“I am extremely proud of the guys in our program who worked really hard last year to be successful in the classroom,” men’s coach Tyler Mensch said. “It was an awfully difficult spring semester with a majority of our students taking classes online but our guys still buckled down and did an extraordinary job.”

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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