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Five Penn College fall sports teams open this week

Five of eight Pennsylvania College of Technology fall sports teams start their seasons this week, and – despite a limited preseason – they are ready to go.

Scheduled to open in non-North Eastern Athletic Conference action Friday, the women’s soccer team hosts King’s College at 7 p.m. at newly built UPMC Field, the men’s soccer team travels to Hood College for a 7 p.m. match, and the men’s and women’s cross-country teams travel to Misericordia University for 6 p.m. races.

On Saturday, the women’s volleyball team travels to Clarks Summit University for matches against the host team at 10 a.m., Lycoming College at noon and Wilkes University at 2 p.m. And, in an addition to its schedule, the women’s home opener now is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 4 against Fairleigh Dickinson University at Bardo Gym.

Men’s soccer
With nine returning players, coach Tyler Mensch begins his fifth season at the helm with plenty of reasons to smile.

They include junior captain midfielder Chris McFarland, of Coatesville, a second-team all-conference selection a year ago; sophomore forward Colton Wartman, of Ellicott City, Maryland, NEAC third team last season; sophomore center back Kevin McFarland, of Coatesville; sophomore defender Tanner Layne, of Chesapeake, Virginia; sophomore midfielder Matt Yoder, of Nescopeck; sophomore defender Gabe McKeon, of Williamsport; sophomore defender Dylan Snyder, of Northumberland; sophomore midfielder Daniel Jackson, of Phoenixville; and senior midfielder/defender Greg Dorsch, of Mount Airy, Maryland.

In addition to those nine, Mensch said, “We have quite a few first-year guys who will be battling for starting positions.” And the coach added, “We will play quite a few guys based on our team’s depth at every position.

“The team should be the deepest it has ever been with multiple guys competing for playing time. We feel confident in the depth of our roster that, if we happen to get bitten by the injury bug, we have someone waiting in the wings who could fill in and not see a decline in the team’s overall play.”

Further assessing his squad, Mensch said, “The team is fairly young with most of the guys being freshmen and sophomores. Our upperclassmen consist of three juniors and four seniors. We return eight starters from our NEAC semifinal appearance a year ago and bring in 10 new faces who will be battling it out for playing time. The incoming freshmen have quite a bit of club experience and have competed at a high level throughout their playing careers so we are excited to see that transition to our team at the collegiate level.”

Last year, Penn College finished 7-8-3 overall and was 6-5-2 in all conference matches.

This could be a breakout year.

“Offensively, on paper, we have the most talented attacking players I’ve seen since I have been the head coach. The guys have been scoring a lot of quality goals in training and are playing at a faster rate of speed than years past,” the coach said.

“Much of our 2019 recruiting class was focused on bringing in attacking players who are dynamic (one vs. one) attackers. With the addition of new players and a lot of talented returning players the level of competition has drastically increased with each training session,” Mensch continued. “Guys are going 110% at all times to help make themselves and the team better.

“Being able to train on our brand-new turf field has been a lifesaver as the guys can play confidently now and not have to play in fear because of the poor field conditions that we had to deal with in the past.”

The loss to graduation of all-NEAC third team goalkeeper Hunter Gosnell leaves junior Brendan Skwirut of Alston as the lone returner with experience – he saw action in seven matches last year and has played in 10 matches during his two-year career. Skwirut is battling with freshmen Braeden Eckard of Danville and Joshua Stanley of Warsaw, Virginia, for the starting nod.

“Staying healthy is always key in the sport of soccer,” Mensch said. “One key injury could negatively impact an entire season.

“Injuries aside, we have to play an entire 90 minutes each and every game. We cannot get lackadaisical defensively and concede easy goals like we have in years past. We need to do a better job of avoiding fouling and giving up dangerous set pieces in our defensive third of the field. If we can limit the amount of scoring chances the opponents get, I really like our chances to pull off some great results as I feel our offense can put the ball in the back of the net better than ever.

“The NEAC is a competitive league that added a very good team in PSU Harrisburg. If everyone stays healthy and performs the way they are capable, I can see us making a run at a NEAC title. Our team goal every year is to make the playoffs and from there anything can happen. After two straight semifinal appearances, the guys are extremely hungry to make a final and hopefully be the first Penn College athletics team to participate in the NCAA tournament.”

Women’s soccer
Four key returning players – two of them all-NEAC honorees in first-team sophomore forward Kaelan Cronan, of Leesport and third-team junior goalkeeper Taylor Gonzales, of Lititz – are expected to give second-year coach Christa Matlack a solid core from a team that went 12-8 overall last year and 9-4 in all NEAC matches, where it reached the final four. Also in that group are senior center back Francesca Timpone, of Smithtown, New York, and sophomore center midfielder Erica Gallagher, of Wyoming.

“We return nearly our entire roster from 2018, so we have the opportunity to build upon last year’s success. The team has a lot of work to do to prepare for our first game, but we are excited about our potential,” Matlack said.

“Our team is still fairly young with half of the roster being sophomores and freshmen. We look for them to continue to improve upon their current technical abilities and decision-making on the ball. They have an opportunity to have one of the best seasons in program history, if they choose to work diligently at practice and battle through each match,” the coach continued.

Assessing her team’s strengths, Matlack said, “Our technical ability has improved greatly since the beginning of last year, so we are much better equipped to maintain possession of the ball throughout the game.”

Areas that still need work, according to the coach, are ball striking and creativity in off-the-ball movement.

“We hope to be in a better place with these skills by the postseason,” Matlack said, adding, “Our key to success is increasing our fitness and mental toughness. Working harder in training to prepare for the match, and pushing ourselves beyond our perceived limits will take us to where we want to be in 2019.

“We are hopeful to return to the NEAC conference tournament this fall with big dreams of reaching the conference final. This feat will be difficult with the addition of PSU Harrisburg to the conference, but with commitment and dedication to our program, the team has the potential to get to the championship match. Anything is possible in 2019.”

Women’s volleyball
From 2000 through 2012, the Wildcats sparkled under coach Bambi Hawkins as they sported a 184-113 record, winning a conference championship outright once, sharing in another title and finishing second four times.

In 2013, Hawkins stepped aside for four seasons as the college transitioned into the NCAA and NEAC and the team’s fortunes began to founder, going 33-84.

Reenter Hawkins in 2017, tasked once again with rebuilding the program looking to regain its former glory.

Her first season back produced just three wins and that dropped to only one in 25 matches a year ago.

“The team last year was stronger than the year before, and yet had a worse record. I somewhat believe it depends on the strength of our opponents and whether they just astronomically got better somehow over the offseason,” Hawkins reasoned.

“Even with the strength of the opponents that we met up with last year … we were neck-and-neck with in the first half of a match and then we would kind of peter off. I don’t believe that’s going to happen with this team. This team is more than likely to go the full distance in any set or match and we’re definitely going to have more wins this year. This is a group that’s not going to settle for losing,” the coach said.

“Some of the teams that we played last year have lost some of their significantly strong players. We really didn’t have any huge losses (in personnel), so I think we are going to match up even better with those teams than we have since I have been back. I think we can have a winning season,” Hawkins said.

Returning starters include juniors Emalie Marnati, of Canton; Savanna Slough, of Williamstown; and Corianne Wilson, of Edgewater, Maryland; and sophomores Hannah Burnett, of Middlebury Center; Kylee Butz, of Lawrenceville; and Peyton Homan, of Spring Mills.

“This group has some real strength in terms of leadership as they have matured. We have three juniors and three sophomores, so no longer are we just freshmen and sophomores. Volleyball wisdom and strength have increased,” Hawkins said, noting that Marnati and Slough will serve as team captains.

“Peyton Homan and Emalie Marnati, in practices, have come on incredibly strong running the team, and the offense especially. Hannah Burnett has been an example of what it is to hustle all over the court,” the coach said.

Expected to offer immediate help are incoming freshmen Coryn Oswalt, of Langhorne, an outside hitter with a very powerful swing, according to Hawkins, and MacKenzie Mahler, of Quakertown, who will support Burnett at the setter position.

The rebuilding process includes more recruiting, something that Hawkins and her assistant, Theresa Stanko, have been working on.

“We are looking at players who have more volleyball experience, and moreso the club team experience. I anticipate that as we build our core group we won’t be accepting girls on the team who haven’t played volleyball in high school or club. In the past years, we have had to do that because we didn’t have enough girls who were experienced on the team,” Hawkins said.

“As we get more into actually recruiting, and I think recruiting is a huge key, coach Stanko and I look for that diamond in the rough, that maybe other coaches are overlooking, and let that girl know that she has a great opportunity of actually playing at Penn College versus going to DII or DI (where) she might actually sit the bench. We’re looking for players who other players on a team want to be with,” Hawkins added.

Men’s/women’s cross-country
With neither Josh Velez, of Lewistown, nor Sidney Trunzo, of Williamsport – his top men’s and women’s runners, respectively, from the last few seasons – out at this point, coach Nick Patton is unsure of what to expect this season.

“We’re kind of young and inexperienced. … We just hope to be competitive. That’s pretty much all that we can shoot for at this point,” the fifth-year coach said.

On the men’s side, Patton will count on junior Matt Leiby, of Danville, who finished 15th in last year’s end-of-the-season conference meet, and sophomore Jonah Isaacson, of Muncy, who was 20th. Both earned all-NEAC third team honors for their efforts.

Also among the returning are senior Chris Hogan, of Halifax, and juniors Hayden Beiter, of Williamsport, and Jake Mashack, of Bloomsburg.

Sophomores Rosey Thomas, of Port Allegany, and Katie Plankenhorn, of Montoursville, who finished seventh and 17th, respectively, at the conference meet, will lead the women’s squad.

Two other returnees are juniors Brittany Weiskopff, of Blossburg, and Nikki Crow, of Elizabethtown.

Both teams have a number of freshmen who are expected to contribute, but how quickly they do so will depend on their transition to running longer distances – by about 2 miles – than they ran in high school meets.

“It’s a big learning curve. Most freshmen don’t how to run it until the end of the season,” Patton said.

Last fall, the men finished third in the NEAC and the women fifth.

Senior administrator appointed to NCAA Division III Committee
J. Elliott Strickland Jr., Penn College’s vice president for student affairs, has been selected to serve on the NCAA Division III Membership Committee.

Strickland’s four-year term on the 10-member committee runs through August 2023, and he is eligible for reappointment. Strickland represents the NEAC, in which 12 Wildcat teams compete.

Men’s soccer
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Aug. 30 – at Hood College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31 – at Wilson College, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 3 – host Keystone College, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 11 – host Lycoming College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14 – at Penn State Harrisburg (NEAC), 1 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 15 – host Shenandoah University, 5 p.m.

Women’s soccer
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Aug. 30 – host King’s College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 7 – at St. Joseph’s College, 6 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 8 – at College of Staten Island, noon
Saturday, Sept. 14 – at Penn State Harrisburg (NEAC), 3 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 15 – host Alfred State, 2 p.m.

Women’s volleyball
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Saturday, Aug. 31 – at Clarks Summit University, 10 a.m.; vs. Lycoming College at Clarks Summit, noon; vs. Wilkes University at Clarks Summit, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 4 – host Fairleigh Dickinson University, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 11 – vs. Marywood University at Misericordia University, 6 p.m.; at Misericordia University, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14 – host Alfred State, 10 a.m., host Cairn University, 2 p.m.

Men’s cross-country
Friday, Aug. 30 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 7 – at Steven A. Ward Invitational, TBA
Saturday, Sept. 28 – at Cazenovia College Invitational, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5 – at Bud Smitley Invitational, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 12 – at DeSales Invitational, 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 19 – at Gettysburg College Invitational, 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2 – NEAC Championships at SUNY Cobleskill, TBA
Saturday, Nov. 16 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at Bethlehem, TBA
End of season

Women’s cross-country
Friday, Aug. 30 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 7 – at Steven A. Ward Invitational, TBA
Saturday, Sept. 28 – at Cazenovia College Invitational, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5 – at Bud Smitley Invitational, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 12 – at DeSales Invitational, 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 19 – at Gettysburg College Invitational, 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2 – NEAC Championships at SUNY Cobleskill, TBA
Saturday, Nov. 16 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at Bethlehem, TBA
End of season

Wednesday, Sept. 11 – at Keuka College Invitational, 10 a.m.
Monday, Sept. 23 – host Williamsport Country Club Invitational, noon
Monday, Sept. 30 – at Penn State Hazleton Invitational, 11 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 8 – at Gettysburg College Invitational, 12:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 21 – at Lebanon Valley College Invitational, noon
End of season

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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