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Five Penn College Teams Set for Openers This Week

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s highly anticipated first season as a full-fledged member of NCAA Division III begins this week with five nonconference openers.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the women’s soccer team hosts King’s College while, at 6 p.m., the men’s soccer team is at Geneva College and the men’s and women’s cross-country teams are at the Misericordia University Invitational.

On Saturday, the women’s volleyball squad competes at the Lycoming College Classic as it faces the host team at 10 a.m. and Summit University at noon.

Women’s Soccer
The Wildcats are coming off a season during which they finished 11-9-2 overall and 10-5 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (9-4 regular season) — where they reached the conference semifinals — and return three all-conference selections in junior center back Lauren Herr, of Manheim (first team); senior forward Hailee Hartman, of Lampeter (second team); and junior midfielder Jane Herman, of Greencastle (second team). Two other key returning players are sophomore forward Tiffany Brown, of Mechanicsburg, and sophomore center back Breica Beck, of Lancaster.

“This year, we return the most upperclassmen in my time with the program,” said coach John McNichol, entering his fourth season. “We are going to lean on them heavily to help with our first-year players getting acclimated to our program. With that being said, we are excited about our incoming class and are continuing to work hard to improve and get ready for our first game.

“Having nine first-year players and 15 returners will make our transition this year a little more fluid. We have many good returning players and leaders who are looking to build upon our teams’ success last year. The first-year players have done a great job of providing energy and compete very hard in training, making our team even deeper. In terms of progress, we are looking to develop our younger players and continue to compete at a high level for 90 minutes.”

According to the coach, the team’s strength is its defense, which returns four starters.

“We will lean on them to continue their strong play this season. We also return our top scorer from last year in Hartman, who will provide a dynamic presence in the attacking third,” McNichol said.

Offensively, he said, “We must continue to get better in the attacking third. We are a very streaky team in terms of scoring goals, so finding that consistence and more creative play up top is something we have been focusing on with most of our training sessions.”

Staying injury-free is important, too.

“Last year, we struggled with injuries and lost many starters for significant parts of the season. As a team, we need to continue to improve our game fitness and compete at all times. If we can play with more consistency and stay healthy, we have the ability to have a very special season,” the coach said.

“Last season, we had some success in conference play and after hosting the first round of the NEAC tournament progressed to the championship weekend, falling in the NEAC semifinals. We are looking to build upon that success and look to finish higher in the conference standings and progress deeper into the postseason play, with the ultimate goal of winning the conference championship and progressing to the NCAA tournament,” said McNichol, who is assisted by Kristen Gedon.

The team’s NEAC opener is scheduled for Sept. 23 at home with SUNY Poly.

Men’s Soccer
Coach Tyler Mensch begins his third season with six key returning players in senior goalkeeper Malcolm Kane, of Ardsley; senior center back Jon Myers, of Shippensburg; senior center midfielder Daniel Hibbs, of Loyalsock Township; sophomore outside back Greg Dorsch, of Mount Airy, Maryland; sophomore midfielder Roman Cruz, of Chambersburg; and senior outside back Ian Scheller, of Sunbury.

“(I am) cautiously optimistic. I feel as if the team has turned over a new leaf from the past two years as our second recruiting class and upperclassmen have bought into the culture of the program and have done a great job of training and working as a team,” Mensch said. “The product/style of play on the field will be more cohesive and have a purpose; now the waiting game is to see if our brand of soccer translates to more wins on the field. The attitudes have been great and it has been a fun group to work and train with during our preseason.”

According to the coach, the Wildcats look to improve on last year’s 4-16 overall and 3-10 NEAC records with a mix of upperclassmen and first-year players.

“We have a very talented group of first-year (players) that are going to help provide us depth at every position. We have seen steady growth and a level of comfort with the first-year guys (being able to adjust to the speed of the college game). A lot of the first-year guys have played high-level club ball and bring with them a lot of big-time match/tournament experience having played against some of the best teams on the East Coast,” Mensch said. “With the young guys pushing the uppers, I have seen their level of play increase, as well. In the past, we did not have a lot of competition in training so some guys got stagnant in their training. Now, with an increase in competition, everyone has to bring it every single practice in order to improve their stock on the depth chart.”

Assessing his team’s strengths, Mensch said, “We should be strong down the middle of the field with a lot of returning experience and new guys who should help solidify the midfield. Offensively, I think we are going to have a breakout year and we may have found a true goal scorer in former Loyalsock Township High School standout and PSU Altoona transfer Matt Hibbs. I think Matt can have a really special year for us and make us extremely dangerous in the final third of the field.”

Hibbs is the younger brother of returnee Dan Hibbs and, last season, he was awarded First Team honors in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference after scoring nine goals and tallying three assists for 21 points, according to Mensch.

“A challenge for us will be how to close/finish a match,” Mensch said. “In a tight match, you need to be mentally strong and be able to handle a wide range of emotions in a positive manner. With us being more competitive this year, we are going to have a lot more tight matches that we are going to need to be 100 percent mentally prepared for. You can win or lose a lot of matches in soccer based on your mental capacity as a team.

“We have to maintain our high level of fitness that we have been able to establish during the first two weeks of preseason. From there, we have to be able to score goals. We struggled in the offensive third last year and lost five games by one goal. Scoring goals will increase the confidence in the whole side and give the squad some hope that if we go down in a match we have the capabilities this year of scoring goals and making a comeback,” the coach said.

“If we can remain fit throughout the year and stay healthy, I truly feel we can surprise some teams in the NEAC. With us finishing near the bottom of the NEAC in 2016, I think some teams could take us lightly this year and we can get some positive results that we did not get in years past. Our nonconference schedule is extremely difficult and I am hoping that, by playing some of the best teams in the region, it will help prepare us for the battles that we will face in NEAC play. The team’s biggest goal is to get into the NEAC tournament and, from there, anything can happen,” Mensch added.

Assisting Mensch are Adam Scheibeler and Tom Robins.

The Wildcats’ home opener is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, with Keystone College. Its NEAC opener is Sept. 23 at home with SUNY Poly.

Women’s Volleyball
After four years away from the program, Bambi Hawkins returns for her 14th season and with key returning players in senior middle or setter Sophie Coldsmith, of Gettysburg; senior outside hitter Felicia Webber, of New Bloomfield; and sophomore outside hitter Jordyn Smeltzer, of Manchester, hopes to improve on last year’s records of 8-23 overall and 4-9 in the NEAC.

“We have a great group of young ladies who could use some help from other women at the college who are holding back on joining the team. The current group has already started to mesh and is supportive of the each other and the coaching staff’s goals – especially with the emphasis and actions we are adding for academic success,” Hawkins said.

In addition to her three returnees, the coach is counting on freshmen Emalie Marnati, of Canton; Skyler Vega, of Prattville, Alabama; and Christine Limbert, of Curwensville, who “have significant playing experience (and) others (who) are just eager to work hard and learn whatever they can as rapidly as possible to help the team succeed.”

“Positive team dynamics appear to be an early strength,” Hawkins said. “These ladies are eager to bond with each other and to be supportive toward removing the anxieties of success in the classroom while committing their time to the court, as well.”

While Hawkins and assistant coach Kaitlyn Klein look to add numbers to the team’s roster, the coach said, “Hard work toward conditioning to keep everyone healthy, but also strong defensive skills to wear down teams that may underestimate us related to our generally smaller stature” will be keys to the team’s success this season.

Hawkins’ outlook for the season is, “One match at a time and willingness to learn and improve for the next. There are some really strong competitors in the NEAC for volleyball, but the ladies we have for our Penn College team are relentless. I look forward to seeing their sheer determination in action.

“This is my first year back after four years away from coaching the women’s team, so I appreciate the opportunity to work with a nearly all-new athletics department staff who have shown incredible professionalism and focus toward giving our athletes the best possible collegiate experience. I definitely feel like a new kid on the block, but the other kids play well together, so I anticipate growing as a coach with so many strong mentors available.”

Penn College’s home opener is Sept. 9, hosting a triangular with Morrisville State at noon in NEAC play and Misericordia University at 4 p.m. in nonconference action.

Men’s Cross-Country
With all-NEAC returnees in sophomore Josh Velez, of Lewistown (first team), and junior Ryan Runner, of Elkridge, Maryland (second team), Wildcats coach Nick Patton looks for continued improvement for his third edition. Last season, Penn College placed fifth in the end-of-the-season conference meet with Velez finishing seventh individually and Runner 10th. Velez also was named the NEAC Co-Rookie of the Year.
“I think we have a pretty solid team. Everybody looks pretty good in the little bit of workouts we have done so far,” Patton said. “… I like where everybody is. They obviously did their work over the summer, so I’m looking forward to the season.”

In addition to Velez and Runner, Patton is looking to freshmen Matt Leiby, of Danville, and Ben Ericksen, of Norwich, New York, to help provide depth.

“We need to stay focused. They (runners) know what they want to accomplish. Focus is the key, I believe,” Patton said.

“I think we will have a pretty solid season. In the conference, I just want to improve on our place from last year,” the coach added.

Women’s Cross-Country
The top women’s returnee from last season is sophomore Annikea Miller, of Lancaster. A year ago, Penn College finished last in the 12-team NEAC Championships and Miller was 39th individually.

“Our goal is to get inside the top eight (in the conference). That is something we will work toward,” Patton said.

Expected to contribute in that effort, according to the coach, are freshmen Sidney Trunzo, of Williamsport; Joella Perelli, of Bath; Brittany Weiskopff, of Blossburg; and sophomore Tiffany Griffie, of Newville.

“Definitely, we want to improve on the (conference) finish of last year,” Patton said.

Men’s Soccer
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Sept. 1 – at Geneva College, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 2 – at Grove City College, 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 6—host Keystone College, 6 p.m.

Women’s Soccer
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Sept. 1 – host King’s College, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 7 – at Keystone College, 4 p.m.

Men’s Cross-Country
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Sept. 1 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 9 – at Morrisville Invitational, noon

Women’s Cross-Country
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Friday, Sept. 1 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 9 – at Morrisville Invitational, 11 a.m.

Women’s Volleyball
Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Saturday, Sept. 2 – at Lycoming College Classic vs. Lycoming College, 10 a.m.; vs. Summit University, noon
Saturday, Sept. 9 – host triangular with Morrisville State (NEAC), noon; and Misericordia University, 4 p.m.

For more, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

No. 3

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