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Four Penn College Teams Set for USCAA National Championships

Four Pennsylvania College of Technology athletic teams in three sports will be in uncharted waters this week when they compete in United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championships for the first time.

“It will be a learning experience,” said Mike Paulhamus, coach of the men’s and women’s cross-country teams that will run Friday at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Va.

“We’ve never run against teams from other states of this magnitude. We’re going to go down and learn this year, see what it’s all about, and hopefully take that and build for next year,” Paulhamus added.

Penn College men’s and women’s soccer teams will be the first to taste USCAA play as the men, seeded fourth, take on fifth-seed NHTI of Concord, N.H., at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Mich., and the women, seeded second, face seventh-seeded host Vermont Tech at 1 p.m. Thursday at Vermont Technical College in Burlington, Vt.

Men’s Soccer The Penn College men enter their tournament with a perfect 13-0 record and as champion in the Penn State University Athletic Conference. The Wildcats have shut out 11 opponents this season and have outscored their foes 45-4. They own a 29-0 record over two seasons.

“We’re excited,” said Wildcats coach Enrique Castillo.

“I can’t say enough about the guys. I have a great group of guys. They’ve responded to everything. They responded to the challenge of winning another championship (fifth conference title in a row), being undefeated and not losing to any Division III schools, like Davis College or Pitt-Bradford,” Castillo continued. “We showed that we can play Division III, at the next level, and we’re just going to see what happens in Michigan. They guys are ready to take on the challenge and put Penn College on the soccer map, which I think we have started to do.”

As of Monday, a poll on the USCAA Web site had Penn College favored to win a national championship. Sixth-seeded Penn State York, the Wildcats’ arch rival, was picked second. In two PSUAC matches against each other this season, Penn College won 1-0 both times, including in the PSUAC title match last Saturday.

Other teams in the men’s field include top seed Columbia Union College, Md.; second seed Robert Morris-Lake County, Ill.; third seed Briarcliffe College, N.Y.; seventh seed Concordia-Selma, Ala., and eighth seed host Rochester College.

Wednesday’s winners play in semifinals at 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday. The championship game is set for 3 p.m. Friday. Wednesday’s losers drop into consolation-bracket games, also on Thursday and Friday.

To prepare for the artificial turf it will play on in Michigan, Penn College players practiced earlier this week indoors at Generations Sports Dome Complex in Muncy.

“We’ve got something special, going to nationals and see if we can do something (there),” Castillo added.

Women’s Soccer Playing an independent schedule this season, the Penn College women finished 8-3-1 and went 1-1-1 against NCAA Division III opponents. Its schedule strength and record were keys to the team getting a national invitation.

“We picked up some Division III schools that we thought would be a higher level of competition and every game we played well,” coach Kim Antanitis said. The Wildcats lost to Lycoming College, beat Susquehanna University and tied Alfred (N.Y.) University.

“I’m not really sure about what’s going to happen (at nationals), but we definitely feel like we have a chance of getting to the championship and hopefully winning,” Antanitis said. “It will definitely be interesting, but it will be a great experience.”

Key players for the Wildcats this season have been striker Hannah McCracken (Williamsport), who leads the team in scoring, center-midfielder Bridget Metzger (Montoursville), sweeper Alicia Cave (Grantville), goal-keeper Chelsey Holmes (Hughesville) and Erin Oberlin (New Berlin), the top player off the bench who fills any gap.

“Chelsey has had a phenomenal season. She’s had six shutouts, has made great decisions and has helped us stay in games that have been close. She shuts down the other teams’ offense,” the coach said.

Also in the field are top-seeded Southern Virginia of Buena Vista, Va., No. 3 seed Christendom of Front Royal, Va., No. 4 seed Andrews University of Berrien Springs, Mich., No. 5 seed NHTI of Concord, N.H., No. 6 seed Robert Morris-Springfield of Springfield, Ill., and No. 8 seed the University of Maine-Augusta. Of those teams, Penn College played at Christendom on Sept. 27 and won, 2-1.

Play continues Friday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The championship game is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cross-Country The Penn College men take a 29-7 overall record into their meet and the Penn College women are 11-1. In last weekend’s PSUAC Championships, Mark Cordeiro (Canton) led the Wildcat men to their sixth straight conference crown with a first-place finish and Tamara Pavlov (Lewisburg) finished third overall among the women to help Penn College to its fourth consecutive second-place finish.

Men will run an 8K distance and women a 6K distance in the national championships at Glen Maury Park. According to the USCAA Web site, the course is 99 percent grass trail, but from what Paulhamus has heard, there is a “heartbreak” hill that many runners end up walking, rather than running.

“It’s a slate hill and it’s pretty steep, about half a mile long,” the Penn College coach said. “We’ll practice on Campbell Street hill because that’s pretty steep. Hopefully, that’s a pretty good indication what this hill is like. We’ll give it our best foot forward in practices on something that we haven’t seen yet.”

Other colleges competing are Columbia Union College of Takoma Park, Md,; Dine College of Tsaile, Ariz; Florida College of Temple Terrace, Fla.; NHTI of Concord, N.H.; Penn State Worthington Scranton; host Southern Virginia; Vermont Technical College of Randolph Center, Vt.; Warren Wilson College of Swannanoa, N.C.; and Williamson Trade School of Media. In all, 85 men and 72 women are expected to participate.

The women race Friday at noon and the men at 12:45 p.m.

The top seven individuals and top two teams in each category will receive awards.

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