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Penn College Coaches Hopeful

Five of eight Pennsylvania College of Technology fall sports teams debut in nonconference action this week as the men’s soccer team opens at 7 p.m. Friday at Hood College, the women’s soccer team begins at 7 p.m. Friday at King’s College, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams open at 6 p.m. Friday at Misericordia University, and the women’s volleyball opens at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lycoming College in a quadrangular that includes Clarks Summit University and Wilkes University.

Men’s Soccer
Young, yet skilled and deep. That is how coach Tyler Mensch describes his team that is coming off an 8-12-2 overall season, 5-4-1 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, where it lost in the semifinals.

“We’re going to be able to play 20-22 guys every game at a high level. We’re not going to have any drop-off. Our substitutes are just as good as our first-teamers and that makes things exciting,” the fourth-year coach said, adding, “I’m so excited about this year; on paper, I really like what we’re doing and it’s fun to talk about.”

Top players returning from a year ago include sophomore center-midfielder Chris McFarland, of Coatesville; junior outside and midfielder Greg Dorsch, of Mount Airy, Maryland, a two-year starter; and senior forward Austin Dowrick, of Olney, Maryland, who led the team in scoring.

“Last year, Chris was probably our best player on the field. He has really good vision and is really good on the ball. He’s going to be our main playmaker this year, he’s the guy that we rely on setting up our forwards to score goals,” Mensch said, noting that McFarland also is the team captain.

Most of the other key players will be freshmen, according to the coach, who anticipates starting seven of them.

“So far, this is the most team-oriented group that I’ve had. The freshmen outnumber the (12) returners, but there is no divide. They’re all intermixed and hanging out. I think, on the field, that’s going to help take away some of the nerves of the younger guys … The overall play is significantly improved, with the younger guys pushing the upperclassmen, and vice versa,” Mensch said.

One of the key freshmen is all-state freshman forward Vance Gradwell, of Bernville, who scored 25 goals during his senior season at Tulpehocken High School in 2017, according to the Reading Eagle.

“He can score double-digit goals rather easily, if he stays healthy,” Mensch said.

Other freshmen Mensch is counting on are Kevin McFarland, Chris’s brother, and Gabe McKeon, of Williamsport, on offense, and defensive backs Tanner Layne, of Chesapeake, Virginia, and Jared Thompson, of Lititz.

The loss to graduation of NEAC First Team selection Malcolm Kane, the goalkeeper, will present a challenge, but the Wildcats will count on senior Hunter Gosnell, of Westminster, Maryland, and sophomore Brendan Skwirut, of Aston, to fill the gap.

One of the team’s goals is to return to the NEAC Final Four, and another is to become the first Penn College team to get a NCAA playoff invite. The Wildcats begin NEAC play Sept. 15 at Gallaudet University.

Women’s Soccer
Despite fielding a team that includes five sophomores and 14 freshmen, first-year interim coach Christa Matlack is hopeful that the Wildcats can match or improve on last year’s achievements, which included a 9-8-5 overall record and a 6-2-2 regular season mark in the NEAC, where the squad lost in the championship.

Key returning players are sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Gonzlez, of Lititz; junior center-back Francesca Timpone, of Smithtown, New York; and sophomore forward Dominique Brown, of Benton. Timpone was a Second Team all-conference choice a year ago and Gonzalez and Brown Third Team honorees. Two other all-conference selections from last year — junior Breica Beck, of Lancaster, on the Third Team, and Ashley Donat, of Lenhartsville, on the Second Team — will not play due to academic conflicts.

“The team is returning a number of key players, and has the potential to build off of the success of last season. There are some critical roles that need to be filled, but members of the incoming class have potential to step in to fill these voids immediately. As long as the athletes continue to work to their potential and grow as a unit, there is no reason why the team cannot continue to be successful in the NEAC,” said Matlack, a former soccer standout at South Williamsport Area High School and Bucknell University.

“We are looking for the incoming players to quickly integrate into the team dynamic, so we can continue where we left off last fall. The hope is that the group will advance tactically and technically throughout the 2018 season,” Matlack continued.

“We have a number of individually sound players that have a good understanding of the game and technical ability,” the coach said of the team’s strengths, adding, “team tactics are one area where the group could improve. Despite playing very well last fall, there were times where we struggled due to lack of discipline within the formation and poor decision-making in the run of play.

“The key to our success will be to improve upon our current knowledge of the game and to continue to strive for better technical ability among each individual player.

“We are looking to have a winning season comparable to, if not better than, last season. This season, the team is striving to continue to improve its standing within the NEAC with a hope to eventually make an NCAA tournament appearance in the future.”

Penn College begins NEAC action Sept. 15 at Gallaudet University.

Men’s/Women’s Cross-Country
Penn College teams are coming off a 2017 “high” under coach Nick Patton when the men finished second in the NEAC meet and the women ninth – and both squads return key runners who were instrumental in helping achieve that success.

For the men, Josh Velez, of Lewistown, returns for his third season. Last year, he placed second at the conference meet and was awarded First Team NEAC honors for the second time in his career. Also returning are senior Thomas Runner, of Elkridge, Maryland, another First Team NEAC honoree (he earned Second Team honors the year before); and sophomore Matthew Leiby, of Danville, named Second Team all-conference.

Leading the Penn College women is sophomore Sidney Trunzo, of Williamsport, who placed fifth in the individual portion of the NEAC Championships and was awarded First Team all-conference honors.

Patton, in his fourth year, said he is looking to those key runners to provide leadership and continue their successful ways. He also referred to three freshmen women coming into the program as a “small class, but it’s a talented little group that will help out quite a bit.”

In their first-ever NCAA Division III Mideast Regional appearance last season, the Penn College men finished 34th among 51 teams led by Velez, who was 112th in a 365-man field. Trunzo was the lone Penn College woman to compete and finished 81st among 351 women.

Talking about his expectations, Patton said of the men, “We look to either improve or maintain the success within the top three within the conference. We definitely have the talent to grab a few all-conference selections.”

And of the women, Patton said, “We want to build the team success, but individually we should be able to grab a few all-conference spots.

“We have to trust ourselves and trust our training and I think, if we do those things, we will slide up a few spots as a team at regionals,” the coach added.

The conference championships are scheduled Oct. 27 and the NCAA regionals Nov. 10.

Women’s Volleyball
Coach Bambi Hawkins enters her 15th season, second in a row after a four-year break, with a young team of all sophomores and freshmen that is working to show improvement.

“(Sophomores) Emalie Marnatie, of Canton, and Christine Limbert, of Curwensville, have returned ready to be in leadership roles,” Hawkins said. “They will not only be representing the team on the court, but their academic standing has also made them eligible to represent the team on the SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Council) this year.”

“Returning players have continued their eagerness toward team bonding that has helped freshmen and new players to recognize they belong to something bigger than self. This is a group with volleyball experience to make their teamwork even more effective this year than it was last year,” Hawkins said.

The Wildcats are coming off a season during which they finished 3-16 overall and 2-7 in the NEAC and, according to the coach, “Progress will be to transform a group of young ladies with high school experience into a college team. We are looking to transform their physical ability as well as their mental intensity toward this higher level of play.

“This is a highly coachable team. There are multiple young ladies who can play the various positions this year, and they are encouraging each other to improve as well as challenging themselves to listen and achieve what (assistant) coach (Theresa) Stanko and I are asking of them. They also have a team mentality of inclusion and support each other even outside the gym and weight room.”

Hawkins continued, “The ladies are quickly learning what is expected of them in the area of overall fitness. We have done more strength and conditioning (work) thanks to having a preseason this year, and they quickly noticed there was more work to be done. Thankfully, we have had (faculty member) Judy Quinti volunteer her time to help create workouts, and are going to start working with strength and conditioning coaches.”

The key to success, according to Hawkins, “Attitude! A mentality of encouraging each other and looking to tackle each play with a positive focus. We will be continuing to get them in condition to stay healthy and capable throughout the season.

“This group of young ladies is eager to get started playing some matches, and I believe they will see significantly more success than last year’s team. We are still building and have a wonderful group of young ladies to help that process with their openness and encouragement of others.”

The Wildcats open conference play on Sept. 11 at Penn State Berks.

Men’s Soccer
Friday, Aug. 31 – at Hood College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 – at Stevenson College, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 – at Keystone College, 6 p.m.

Women’s Soccer
Friday, Aug. 31 – at King’s College, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 – host Keystone College, 7 p.m.

Men’s Cross-Country
Friday, Aug. 31 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15 – at Lancaster Bible Charger Invitational, 10 a.m.

Women’s Cross-Country
Friday, Aug. 31 – at Misericordia University Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15 – at Lancaster Bible Charger Invitational, 10 a.m.

Women’s Volleyball
Saturday, Sept. 1 – at Lycoming College vs. Lycoming, 10 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 – at Lycoming College vs. Clarks Summit University, noon
Saturday, Sept. 1 – at Lycoming College vs. Wilkes University, 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4 – at Penn State Altoona, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept, 11 – at Penn State Berks (NEAC), 7 p.m.

Men’s Tennis
Saturday, Sept. 8 – at Susquehanna University, noon

Women’s Tennis
Monday, Sept. 10 – at Misericordia University, 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 12 – at Keuka College Invitational, 10 a.m.

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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