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Penn College Fall Sports Begin

Last fall was a time of transition as several Pennsylvania College of Technology teams were under new head coaches. As this season begins, there is just one new coach in the fold and all are ready to roll.

In openers on Thursday, the women’s tennis team travels to Elmira College for a 4 p.m. start, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams compete at the Misericordia Invitational at 6 p.m. and the women’s soccer team hosts King’s College at 7 p.m. On Friday, the men’s soccer team travels to Westminster College for a 5 p.m. match and the women’s volleyball team hosts Alfred State College, also at 5.

In coming weeks, the men’s tennis team takes to the courts Sept. 5 at Lycoming College and the men’s golf team hits the links Sept. 14 at the Keuka College Invitational.

Women’s Tennis
John Machak enters his first season as the coach at Penn College, but he is no stranger to the courts or the area, having grown up playing in Renovo and serving as the head coach at St. John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport from 2008-13, in addition to more than three decades playing the sport at various levels of competition.

Lack of numbers will be an early-season problem as Machak has just two returning players – senior Melissa Stabley, of Cogan Station, and junior Morgan Blackwell, of Beech Creek – from last year’s team that ended 2-10 overall (0-4 in the fall and 2-6 in the spring).

“I’ll get a lot of the other players back in the spring,” Machak said. “A lot of them play soccer in the fall and will come out in the spring,” he added, noting that he hopes for other recruits to join this week.

Machak seeks himself as a teaching coach, saying, “We’ve been spending a lot of time on actual drills. They’re excited because now they’re getting drills and they’re getting better.

“My goal is … we’re going to turn it around and try to compete for a title. The two (players) that we have coming back are good and, when we get those others back in the spring, we should be really, really solid when we’re playing division games in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.”

Cross-Country
Coach Nick Patton begins his second season with a men’s team that ended 10th in the NEAC and women’s squad that finished 12th. Both are marks he would like to improve upon.

In a preseason poll of the conference’s coaches, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and SUNY Cobleskill each received 112 points and were picked to finish 1-2, respectively, (SUNY Poly gets the nod with more first-place votes). Other teams and their point totals include Morrisville State College, 98; Gallaudet University, 86; Penn State Abington, 79; Penn State Berks, 67; Lancaster Bible College, 64; Keuka College, 48; Cazenovia College and Wells College, 39; Bryn Athyn College, 28; and Penn College, 20.

In a preseason poll of the conference’s women’s coaches, seven-time defending NEAC champion SUNY Cobleskill was the pick to repeat. Other teams and their point totals include Morrisville State College, 94; Lancaster Bible College, 93; Cazenovia College, 86; Penn State Abington, 83; Penn State Berks, 71; Gallaudet University, 58; Wells College, 54; Keuka College, 52; SUNY Polytechnic Institute, 36; Bryn Athyn College, 29; and Penn College, 18.

“The women’s team is still in the rebuilding stages; just getting girls to come out and fill our numbers will be the biggest thing, but I’m looking for them to improve on last year, whether it be individually or teamwise,” Patton said.

“The men, I think we have a pretty good squad. Even though we weren’t polled at a very good number, I know that’s going to fuel the fire on how they do. I think it’s a pretty talented and, I think, underestimated team,” the coach said.

Key returning runners for the men’s squad are seniors Nathan Mashack, of Bloomsburg, and Liam McGarvey, of Cogan Station; junior Chris Traugher, of Bath; and sophomore Matt DeSanto, of South Williamsport. Women’s returnees are Katherine Santoianni, of Williamsport, and Kaitlyn Anderson, of Mastic, New York.

A year ago, Patton implemented individualized training plans for his runners and said, “I think a lot of the kids have bought into it.

“Last year, we really didn’t train over the summer and our base mileage wasn’t that great, but this year, they have and that’s due to that training plan (which he looks to pay dividends).”

Women’s Soccer
John McNichol returns for his third season as coach and is building on a team that finished 8-9-3 overall a year ago and was 7-4-2 in the NEAC, where it ended sixth in the postseason after reaching the quarterfinals.

“We have a very young team, with 13 of our 25 players being in their first year with the program,” McNichol said. “We graduated four seniors last year, three of which started every game, and one graduated as our program’s all-time leading scorer. We have been training hard over the last two weeks to prepare for our season and are looking to replace the players we lost due to graduation. We have an exciting mix of players and are very excited to get going.”

Key returning players are senior defender and captain Jordan Courter, of Mill Hall; junior forward Hailee Hartman, of Lampeter; junior midfielder Caitlin McCarthy, of State College; and sophomore midfielder Jane Herman, of Greencastle. Courter is a two-time All-NEAC third team honoree while Hartman was an all-conference third team selection last season.

“We have a good core group back, led by (those) players,” McNichol said. “Colleen Bowes, of Wayne, will be back for her senior season in goal and we are looking for her to anchor our defense. Right now, we have a lot of players vying for time and many position battles that have yet to be won. Our depth will be very good this season and will be a strength of our team.

“We have a young team, but have a great core group of veteran players returning. Our returning players have done a great job of creating a family environment that our first-year players have bought into. The team is very close and continues to get better each day. We are looking to grow as a group each day, taking one game at a time. We look to bring a consistent work rate each day and be as competitive as possible in NEAC play.”

According to the coach, “Our biggest strength would be our team’s depth. This (25 players) is the largest roster in program history and we are really looking forward to being able to sub freely. We have a lot of quality players who will get a lot of time for us this season. With our depth and athleticism, we have the ability to get some great results this season.”

“Right now, our biggest issue is getting everyone on the same page with our system,” McNichol continued. “With starting classes on Aug. 15, we did not have a long preseason and miss players each day with class. The girls do a great job of coming in the office to ask questions and our returning players are doing a fantastic job of helping team the first-year players.

“In the past, we have been hit with injuries and, if we can avoid injuries, then our depth will allow us to be very competitive in all games this season.

“Last season, we had some success in conference play and made the first round of the (NEAC) playoffs for the first time in program history. We are looking to build upon that success and look to finish higher in the conference standings and progress deeper into the postseason play,” the coach added.

In a preseason poll of the conference coaches, three-time defending champion Penn State Berks is the team to beat. Penn College was picked to finish sixth.

Berks garnered 169 points after receiving all 13 allowable first-place votes to top the poll. Penn State Abington placed second in the poll after registering 10 second-place votes en route to 152 total points while Lancaster Bible College and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute each garnered 128 total points, with Lancaster Bible winning the tiebreaker and nabbing the third spot after tallying the remaining first-place vote while Poly placed fourth. Keuka College claimed the fifth spot with 125 points, Penn College placed sixth with 115 points and Wells College rounded out the top-half of the rankings at seventh with 94 points.

Men’s Soccer
After playing under four different head coaches over four seasons, the Wildcats welcome back Tyler Mensch for his second year at the helm. Last year, Penn College ended 6-12-1 overall and 4-7-1 in the NEAC.

“We bring back 13 guys from last year that all had significant playing time,” Mensch said, noting that key returners include goalkeepers Malcolm Kane, a junior from Ardsley, and Hunter Gosnell, a sophomore from Westminster, Maryland; defenders Ian Scheller, junior, Sunbury; Daniel Hibbs, junior, Loyalsock Township; Gerry Lua, sophomore, Biglerville; Jonathan Myers, junior, Shippensburg; Austin Dowrick, sophomore, Olney, Maryland; and Devin Sherman, sophomore, Butler; midfielders John Murray, senior, Dallas; Randy Vance, sophomore, Greenwood Lake, New York; Quinn Cleis, junior, Elizabethtown; John Michael Sabga, senior, Trinidad; and Dane Cessna, junior, Meadville; and forward Luke McFalls, of New Oxford, who suffered a season-ending injury last season and returns as a redshirt senior.

“Two weeks into the season, the uppers have come in ready to go and have been getting pushed by 14 newcomers who are looking to make a name for themselves,” Mensch said. “There has been a lot of great competition and energy in training sessions and the guys are starting to really gel with one another. We should be more competitive than last season and have a lot of depth at each position. By the end of last season, we were playing with 15 guys and, this year, we have 27 guys on the roster who will continue to grow, develop and build the soccer culture that was started last season.”

Mensch said a strength of this year’s team will be that depth.

“We have substitute possibilities at every position and feel as if guys coming off the bench will give us great minutes when they are on the field. The competition at practices has picked up drastically since last year and the guys are battling every day to work their way up the depth chart.  We have the potential to start our entire back four from last year, which should help us be better defensively and concede less goals. Offensively, we have an influx of playmakers who should generate more attack than what we had a season ago,” the coach said.

Areas that need improvement would be communication and continuing to figure out what brand of soccer the team is going to play, according to Mensch.

“Guys are still learning each other’s tendencies and how they play. With continued training. everything should work its way out and everyone should be on the same page leading us to a better product on the field,” he said.

“(The) key to this season will be staying healthy. We had so many injuries last year that it decimated our roster. If guys can remain fit and healthy, I anticipate us being more competitive in NEAC play and making a push for a top seven playoff position.

“We have the pieces to the puzzle to be much better than in 2015 if the guys continue to work hard and put in the extra effort both on and off the field. We would like to finish at .500 or above for the regular season and .500 or above in the NEAC as that should solidify a berth in the NEAC playoffs,” Mensch added.

Two-time defending NEAC champion Morrisville State College once again is the preseason favorite, according to the coaches’ preseason poll. Morrisville State collected 12 of 14 first-place votes to go along with a second-place selection and tally a total score of 168 points. Penn College was picked to finish 10th.

The rest of the order was Wells College, Lancaster Bible College and Keuka College, all 142 points; SUNY Poly Institute, 121; Penn State Berks, 104; Penn State Abington, 100; Cazenovia College, 84; Bryn Athyn College, 75; Penn College, 67; Wilson College, 48; Gallaudet University, 40; SUNY Cobleskill, 26; and St. Elizabeth, 15.

Women’s Volleyball
After a 1-25 overall season, 0-12 in the NEAC, the only way for the Lady Wildcats to go is up, and second-year coach Tom McLaughlin is confident that they will.

“We have a big incoming recruiting class and I’m very happy with what they’ve done so far in practice. We have several players who were recruited by high-level (Division II) teams and decided to choose Penn College,” McLaughlin said.

“We really hope to make it to the conference playoffs this year. I think that’s a reasonable goal. … This year, they expanded the playoff format so it’s the top seven out of 14, and I think it’s a very realistic goal for us to be in the top seven,” the coach continued.

To do so, McLaughlin is counting on strong play from junior returnees Sophie Coldsmith, of Gettysburg, at setter, outside hitter and libero, and Felicia Webber, of New Bloomfield, also an outside hitter; along with newcomers Lauren Slater, of Littlestown, a transfer setter from Penn State Mont Alto; and freshmen Jordyn Smeltzer, of Manchester; Breanna Hayward, of Morrisdale; Jalee Rockey, of Morrisdale; and Karli Coleman, of Lock Haven.

Another key to success will be an improved defense and an improving serve-receive game, “getting better first passes off from serves, and being able to cut down opponents’ runs on us,” McLaughlin said.

“We need to practice every day on moving our feet, on reading balls and building better reaction times,” he added.

In a preseason poll of the conference’s coaches, Penn College was tabbed 13th of 14 teams. Six-time defending champion Gallaudet University took the top spot with 160 points and was followed by SUNY Poly Institute, 157; Wells College, 147; Keuka College, 126; Lancaster Bible College, 119; Penn State Berks, 118; Morrisville State College, 100; St. Elizabeth College, 79; Bryn Athyn College, 72; Penn State Abington, 62, Cazenovia College, 48; SUNY Cobleskill, 47; Penn College, 24; and Wilson College, 15.

New AD Appointed
Last week, the college announced that, following a national search, John D. Vandevere was named the director of athletics.

“John brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in athletics,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said. “He will certainly bring the energy and enthusiasm that we look for in a leader.”

Vandevere, who takes over the athletics leadership role following the departure of Scott E. Kennell, will be responsible for the management and development of Penn College’s 15 intercollegiate programs, club sports, intramurals and the Fitness Center, effective Tuesday (Aug. 30).

SCHEDULES/RECORDS/RESULTS
Men’s/Women’s Cross-Country
Thursday, Sept. 1 – at Misericordia Invitational, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 17 – at Penn State Abington, 9 a.m.

Men’s Soccer
Friday, Sept. 2 – vs. Westminster College at Westminster Tournament, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 3 – vs. Penn State Altoona at Westminster Tournament, noon
Tuesday, Sept. 6 – host Keystone College, 6 p.m.

Women’s Soccer
Thursday, Sept. 1 – host King’s College, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 7 – at Gwynedd Mercy University, 6 p.m.

Men’s Golf
Wednesday, Sept. 14 – at Keuka College Invitational, 10 a.m.

Men’s Tennis
Monday, Sept. 5 – at Lycoming College, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10 – host Arcadia University, 1 p.m.

Women’s Tennis
Thursday, Sept. 1 – at Elmira College, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10 – host Arcadia University, 1 p.m.

Women’s Volleyball
Friday, Sept. 2 – host Alfred State, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 3 – at Wilkes University Tournament (vs. Wilkes, 10 a.m.; vs. Summit University, noon; vs. Lycoming College, 2 p.m.)
Wednesday, Sept. 7 – host Penn State Schuylkill, 7 p.m.

For more, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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