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Penn College Men’s Soccer Team, Cross-Country Runners Seek National Titles

Two Pennsylvania College of Technology fall sports teams step into the national spotlight Friday as the men’s soccer team competes at Burlington, Vt., and cross-country runners battle at Concord, N.H., in United States Collegiate Athletic Association championships.

Soccer In two previous small college national tournaments, the men’s soccer team of coach Enrique Castillo went winless in two matches two years ago and split in two matches last year to tie for fourth. This year, he expects more.

“A key thing is going to be (winning) the first game. The first game is critical for us and I think we’re a much better team than we were the past two years,” the fifth-year coach said. “We depend on everybody, not just one player.

“We’re a lot quicker than we were last year and our passing is a lot better. Our movement of the ball has gotten a lot better and we’re making better decisions. We’re possessing more and losing (possession) less,” Castillo continued.

Penn College is seeded fourth after completing a 15-3 regular season and opens play at 11:30 a.m. Friday against defending champ and fifth-seeded Concordia (Ala.) College (8-3-3). Also in the same bracket is unbeaten top-seed Maine-Fort Kent (16-0). Semifinals and the first round of consolation matches are scheduled for Saturday; the championship is Sunday at Vermont Technical College.

For the season, Penn College has outscored its opponents 51-11. All three losses came against NCAA Division III schools.

One of those losses, in their regular-season finale against Misericordia University, is a match that Castillo uses as a measuring stick of his team’s improvement. A year ago, the Wildcats lost to Misericordia, 6-1. This year the score was 2-1.

“We learned that we can play with anybody. We only got outshot by one shot and we had more corner kicks. We did a good job of matching intensity and speed of the game,” Castillo said.

This year’s Penn College team has a good mix of seasoned players and freshmen, and the coach thinks the freshmen may be the key to success at nationals.

“I know my guys are ready mentally. We really believe that we can win. The freshmen don’t know anything about (other losses at nationals). They’re young guys who are not afraid because they haven’t experienced losing. They’re confident. “¦ We’re not going to have a good time. We have business to take care of and that’s the approach we’re taking,” Castillo added.

Three freshmen lead the team in scoring. Chris Brennan (New Hope) has 15 goals, Tristan Smith (Bermuda) has 14 goals and Patrick Masango (Harrisburg) has seven goals. Junior Patrick Kehoe (Oley) leads with seven assists and junior Daniel Shaffer (Shermansdale) is the top goalie with a 13-3 record, including four shutouts.

Cross-Country Penn College has had success on the national level in its two previous trips to the USCAA championships: The men finished third two years ago and second last year, while the women were third two years ago and fifth last season.

“We don’t have a team for the ladies, but we have two very strong runners in Tamara Pavlov (Lewisburg) and Shannon Abercrombie (Roaring Branch). They’re running at their best and I’m hoping for them to have a pretty good standing; maybe not top 10, but I hope to see Tamara at least in the top 20 and Shannon in the top 25,” 11th-year coach Mike Paulhamus said.

Commenting on his men’s team this year, Paulhamus said, “The team is not as strong as last season, but we have some valuable people on the team and, if things work out well and I think they will, as they’re all running really well right now if we’re in the top five for the season, I think we’ll accomplish a major goal.”

Top runners for the Wildcats are Jake Shedden (Canton), Travis Cain (Bloomsburg), Seth Beckman (Linden), Corvin Oberholtzer (Wellsboro) and Ed Knyff (Ocean Gate, N.J.)

“After checking out the USCAA website, Jake is up there where he could be fighting for the individual national championship. There are three talented runners, Jake included, who will be vying for the individual title,” Paulhamus said.

“Travis has been pretty steady all year and I just need to get a little more out of him and Seth and Corvin and Ed. They just need to get that one guy ahead of them and then I think we’ll do really well,” the coach added.

In the national event Friday at New Hampshire Technical Institute, the women will run a 6K course at 11 a.m. and the men (43-10 overall) will run an 8K course at noon. In all, 18 women’s teams and 15 men’s teams are competing.

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