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Penn College Soccer Teams Show Similarities

For the past year, the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Pennsylvania College of Technology have been running on a parallel course, and the similarities are striking.

Last season, both squads were under rookie coaches, and each found immediate success as the men won the Penn State University Athletic Conference championship and the women captured the Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference crown. And this season, the success has continued.

Enrique Castillo, a native of Peru and former Wildcat player himself, succeeded Jeff Finn at the helm of the Wildcat men.

Castillo played high school soccer in Clifton , N.J. , where his team was once ranked fourth in the country and won a state championship in the mid 1990s, and was recruited by NCAA Division I Rutgers and Fairleigh Dickinson University . Instead, he opted for a technical school − Penn College , where he played two seasons, including on the championship 2000 team.

After graduation from Penn College, Castillo was an assistant boys coach at Montoursville High for two seasons before becoming an assistant at Penn College for a year before taking over the top spot.

In an effort to rebuild a women’s soccer program that won conference championships in its first two years of existence, but had fallen on tougher times over the next three seasons, Penn College turned to Kim Antanitis.

A graduate of and soccer player at Benton High School and Lycoming College − she was a team captain at Lycoming during her final two years − Antanitis spent two seasons coaching, and helping turn around, the girls basketball program at Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech before returning to Williamsport.

Under Antanitis, the Lady Wildcats rebounded from a 2-5-1 record in 2005 to finish 9-1 and win a conference championship.

Penn College closed out its season with a 5-1 win over Penn State Abington to complete a turnaround that even Antanitis found surprising.

“We honestly did not think it (the turnaround) would happen this quick,” Antanitis said.

“We are very happy with the outcome, and the girls’ excitement for the season. They, actually, are what turned it around. They were all very dedicated and we always had enough girls for games and always had people at practice. It was their dedication that really turned it around,” the coach said.

“I came in with expectations of having a winning season; changing the morale of the team and getting to every game with the numbers that we needed to have (to avoid forfeiting). We definitely achieved our goals and it was a fantastic season,” Antanitis said.

But that was then, and a new season brings new challenges.

“We’re looking to make things more competitive. “¦ It is still a work in progress. We did add a tournament this year and will be playing a couple of new teams. Unfortunately, we don’t know if that’s going to make it more competitive, but we’re hoping that it is,” the coach said. “It’s going to take us a while to build it to a competitive level, to find those teams that we can compete with, but are a challenge.”

So far this year it has been a challenge as the Lady Wildcats are 3-7 overall, but 2-0 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference with two matches to go.

“We definitely have played a more challenging schedule. Even though we’ve had losses, it has helped build us as a team, to challenge us, to find what we need to work on and just improve our overall play,” Antanitis said.

In one way, Castillo’s job may have been a bit easier than for Antanitis. He inherited a team that had known success, having won back-to-back conference titles. Yet, he still had to bring his players together and provide the leadership and inspiration that marks a champion. He did.

In the PSUAC championship match, Penn College scored a 3-2 overtime victory against Penn State Harrisburg, giving the Wildcats their first three-peat and closing out the team’s season with a 14-1-2 record.

“It was an unbelievable feeling. I can’t even describe it. What a great win! It was sweet. It was a heck of a season. For a first-year coach, I can’t ask for anything else,” Castillo said at the time.

The key down the stretch, Castillo said, was persistence. “The guys never gave up,” he said. “Some people give up the last five minutes, but our guys kept fighting and fighting.”

Going into this season, Castillo said, “Our expectations are always high. Because we have so many guys that are back from the championship and we have a lot of leaders, our expectation is to win a championship.” So far, so good.

The Wildcat men dropped their opener against always-tough Penn State Harrisburg, 6-5, but have reeled off nine straight wins since, outscoring their opponents 49-3 with six shutouts.

Castillo said he attempted some lineup changes in the opener, and is quick to put the blame for that defeat on himself, But after going back to the tried-and-true methods that brought the squad success last year, things have clicked.

“Everybody knows what their role is and everybody is on the same page,” he said. “After that loss, and getting the taste of the loss, the players didn’t like it. Now, they’re ready to go in practice. Winning is everything for them now. Everyone comes ready to go. I’m pleased.”

( Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college’s Athletics Web site.)

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