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Penn College Teams Seek National Championships

Pennsylvania College of Technology archery and women’s softball teams are down to their final week of the season and each is seeking a national championship.

This year’s Penn College archery team has come a long way in a short time and now, just 2 1/2 months since their first meet and with only three competitions under their belts, the Wildcats are set to step onto the national stage at the U.S. Intercollegiate Championships. Competition is scheduled May 16-18 in Long Beach, Calif.

“I’m very happy with the way the season has turned out. We had a lot of new faces but we had a lot of returning All-Americans, so the season has gone pretty well for a short season,” coach Chad Karstetter said.

In addition to the short season his archers have had, Karstetter only rejoined the team in mid-January himself, having been away from the program for two seasons after serving 11 years as the coach.

“You don’t realize how much you miss being a coach until you don’t do it for a couple of years and you come back. I really like working with college-level archers. It seems like we just got started and here we are at nationals already,” the coach continued.

Last year at nationals, four Penn College archers earned All-American status. They were senior Kelvin Dewalt, of Easton; and juniors Kendel Baier, of Jersey Shore; Nicole Lapinski, of Bloomsburg; and Justus Leimbach, of Westminster, Md.

Lapinski is a two-time All-American and Baier is the reigning female bowhunter national individual champion and was a member of the winning mixed and women’s bowhunter teams at nationals in 2013 when the team placed third after three consecutive second-place finishes from 2010-12.

Other returning archers who have continued to play an important role this year are junior Matt Cummings, of Mountville; senior Ashley Baker, of Coudersport; sophomore Gregg Foust, of Murrysville; junior Stephen Keys, of Reynoldsville; and sophomore Max Trainor, of Hawley.

Penn College teams at nationals:

  • Female compound – Baker, Lapinski and freshman Abigail Hricko, of Nicholson.
  • Male compound – Leimbach, Cummings, sophomore Markus Weber, of La Plata, Md., and freshman Cody Wolfe, of Tioga.
  • Mixed team compound – Lapinski-Leimbach
  • Female recurve – Freshmen Julie Carr, of Souderton; Pam Hartman, of Harrisburg; and Alana Androvette, of Williamsport.
  • Male recurve – Trainor, Foust and Keys.
  • Mixed team recurve – Keys-Androvette
  • Female bowhunter – Baier, sophomore Holly Neely, of Lebanon; and freshmen Kathreen Larsen, of Clinton Corners, N.Y., and Courtney Deshong, of McConnellsburg.
  • Male bowhunter – Dewalt, and freshmen Chris Lafey, of Weatherly; Matt Lech, of Johnstown; and Robert Heinrich, of Unityville.
  • Mixed team bowhunter – Dewalt-Baier

Wildcat archers will travel to California on Wednesday, do some sightseeing, and have opening ceremonies and practice Thursday. The first half of qualifying (72 arrows) is set for Friday with the second half of qualifying (72 arrows) and team rounds on Saturday. Action concludes Sunday with individual elimination rounds and an awards banquet afterward. More than 300 archers will participate.

“A lot of the new archers very seldom leave the county, let alone the state. They are excited to go to California. They are very dedicated and put a lot of time in at the practice range. Things are finally starting to turn around for them where they are shooting strong enough that they are going to be competitive at nationals,” Karstetter said.

“Any time you travel out of your environment you eat a little bit different, sleep a little different; you’re a little more excited. As long as when they draw back their first arrow everything comes together and they remember what they’ve been practicing the last 2 1/2 months with their form and technique — keep their head in the game — they’re going to do very well,” the coach added.

For the second time in two weeks, the Penn College softball team goes into playoff action with the longest win streak among the teams competing, and this time a national championship is the goal.

Seeded No. 10, Penn College (18-12 overall) opens play in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, at 10 a.m. Monday against No. 7 New Hampshire Institute of Technology (25-11-1). The winner of that game will face second-seeded Lindenwood University-Belleville at 8 p.m. on Monday while the loser drops into an elimination game at 6 p.m. that night.

Other teams and their records include top-seeded St. Mary of the Woods College (24-16), No. 3 Ave Maria University (31-29), No. 4 Carlow University (21-18), No. 5 Briarcliffe College (14-11), No. 6 Penn State Hazleton (25-14), No. 8 Penn State Mont Alto (18-10) and No. 9 Concordia College, Ala. (14-11).

Asked what he is doing to keep his players focused, Penn College coach Roger Harris said, “I think they have pretty much focused themselves. They became focused just before states and, since they made nationals, they’ve become even more focused on what they want to do and staying together as a team. Momentum is definitely on their side. They have a stern confidence that they can get the job done.”

Despite being seeded lower than two teams they beat en route to winning the Penn State University Conference Athletic Association championship last weekend (Penn State Mont Alto, which finished second in the conference, and Penn State Hazleton), Harris said the Wildcats are using it as motivation.

“I have a very elite group of girls who are willing to take the cards they are dealt and make something out of it. While the seeding was not something we were really looking forward to happening, we were motivated to take whatever we got and make the best of it,” the coach said.

During its 30 games thus far, Penn College has compiled a .296 team batting average with the likes of sophomore Rachael Shaeffer, of Hampstead, Md., leading the way with a .474 average followed by freshman Jessica Gmerek, of Bellefonte, at .380; sophomore Katie Kratzer, of Selinsgrove, and sophomore Delaney Blubaugh, of Waynesboro, both at .333; sophomore Karey Wolfe, of Milton, at .315; and sophomore Alexandra Brennan, of St. Clair, at .309. Wolfe leads the team with 22 runs batted in and 22 runs scored while Gmerek has driven in 20 runs and scored 20, Sheaffer has 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored, freshman Macie Lucas, of Reedsville, has driven in 17 and Brennan has 16 RBIs. Obviously, production has been spread around.

Freshman Arika Stopper, of Williamsport, with a 2.04 earned run average and 96 strikeouts, has been the ace of the pitching staff and has gotten timely support from sophomore Kim Walter, of Beavertown, 2.65 ERA with 25 strikeouts; Blubaugh, 3.09 ERA with 10 strikeouts; and freshman Brianne Brewer, of Jersey Shore, 3.83 ERA with 45 strikeouts.

Something else stands out about this Wildcat team: It is made up of all sophomores (nine) and freshmen (six).

“They are very dedicated to each other,” Harris said. “These (sophomores) were a very special group that I knew we had coming back. The confidence they have in themselves and in each other … When we first started out it was a little rocky … not having their full trust in their coach, each other and their own ability. But over the last 12-13 games, you can see that, as coaches, we have earned their respect and, as players, they have earned our respect.

“The chemistry that the team has now, going into nationals, is high. I’m motivated and thrilled for these girls and the passion they have for such young players. They have become seasoned ballplayers in a matter of weeks,” the coach said.

“I told the girls that you can’t be a champion if you can’t beat the best. It doesn’t matter what card you are dealt or what hand you have, if you can’t beat the best team there, then you are never going to be a champion,” Harris continued.

The key to doing that, Harris said, is to “stay motivated and stay together, to persevere and be able to overcome whatever adversity may hit them throughout. It’s not to say they’re not going to have a bad game or the pitchers might not have a breakdown, but it’s how they handle the adversity that is going to make them the championship team that they truly are.”

Overall record: 18-12
Final PSUAC record: 14-4
Monday, May 12 – vs. NHTI in USCAA National Championships at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, 10 a.m. (other games TBA)

Friday-Sunday, May 16-18 – U.S. Intercollegiate Championships at Long Beach, Calif.

No. 39

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