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Six Penn College spring sports teams prep for competition

Relieved. Pumped. Grateful. Excited. Anticipation.

They were the one-word reactions expressed by Pennsylvania College of Technology coaches after it was announced Feb. 26 that spring sports competition would resume for their teams.

Baseball (hosting Penn State Harrisburg) and softball (hosting Morrisville State College) seasons are scheduled to begin on March 27, the college’s first men’s NCAA Division III lacrosse season gets underway April 3 (hosting Morrisville State College), men’s and women’s tennis opens April 6 (hosting Penn State Harrisburg) and men’s golf starts April 7 (against Lycoming College at the Williamsport Country Club).

Chris Howard returns for his 15th season as the Penn College baseball coach, Angie Hunley is in her second season as softball coach, Jordan Williams is set for his first season as the lacrosse coach, Jessica Bower is back for her third season as the tennis coach and Matt Haile embarks on his 12th season as the golf coach.

In its announcement, the North Eastern Athletic Association Presidents’ Council noted that, “All plans remain contingent upon federal, state and local health guidelines and the status of all contests will be subject to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. NEAC institutions will be expected to adhere to the league’s Return to Competition protocols, which closely align with the NCAA recommendations.”

The council also said in its release, “These schedules will be subject to change with the possibility of pauses due to COVID-19 as well as inclement weather.

“Finally, the Presidents’ Council will not allow spectators as the spring season commences due to restrictions that remain in place on a number of member campuses regarding outside visitors. As the season progresses, the NEAC Presidents’ Council will continue to meet monthly and reserves the right to amend the spectator policy if there are changes to current campus restrictions.”

The NEAC also announced each institution’s autonomy to schedule nonconference opponents, although Penn College will compete in NEAC action only, according to Matthew J. Blymier, assistant director of athletics and director of athletic communications.

“After nearly a year of difficult decisions and announcements, it is very exciting to announce the return of sports,” Penn College Director of Athletics John Vandevere said in a college release. “This is exciting news for our student-athletes, coaches and staff – especially for our spring sports who lost their seasons last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Penn College will provide live stats and webcasts for most home events.

In announcements this past week, the NEAC said:

Baseball
Each team will be scheduled 10 doubleheaders, giving every program 20 total regular-season conference contests.

The conference schedule will be set up with every team competing in a pair of doubleheaders each week, with one taking place midweek and the other on Saturday. These games will be evenly split as well, with five doubleheaders at home and five on the road.

The opening round of the NEAC Championship will start on May 1 with a best-of-three series played at the higher seed’s field. The semifinals will be of the same format the following weekend, and the championship series will wrap up the weekend beginning on May 15. With the possibility of COVID pauses, the NEAC Championship format is subject to change.

Softball
Each team will be scheduled 10 doubleheaders, giving every program 20 total regular-season contests.

The conference schedule will be set up with every team competing in a pair of doubleheaders each week, with one taking place midweek and the other on Saturday. These games will be evenly split as well, with five doubleheaders at home and five on the road.

Each team will have two weeks in which only one doubleheader will be played, as there is an odd number of teams competing this season. The week prior to the NEAC Championship will also be left vacant and will be allowed to be used for makeup games.

On the week starting May 10, the NEAC Championship will commence. The format for the tournament is yet to be determined and will be dependent on how many teams are able to complete the season.

Lacrosse
Each men’s lacrosse program will play a NEAC opponent every Saturday for five weeks. Sunday, May 2, will be reserved for any contests that need to be made up.

A four-team NEAC Championship will commence on May 5, with the higher-seeded squad hosting the lower seed. The finals will then take place that Saturday at the highest remaining seed’s facility.

Tennis
Each team will be scheduled four regular-season conference matches.

The five NEAC squads will play all four of their matches over 18 days. The NEAC Championship will kick off on April 24 as the two low seeds battle in the play-in match. Three days later the semifinals will take place with the finals finishing on May 1. The location of these matches will be at the higher seed’s court.

The NEAC is working with its conference tennis partner, the North Atlantic Conference, to determine whether or not a crossover match will be played for the NCAA Championship Automatic Qualifier.

Golf
On Friday, Haile said he is continuing to work on his team’s schedule that includes the April 14 NEAC Preview at Harrisburg’s Dauphin Highlands Golf Course, which will be the site of the conference championship April 23-25.

Elsewhere:

Esports
At the third annual PA Cup Championships on Feb. 27 with competition among 11 schools and 17 counterparts, Penn College’s Overwatch team finished third.

According to coach Joshua Young, “Our teams battled to see who was the best in the state in League of Legends and Overwatch for a $3,000 prize pool.”

In group play (decided by a best-of-three), the Penn College Overwatch team went against the Temple Owls (2-0), Arcadia University Knights (2-0) and Saint Francis Red Flash (2-0) to advance to the finals as the No. 2 seed, where it lost to the Messiah Falcons.

The Wildcats Overwatch team is managed by Alex Barreto, of Harrisburg. Students on the team are Jared Patten, of South Abington Township; Perry Leslie Wheat, of Millheim; Kevin Brewer, of Newtown; Dakota Hart, of Northumberland; Dylan Sanders, of Duncanville; and William Kohen, of Jersey Shore.

Seth Murray, of Coatesville, is the Overwatch gameday Twitch broadcaster, Young said.

“The PA Cup is a special event for our esports team. In 2019, the PA Cup was the first competition for our team and me as head coach,” Young said. “In 2020, we just opened the Wildcat Den, our esports facility, on the week of the PA Cup. We made it to the finals and finished fourth. This year didn’t disappoint.”

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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