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Wildcat sports teams set to resume seasons

With the new year upon us, Pennsylvania College of Technology winter sports teams now turn their attention to the spring semester and second half of their respective seasons. The men’s basketball team resumes play at 4 p.m. Thursday at SUNY Delhi, the women’s basketball team picks up at 5 p.m. Thursday at Misericordia University and the wrestling squad hits the mats at 10 a.m. Saturday in the North-South Duals at Ursinus College. 

Men’s basketball
Under a new coach, the Wildcats had plenty of adjustments to make entering the season. But Geoff Hensley has been pleased with what he has seen so far. 

“I think the players are responding great. We have a good group of guys that work hard, that bring good energy. They want to win; it’s just a whole process of learning a new system, getting used to the new coach and new style of play,” Hensley said. 

“The record (1-10 overall, 0-3 North Eastern Athletic Conference) doesn’t indicate the amount of improvement that we have seen in the first couple of months, but we’re really coming together as a team. We’re gelling defensively – we’re playing defense as a unit – and we’re sharing the ball on offense,” the coach continued, noting that a poor shooting percentage and a difficult early-season schedule against established NCAA Division III teams have taken a toll. 

“It’s been a very challenging season but we’ve seen improvement with our guys, who continue to work hard and continue to fight day-in and day-out through these games. The wins are coming – I can’t tell you when – but it’s the whole process of building the program from the ground up,” Hensley said. 

While veterans Ben Sosa, of Loyalsock Township, and Ryan Lockman, of White Salmon, Washington, continue to provide strong leadership both statistically and off the court, several freshmen are making their mark as Obens Luxama, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, is the starting point guard; Jeff Nixon, of Bristol, started several games at point when Luxama was hurt; and Imari Walker and Cameron Gloster, both of Pittsburgh; and Kris Giles, of Riverview, Florida, have provided valuable minutes. 

“It’s been a pleasant surprise for freshmen to contribute right away because college basketball is significantly more challenging than high school ball. For a freshman, that transition from high school to college can be difficult, but, as a coach, it’s been great to have freshmen that can come step in right away,” Hensley said. 

Looking to the second half of the season, Hensley said, “We’re going in with an open mind. We’re going in with a clean slate every night. … In college basketball, on any given night, any team can beat anybody. 

“It’s the process of just showing up to practice, working hard, trying to improve every single day, and then, when it’s game time, we’re hoping our practice preparation has put us in a position where we can knock off some of the conference teams. … It will be a good test for our guys, to see where we stand and the direction that the program is going to continue to go.” 

Women’s basketball
Entering the season, coach Lauren Healy had high hopes for her freshman players — and they haven’t disappointed. 

“When we recruited them, we knew what they (would) bring to the table, but they have exceeded our expectations,” the coach said. “At one point in our solid win against Bryn Mawr … we were looking out there and there were all freshmen, all five new players. It’s just mind-boggling the type of experience they are getting and it’s great for them because you know that it’s going to help their game and make them better players. 

“Kaylah Brown, of Suffolk, Virginia, our starting point guard, has contributed a lot. She is starting to come alive with how she is playing. Madison Klock, of Elysburg, has been outstanding; she has been putting up some great numbers. Maci Ilgen, of Spring Mills, is a tough player, grinds it out every game and is one of our hardest workers. The list could go on. Every single girl contributes so much.  

“Even our upperclassmen; I’ve been really pleased with Cassi Kuhns, of Loyalsock Township. She’s been playing so well this year. You can see how she’s grown from her first year to her second year. I know she’s going to continue to turn into a really solid player. We’ve (also) had great contributions from Gwen Lavelle, of Pocono Summit. She’s always going to give you effort and energy.” 

Despite the team’s 1-9 overall start (0-3 in the NEAC), the Wildcats are playing tough. 

“(We’ve had) much better basketball play, through and through, compared to the last two years when I took over the program. I can tell, too, in practice, we’re getting a lot more accomplished,” Healy said. “Our girls, individually and collectively, their skill sets are so much better than before as far as basketball knowledge and making better game plays and working together and functioning more as a complete unit. The record doesn’t reflect, but I know that will come with time. 

“We still have a lot of games left the second semester so we’re always going to be hopeful and encourage the girls to continue to play good team basketball because, when they play together as a team, that’s where we do a lot of great things. 

“It’s been a really fun year to coach them and help guide them. We’re a young group and we’re trying to continue to fight against veteran teams that have seniors and juniors who have been playing for quite some time,” Healy said. “I’m ready to go. … I’m excited to get back for the second half of the year. … I feel like we’re just right there, at the tip of the iceberg … and we can come back and have some good, competitive games.” 

A year ago, during Jamie Miller’s first season as head coach, the Wildcats ended their season with seven wins. Having already reached that win total this campaign (7-5), Miller is very optimistic about what the next two months hold for his team. 

“(When) we left Lycoming (College Duals, Dec. 17), it was kind of bittersweet. We’re not wrestling our best. I think that we are tougher than we’ve wrestled. I think we’re better technically than we’ve wrestled. I think we’re a better team than we’ve wrestled thus far. … I think we’re going to wrestle better in the second half,” Miller said. 

“We recognize there is a lot of room for improvement. There is a lot of room to grow. On the flip side … I think the guys are going in (second half) on a high note. They recognize they are seeing progress and feeling good about where we are. That was the conversation we had at the end of Lycoming; it was a bittersweet day because we didn’t wrestle great, and even not wrestling great, we still came away with two wins and have seven dual-meet wins on the semester. It’s been cool to be able to track our progress from last year,” the coach continued.

One of the reasons for the Wildcats’ early-season success has been that they are filling most, if not all, of the weight classes during their dual matches and, according to Miller, that makes a difference two ways. 

“From a confidence standpoint, guys, even when we weigh in, have commented that we finally look like a team. We feel like a team. We’re weighing in as many guys as teams that we wrestle. It’s nice going into a dual meet when you’re not being outnumbered 25-6. I think from a mental standpoint that’s been really helpful for us confidence-wise and team building-wise,” the coach said. 

“Every time we wrestled last year, it was kind of every kid for themselves. We hoped to win individual matchups, but we really didn’t go to too many team matches with the expectation to win. Now we’re going into these weekends with expectations to win dual meets. It’s a different feeling, it’s a different energy. … They seem to have a lot more energy on the bench because they’re wrestling for each other, not just for themselves. 

“(Also) I think it’s made a big difference, obviously, from a competitive standpoint; because we’re able to fill more (weights), we’re giving up less forfeits and taking more forfeits,” Miller said. 

“We had a lot of success with our freshmen last year in the second half, so I’m really looking forward to these guys who are freshmen finding their stride, understanding what college life is like and what college wrestling is like and coming in next semester a little more prepared than they were (last) semester,” the coach said. 

“The key to our success is going to be our guys pushing each other in the (practice) room, being sure that we’re constantly pushing each other from a partner standpoint, staying focused and (giving) attention to detail,” Miller said. 

“We have eight weeks when we get back to prepare for (NCAA Division III) nationals … so it’s going to be staying focused on our ultimate goals from the beginning of the year, which were to come together as a team, win more matches than we did last year, send somebody to the national tournament, get some people on the podium at regionals. We have our goals in mind and I think we’re at a place where we’re ready to achieve those goals,” he added. 

Men’s basketball 
Overall: 1-10 
NEAC: 0-3 
Thursday, Jan. 3 – at SUNY Delhi, 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 9 – host Lancaster Bible College (NEAC), 8 p.m. 

Women’s basketball 
Overall: 1-9 
NEAC: 0-3 
Thursday, Jan. 3 – at Misericordia University, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 9 – host Lancaster Bible College (NEAC), 6 p.m. 

Overall: 7-5
Saturday, Jan. 5 – North-South Duals at Ursinus College, 10 a.m.
Saturday, Jan. 12 – host Mid-Winter Classic at Liberty Arena, 10 a.m. 

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

No. 21

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