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The wrestling season has ended, women’s softball season is about to begin and baseball is underway at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Competing Sunday in the ninth annual National Collegiate Open Championship at Dover, Delaware, freshman Dylan Otis, of Towanda, posted a 1-2 record at 285 to lead the Wildcats. Also wrestling for Penn College in the season-ending event, and all finishing 0-2, were sophomore Ben Doll, of Glen Mills, in the 125-pound weight class; freshman Joe Swank, of Shanksville, at 149; and senior Tanner Leid, of New Holland, at 165.
“We didn’t win as many as we thought we would. … For the returning guys, hopefully it was an indicator of where they are technique-wise and what they need to do for next year,” coach Schuyler Frey said.
“Even though the results aren’t what we were looking for, I got to see the guys compete at a higher level and they definitely have the ability to be very good in years to come,” Frey continued.
In previous postseason tournament action under Frey, Penn College won the Penn State University Athletic Conference Championship in 2011-12, finished second in 2012-13 and third in 2013-14. It finished third in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13, was sixth in 2013-14 and fifth last year; and, in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships it finished 77th in 2010-11, 17th in 2011-12, 20th in 2012-13 and 24th in 2013-14.
Penn College finished 1-15 this season in dual matches and over seven seasons Frey’s teams were 29-55, with the best campaigns coming in 2011-12 when the Wildcats went 6-3 and 2012-13 when they finished 13-8.
While the team and program that he started seven years ago will have added postseason incentive starting next season when Penn College becomes a full-fledged member of NCAA Division III, Frey will not, as he has resigned his position.
“A lot of different things came into play with the decision and I felt that, for the betterment of the program, that maybe it was time for someone else to take over and get it to the next level,” he said.
“There are different ways that I’ve measured each year. The first couple with us being able to go to the NCWA nationals and being able to get guys working to qualify there and come away with three All-Americans in four years was very rewarding,” Frey said.
“It’s been rewarding to be able to work with these guys who stuck with it – they’re dedicated to the sport and love the sport – and hats off to those guys for keeping things going, keeping the program going. … It gives them ownership in all of the accolades that are going to come after they are gone,” he added.
A year ago, coach Jackie Klahold took a young, untested squad during her first season at Penn College and molded it into a team that “exceeded expectations,” finished 17-20 overall, 10-8 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, and advanced to the United States Collegiate Athletic Conference Small College World Series. The nucleus of that team returns this season and Klahold expects even more.
“The young part has not changed. We are looking at a roster that (of) 16 and we’re looking at 13 freshmen and sophomores. There’s a lot of good leadership coming back, with some good competitive experience under their belt,” Klahold said. “We have more depth this year, which for a coach is a wonderful problem to have.”
The Wildcats open their season Sunday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they will face eight different opponents over four days.
“Even though we do have a young team, the strength of schedule in Myrtle Beach has increased from last year and I am very pleased with that. … We split (during the conference season) with teams that made the playoffs and we need to have that strong competition to see where we are as a team; what we need to refocus on, what we need to change,” the coach said.
“What they learned (last year) is that the collegiate game is different than playing high school ball or playing travel ball. You have to compete right up to the very end. When you have leads in games and when you have done positive things in games you have to finish,” Klahold said. “We were inconsistent with that last year and (we are working on) finishing and being consistent throughout our games.”
Leading the returning players are pitcher-outfielder Taylor Brooks, of Cogan Station; shortstop Kelsey Gantz, of South Williamsport; outfielder Taylor Krow, of Mechanicsburg; third baseman-catcher Elizabeth Asher, of East Stroudsburg, all sophomores, and junior pitcher-second baseman Amanda Kustanbauter, of Muncy. Brooks and Gantz earned All-NEAC North First Team honors last year while the other three were named to the All-NEAC North Second Team. Gantz was a second team USCAA All-American and Brooks an USCAA Honorable Mention All-American.
“Those five girls, they set the bar. They set the standard. First-year girls that we have coming in knew of the surprising success of the team last year … what that’s doing is pushing our first-year players to step up their game and it’s also pushing our all-conference players to up their game,” Klahold said, noting that she is counting on structured offseason workouts done by team leaders to pay dividends.
In a recent poll of NEAC coaches, Penn College was picked to finish sixth. Penn State Berks was picked to finish first, followed by Keuka College, Wilson College, Penn State Abington, SUNY Poly, Penn College, Cazenovia College, St. Elizabeth College, Lancaster Bible College, Morrisville State College, Gallaudet University, SUNY Cobleskill and Wells College.
In its season opener at Lebanon Valley College on Friday that was called after eight innings due to darkness, Penn College fell, 19-7. The Wildcats led 1-0 after one inning before the home team scored all of its runs between the second and fifth innings. Penn College staged a late comeback with one run in the seventh and five in the eighth before play was halted. Freshman Nate Lowe, of East New Market, Maryland, finished 3 for 4 at the plate with two runs scored; freshman Ben Flicker, of Topton, was 2 for 3; and junior Noah Esposito, of Williamsport, had a three-run single in the eighth for Penn College.
The Wildcats finished 9-16 overall, their most wins in a season since 2010-11, and narrowed their scoring point differential to minus 6.9 points as they averaged 77.6 points per game on offense and allowed 84.5 after scoring 1,941 points and allowing 2,112. In the North Eastern Athletic Conference they ended with a 7-13 record and ninth overall, after being picked in a coaches’ preseason poll to finish 12th.
“We had a little bit of an up-and-down year. We had some nice winning streaks that were nice for our group,” said coach Ryan Callahan, whose teams in two seasons have gone 12-37.
Individually, freshman Ben Sosa, of Loyalsock Township, topped the team in scoring with 378 points, 15.1 per game; senior Erik Eichinger, of Villanova, scored 335 points (13.4 average) and senior Thomas Ross, of Williamsport, scored 250 (10.4), and closed out his career with 1,044 points. Ross also topped the team with 179 rebounds (7.5 average), while freshman Jesse White, of Harrisburg, had 173 rebounds (7.2) and Sosa 141 (5.6).
“We had a couple of freshmen who played real well for us,” Callahan said, noting the accomplishments of Sosa, White and Erik Perry Jr., of Waldorf, Maryland.
Looking ahead, the coach said, “I think the program is in a much better place than it was a year ago. A year ago at this time I only had two kids coming back and it was a scramble to get bodies to have a healthy roster; so that’s not a concern any more. We have a great core of guys to build around — six freshmen who all will be back and all have experience.
“The key will be to get a good recruiting class; bring in a couple of junior college transfers, bring in a couple of high school kids to mix up our class a little bit because we are so weighted toward what will be the sophomore class. We need to find pieces that fit around our core.”
Of his “core,” Callahan also noted, “The success of our team is going to depend on how that core improve and how much better they get from now until Oct. 15. It’s going to be very important to see how they progress, what kind of work they put in.
“We shot 100 more 3s (3-point shots) than anyone in the league and we’re going to do that next year too; it’s just if we can make more (this year the team shot .307). Hopefully we shoot at a higher clip next year.”
“We had Alicia Ross, who was returning, and we’re very thankful for her. But that was pretty much it, so I had to do a lot of recruiting on campus with students who already were enrolled who may have had some basketball experience and we managed to formulate a team,” coach Lauren Healy said of her first season.
“Luckily, some of the other teams got involved so I had quite a few soccer players who contributed a lot and ended up being starters and I had a couple of softball players who helped out. … It was pretty remarkable that we were able to get through an entire season, playing 25 games and competing as well,” Healy said.
“I know our record doesn’t show that we were in tight games against a lot of good top teams in the conference, but they (her players) just fought and battled and worked really hard and it was exciting to see the girls get involved with that and overall I am pleased,” the coach continued, adding, “with recruiting, we can get a great core group in and really compete for the playoffs in the conference.”
Overall, Penn College finished 3-22. It was 3-17 in conference play and finished tied for 12th. The Wildcats averaged 49.4 points per game and allowed 68.9, a differential of minus 19.5, after scoring 1,235 points and allowing 1,722.
Ross, a senior, was the top scorer with 410 points (17.1 per game) and she closed out her career with a school women’s-record 1,515. Sophomore Jane Herman, of Greencastle, was second in scoring with 274 points (11.9 average); and junior Gwendolyn Lavelle, of Pocono Summit, third with 230 (9.6). Ross also was the leading rebounder with 170 (7.1 average) and Herman was second in rebounds with 146 (6.3).
On Thursday, Ross was named to the NEAC Third Team, marking the second consecutive season that she received the same honor and making her the first player in program history to earn consecutive all-NEAC honors.
“Alicia was a remarkable player. … And she proved that she could do it being in one of the hardest majors on campus (nursing),” Healy said. Herman was one of the soccer players who joined the team and excelled and Lavelle came to the program unexpectedly and contributed greatly, the coach said.
“I’m looking forward to recruiting and I’m excited to see what kind of recruiting class I can bring in,” Healy said. “We’re looking at every position and volume because we need the numbers. There are several student-athletes who I am very excited about (bringing in).
“Overall, I’m very excited for next year. I thought this year was a challenge in terms of being my first year as a head coach … I’m anticipating the following year and … getting the program to where it needs to be. … I think it can be successful right away, on the court and off the court.”
Final overall record: 1-15
Sunday, Feb. 26 – at National Collegiate Open, Dover, Del.
Overall record: 0-1
NEAC record: 0-0
Friday, Feb. 24 – at Lebanon Valley College, L, 19-7, 8 innings
Sunday, March 5 – vs. Penn State Mont Alto at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 8:30 p.m.
Monday, March 6 – vs. Manhattanville College at Myrtle Beach, S.C. (2), noon
Tuesday, March 7 – vs. North Carolina Wesleyan College at Myrtle Beach, S.C. (2), 9 a.m.
Wednesday, March 8 – vs. Mt. Aloysius College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 1 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 – vs. Catholic University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Friday, March 24 – at Pitt-Bradford (2), 1 p.m.
Overall record: 0-0
NEAC record: 0-0
Sunday, March 5 – vs. Cedar Crest College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 – vs. Eastern Mennonite University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Monday, March 6 – vs. Medaille College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 1:30 p.m.
Monday, March 6 – vs. Rhode Island College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8 – vs. Hilbert College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8 – vs. Ursinus College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 – vs. Gwynedd Mercy University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 – vs. Clarks Summit University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 5:30 p.m.
Friday, March 16 – at Wilkes University (2), 4 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, Feb. 25-26 – PFATA Indoor State Championships at Taylor
Saturday-Sunday, March 11-12 – Indoor Nationals at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
For more, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.