New Men's Soccer Coach Has Big Shoes to Fill
New Pennsylvania College of Technology men's soccer coach Jeff Finn has a tough act to follow.
Finn succeeds Andy Richardson, whose Wildcat teams went 113-51-10 in 13 seasons and won league championships in 2000 and last year. While Finn has some big shoes to fill, the fact that he was Richardson's assistant coach for the last two years is a definite plus.
"It's always hard to follow up to a championship. The expectations for us are there and it's hard to live up to them, but I think the players are up to the challenge," Finn said as his team prepared for its opener at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against Northampton Community College.
A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, where he played soccer, and a two-year assistant at Heidelberg (Ohio) College before coming to Penn College, Finn is optimistic about this year's Wildcat team.
"We've got a solid team. I think we're definitely going to be in contention again for the league championship," Finn said.
This year, Penn College will compete in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, formerly the Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference.
"I'm liking the work ethic on the team. We have a lot of people who are working very hard at practice and that's just going to carry over into the game and I think that's where our success is going to lie," he continued. "We might not be the most talented team in the league, but if we show up and play hard every game, like we have in practice, then we'll be in the championship."
Finn is banking those hopes on a solid corps of players, some with outstanding soccer skills.
Sharing time at the goalie position will be freshmen Mike Dini (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Tristan Wertan (Warrior Run).
Defense will be the backbone of the team, according to Finn, and players he is counting on there include sweeper Lathan Gross (junior/Northeastern), backs Wes Miller (sophomore/Wilson), Travis Russ (sophomore/Pleasant Valley) and Alex Johnson (junior/New Oxford), center-midfielders Shane Fuller (freshman/Northeastern) and Darin Lehman (freshman/Conemaugh Township), midfielder Jochen Stein, a freshman international exchange student from Hamburg, Germany; left midfielder John Swope (sophomore/East Pennsboro), right midfielder Brendan Kemmerer (freshman/Faith Christian Academy) and forwards Josh Liples (sophomore/Lakeland) and Abdullah Al-Bahrini (freshman/Saudi Arabia).
Top players off the bench will be Brent McElrath (freshman forward/Mercer), Stephen Lis (freshman back and midfielder/West Perry), Nate Menio (sophomore defender/Line Mountain) and back Dan Hill (sophomore/Muncy).
Gross, Miller, Russ, Johnson, Swope, Lipless and Menio are returnees from last year's 19-2 squad. Hill lettered two years ago.
Offensively, Finn said his players should control the middle of the field with Stein and Lehman sparking the attack.
"We're looking to get a lot of finishing out of Abdullah and Josh Liples. I think Josh is going to create some goals just off his hard work," Finn said.
Commenting on his team's defense, Finn said, "We might have the strongest defensive unit in the league this year. We've got two third-year players back (Gross and Johnson) and having two players with their experience and leadership is going to be great for us. I'm expecting a very low goals-against to goals-scored ratio."
"I'm definitely excited about the season," Finn said. "We have a little bit of work to do. We've only been practicing together for a week so there's a lot to play out yet, but after the first week I have a pretty good feel for what we're going to be capable of and it makes it a little more exciting to know that you're going to be in the hunt for the championship."
Included on the Wildcats' 14-match regular-season schedule is the season finale at crosstown rival Lycoming College, an NCAA Division III school, on Oct. 24.
Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college's athletics Web site .