Men's Soccer Team Opens Playoffs Wednesday
All season long, the Pennsylvania College of Technology men's soccer team has had one goal win its third straight conference championship.
The Wildcats, under first-year coach Enrique Castillo, begin that quest in earnest at 5 p.m. Wednesday when they host Penn State Abington in a Penn State University Athletic Conference semifinal match on their home field along College Avenue.
"It's going to be a difficult game, but some of the key players who were there in the championship game last year are going to bring a lot of experience and knowledge of how important it is to get off on the right foot (in the playoffs)," Castillo said.
Penn College went 12-1-2 during the regular season and beat Penn State Abington at home, 4-0, in September.
"We're ready to defend our title. Physically, I think we're ready, and I think mentally we're ready. That's what we worked on the last week, to get them focused," Castillo said.
"We've got to play Penn College-style, which is moving the ball around, getting open, using the whole field and possessing the ball. We're not a kick-and-run team," the coach continued.
"They've (Abington) gotten better, and I think we've gotten a lot better, also. It's going to be interesting. ... If we play our style, we can play anybody. Not being overconfident, but there's not a team that can play with us if we play our style."
Key players on whom Castillo is counting are strikers Steve Bullock (Manheim), Shane Fuller (York), Josh Liples (Olyphant), Abdullah Al-Bahrani (Saudi Arabia), goalie Corey Myers and tri-captains Jason Lapenna (Fairless Hills), Stephen Lis (Elliotsburg) and Wes Miller (Reading).
"Our strikers are the key. We've made opportunities (to score) in every game we've played so far, even the games we lost. It's how we put (the ball) into the net," the coach said.
Penn State Harrisburg and Penn State Hazleton are playing in the other semifinal, also Wednesday. During the regular season, Penn College beat both of those teams, 1-0. Wednesday's winners will meet for the championship at 2 p.m. Sunday at University Park.
"I told them what it means to win a championship, what it takes as a team effort. Everybody listened and is motivated and ready to go," Castillo said.
"It's something that hasn't been done (in men's soccer at the college), if we win a championship, three-peat. After three championships in a row, people start talking about a dynasty. It means that we win the championship at this point, but, 10 years down the road, the players can look back and say, 'It took a group of guys to come up and set a goal and accomplish that goal,"' the coach added.