Penn College Men Begin Defense of Soccer Championship Wednesday
After an opening loss to a NCAA Division III opponent, the Pennsylvania College of Technology men's soccer team breezed through the rest of its regular season.
The Wildcats thoroughly dominated their opponents, winning all 14 matches and outscoring their foes 75-3, including 11 by shutout.
In its regular-season finale, Penn College blanked Penn State Hazleton, 8-0, and that is who it will host at 5 p.m. Wednesday in a Penn State University Athletic Conference semifinal. The other semifinal pits Penn State York against Penn State Abington. Semifinal winners will meet for the championship at 2 p.m. Sunday at Jeffrey Field on Penn State's main campus.
"It's been amazing," said Enrique Castillo, in his second year as coach of the Wildcats. "I have talented guys on the squad. I have 26 guys and any of them could start for the other teams in our conference.
"We start a lot of seniors and they bring leadership. Our goal is to win a championship and they've got the mind-set of "get the job done,'" Castillo said.
"The way we moved the ball (in its last match against Hazleton ), it showed that everybody is starting to click. They knew it was an important game to finish off (the regular season) and get ready to make a run for the championship," Castillo continued.
A year ago, Castillo guided the Wildcats to their third consecutive conference championship. Now, as the top seed entering the playoffs, the sights are set on No. 4 in a row.
Penn College also beat Hazleton on Sept. 19, 3-0, and owns regular-season wins over both Penn State Abington, 4-0 on Sept. 22, and Penn State York, 3-0 on Oct. 10.
"We're confident, but we're not overconfident. We respect Hazleton . But, if we play our game, our style of soccer, I think we can get a win Wednesday (and then) see what happens Sunday," Castillo said.
"York and Abington are well-coached and have very good players. I'm sure they got better and are doing all the right things. Both of those teams are going to be tough.
"As long as we're ready to play, and we play with energy, we move the ball around and do all of the little things that makes Penn College a good team, we'll be fine," Castillo continued.
Probable Penn College starters Wednesday will be seniors Josh Liples (Montdale) at left striker, Travis Russ (Effort) at right defender and Wes Miller (Reading) at left defender; juniors Abdullah Al-Bahrani (Saudi Arabia) at center striker, Shane Fuller (York) at right striker and Stephen Lis (Elliottsburg) at center-midfielder; sophomores Steve Bullock (Manheim) at left midfielder, Derick Hunter (Montoursville) at right midfielder, John Vitovsky (Waymart) at stopper and Corey Myers (Boiling Springs) at goalie; and freshman Seth Rearick (Watsontown) at sweeper.
"That formation gives us a little more attack. In the first game that we played, we were a little conservative and we lost (against Penn State Harrisburg). After that, we made changes and got plenty of strikers. Our middle works hard and our defense is strong. We took the chance and put another striker in and it's paying off," Castillo said.
Photos by Jessica L. Tobias, student photographer