Penn College Men Win Fourth Straight Soccer Championship
Pennsylvania College of Technology's men's soccer team captured its fourth straight conference championship Sunday, but it didn't come easy.
The Wildcats built a 2-0 lead against Penn State York in the Penn State University Athletic Conference finale on goals by Abdullah Al-Bahrani, a junior from Saudi Arabia, in the 10th and 81st minutes. But York hung close behind freshman goalie Brian Helm and scored in the 83rd minute on a goal by Shuaib Alqaddomi on a pass from Danny Montague.
"It was a tough game. York is a good team," observed Penn College coach Enrique Castillo. "Even in bad games, good teams manage to find a way to win. We didn't play our greatest and we still managed to win. That says a lot about the team."
For the match, played at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Penn College pounded the net 18 times while limiting Penn State York to half as many attempts. The win was the Wildcats' 16th straight of the season after an opening non-league loss.
As the statistics showed, Penn College controlled the ball much of the match, But after Penn State York finally scored, the momentum shifted, according to Castillo, and he admitted a few anxious moments over the final seven minutes.
"Not that we panicked, but they had three or four shots which made it exciting at the end," Castillo said. "But we found a way to control the ball, we killed a little bit of time and managed to pull out a victory. That's all that matters."
Penn State York finished its season with a 12-4 record, with two of its losses to Penn College.
"It was our best match of the year. I guess that's the way it's supposed to be,"Penn StateYork coach Rich Chilcoat said.
Going into the championship match, the Wildcats had outscored their opposition 83-10, including 11 shutout wins.
"I knew once the playoffs came along that we weren't going to have the 9-0 or 5-0 games. It's a different ballgame. A different intensity," Castillo said.
Al-Bahrani scored his first goal on a pass from Shane Fuller (York), but Castillo will most remember his second tally.
"I had just put him back on the field after a break and I heard him tell one of his teammates "I can feel it. I'm going to score right now.' He got the ball one-on-one with the goalie and just placed it (perfectly), not 10 seconds later," the coach recalled.
"If there is an MVP for the team, definitely, the last couple of games he could be considered. The way he controlled the ball and moved it around, he did an excellent job," Castillo said.
Goalie Corey Myers, a sophomore from Boiling Springs, had another great match for the Wildcats.
"He had the best game. This whole season he's been challenged. We have two excellent goalies, Daniel Shaffer also is outstanding, and it's hard to decide which one to put in because they both are really good athletes and, at the same time, very good leaders; but Corey had experience from before (last year) and he came through," Castillo said.
Several core players were in action for the last time as Wildcats, including Al-Bahrani, Fuller, Josh Liples (Montdale), Wesley Miller (Reading), Travis Russ (Effort) and Derick Hunter (Montoursville).
"I will lose some key people, but, at the same time, we have some young players who are going to step up. They've been through the system one year and some of the freshmen got to play in the championship game," said Castillo, who is assisted by Mark Anderson.
The coach was especially pleased with the fan support his team got in the title match, pointing out that players from the college's women's soccer team and other students, along with parents, made the trip to State College.
"We had a great crowd (as many as 150) compared to York, and I think that helped out a lot," Castillo said. "It was nice. It was very nice."
"Being 16-0 in the conference, it was one of the best seasons ever for us. Like any team, we had our ups and downs even though we were winning, but we're family and the kids know that.
"To have a perfect (conference) season and win the championship is a feeling I can never get used to. I've been fortunate enough to be there three times, one as an assistant and two as a head coach, and the feeling still hasn't changed," Castillo added. "And, it keeps me motivated to be there next year and I'm sure the players feel that way."