Penn College Women Soccer Players Head to Nationals
Seasons ended for three Pennsylvania College of Technology fall sports teams last week while the college’s women’s soccer squad prepares for this week’s United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships.
After completing a 9-5-2 regular season two weeks ago, the Lady Wildcats had to wait until last midweek to learn they had been awarded an at-large berth in the USCAA National tournament in Charleston, W.Va., where, as the No. 8 seed, they will open Wednesday against fourth-seeded University of Maine Machias (14-3-1). A win in that match would pit them against top-seeded University of Maine Fort Kent (13-1), to which they lost, 3-0, during the regular season.
Playing its season without a conference affiliation, Penn College scheduled a host of NCAA Division III teams and the strength of its schedule turned out to be a benefit.
“The regular season was tough in some spots. For example, we had seven games in 10 days this month,” said coach Markus Rybak, who is in his fourth season. “ The strength of the schedule was really high as well, which I knew coming into the season. I was hoping that we could compete and hopefully qualify for nationals, and with that schedule it would prepare us for the tournament.”
“The key for this year was that we, as a team, mature together. With a tough schedule, the experience and the way we played improved every week. Yes, we lost some games that I really believed we should have won, but the girls learned from it and became a better team. This squad is a very young one, with only one senior and three juniors,” Rybak continued.
“We, as a team, came together and achieved great things this year. That being said, there are some players that stepped up this year. Robyn Beddow (of Lancaster) is the leading scorer with 14 goals. Madilyn Walters (of Lewistown) leads the team in assists with 11. Colleen Bowes (of Wayne) stepped up and did an awesome job in goal when Reda (Vermilya, of Turbotville) got injured. The whole defensive line with Jordan Courter (of Mill Hall), Kierstin Craig-Sovic (of Selinsgrove), Trinda Wertman (of Watsontown) and Tara Bennethum (of Jonestown) did a great job this year. They struggled at times but also kept us in some games as well,” Rybak said.
In addition to Fort Kent at nationals, Penn College also met fifth-seeded Alfred (N.Y.) State during the regular season and they fought to a 1-1 draw.
“I will be counting on each player at nationals. Some players need to keep the great form going and some need to step up,” the coach said.
“I am happy with the draw (against Alfred). We did play Maine Machias last year in the (national) tournament so I know a little about the team. I feel very confident that we have a good chance to win the game,” Rybak continued. “The key in the playoffs will be the improvement of the team. We need to eliminate some of the mistakes that we have done in previous games. The good thing is that we know the teams that we will be facing so there should no surprise. Anything can happen on any specific day.
“I am looking forward to the tournament. We played a great game in our last regular season finale at St. Thomas Aquinas (NCAA D-II) and if we continue with that kind of performance, possibilities are there.”
The season ended for the second-seeded Penn College men on Thursday with a 2-0 semifinal loss to third-seeded Penn State Brandywine that capped a 9-2 Penn State University Athletic Conference and 14-5 overall campaign. Brandywine forced play throughout the match, outshooting the Wildcats, 21-10, and just two of the 10 shots were on goal. The defeat snapped a three-year PSUAC title run for Penn College.
Earlier in the week, for the second week in a row, Wildcat Chris Brennan, of New Hope, was named the PSUAC and USCAA Men’s Soccer Player of the Week. In the team’s only game the previous week, Brennan scored five goals to break Penn College’s single-game scoring record. He also notched an assist in a 6-1 win over Penn State Hazleton. For the season, Brennan scored 28 goals and 60 points, putting him at the top of the PSUAC rankings and second in the USCAA.
On Friday against top-seeded and defending conference co-champ Penn State Fayette, the fourth-seeded Lady Wildcats lost, 14-25, 18-25, 9-25, to end their season 12-6 in the conference and 13-20 overall. Junior Courtney Gernert, of Palmyra, led Penn College with nine kills and freshman Catie Aviles, of Robesonia, had 13 assists. Also for Penn College, sophomore Loralee Lindemuth, of Tidioute, had five kills and freshman Katelyn Klein, of Lock Haven, had four while senior Rachel Heller, of Allison Park, recorded seven of the team’s 17 digs.
On Tuesday, Penn College advanced to the PSUAC semifinals with a 25-22, 25-16, 25-14 win over fifth-seeded Penn State Hazleton. In a defensive battle, Heller led all players with 21 digs while Gernert led all hitters with 15 kills and added 17 digs. Also for the Lady Wildcats, Aviles had 20 assists and Lindemuth had nine kills and two blocks.
In their final match of the season, the Lady Wildcats lost to Penn State Mont Alto, 3-2, on Wednesday. Brook Reed, of Hamburg, won at the No. 3 singles spot, and the No. 1 doubles team of Melissa Stabley, of Cogan Station, and Taylor Lapointe, of Pelham, N.H., won by forfeit as Penn College closed out a 1-3 conference and 2-8 overall season.
Friday, Nov. 8 – USCAA Championships at Syracuse, N.Y.
Final overall record: 14-5
Final PSUAC record: 9-2
Thursday, Oct. 24 – host Penn State Brandywine in PSUAC playoff semifinal, L, 2-0
Overall record: 9-6-2
Wednesday, Oct. 30 – vs. University of Maine Machias in USCAA National Championships at Charleston, W. Va.
Final overall record: 2-8
Final PSUAC record: 1-3
Wednesday, Oct. 23 – at Penn State Mont Alto, L, 3-2
Final overall record: 13-20
Final PSUAC record: 12-6
Tuesday, Oct. 22 – host Penn State Hazleton in PSUAC playoffs, W, 25-22, 25-16, 25-14
Friday, Oct. 25 – vs. Penn State Fayette in PSUAC semifinals at Penn State’s Rec Hall, L, 14-25, 18-25, 9-25
Photos by Craig R. Urey, student photographer