Three Penn College Teams Open Friday
Rafael Morais, with the men’s soccer team, and John McNichol, with the women’s soccer squad, will make their debuts – the men open at Baptist Bible College at 4 p.m. and the women host Rosemont College at 7:30 p.m. – while Monica Brown returns for her second season as coach of the women’s volleyball team that gets underway at 5 p.m. at crosstown rival Lycoming College.
Morais comes to Penn College with strong credentials. Since 2007, he has been the head of the men’s soccer program at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, New York. There, he was a two-time National Coach of the Year in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, leading his team to two national championships with a total of five championship appearances. In seven years, he amassed an 85-12-5 overall record. In addition, in 2010 he coached Puerto Rico’s national women’s professional team in the Friendlies against Mexico.
According to Morais, his team had 40 student-athletes trying out for spots on what will become a 25-man roster.
“Even though our team is young, we have a lot of talent coming in and returning. I think we have the opportunity to make a huge statement this year,” he said
Jake Tuck, a senior from Hollsopple, and Christian Dresseler, a junior from McAlisterville, are two of the more fit players on the team so they're definitely leaders, Morais said.
“Ronald Garcia, of Brentwood, New York, and Hector Guerrero, from Mexico, are transfers from Briarcliffe College (USCAA national champion in 2012) and will give us the experience we need to go far in the competition,” the coach continued.
“I believe that the biggest challenge this year is that we are a very young team. We may not be as experienced, but we definitely have a lot of talent throughout the entire team.
“Team chemistry is massive for me and I think our biggest strength this year will be our teamwork. As a soccer family, we all seem to be on the same page about what we want to accomplish this year and we are all willing to work together for it.
“I’m excited to be here at Penn College and building on the recent success of the program. I’m sure we can raise the level of soccer and help the team become a national contender,” Morais added.
After two nonconference matches, Penn College steps into North Eastern Athletic Conference action for the first time on Sept. 6 at SUNY-IT. Ten of the Wildcats’ 17 regular season matches will be in the NEAC.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 14-5 overall and lost in the Penn State University Athletic Conference semifinals.
McNichol, a native of West Chester and a King’s College graduate, comes to Penn College after serving as the assistant men’s coach at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. Last season, he helped King’s win its conference championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Overall, I am very excited for this upcoming season and building upon the success the team had this past season. It is a very exciting year for not only our women’s soccer program but Penn College athletics, with it being our first year as a provisional member of NCAA Division III athletics and as full members of the North Eastern Athletic Conference. This season will provide a lot of firsts for our program and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead of us. We have a good mix of returning players,” McNichol said.
“I expect to start Colleen Bowes, a sophomore from Wayne, in goal. She has done a great job in the preseason, building on her strong showing at last year’s national tournament. Val Passalacqua, a senior from McAlisterville, has done a nice job in the midfield so far and I can envision her playing there this season. However, with this being my first year with the team, I am still learning about each player and trying to find where they will fit in our system,” McNichol continued.
“I would not say we have a veteran team but the girls who are returning all have played in big games at the USCAA National Tournament. At the same time, we have a great group of first-year players who have hit the ground running. I think our combination of youth and experience will help us throughout the year. In terms of progress, I am looking for the girls working to get better every day, to work hard at each training session and give maximum effort both on the field and in the classroom. They are doing a great job of learning a new system and staying mentally sharp and if we can continue to do these things each day they will continue to improve at a rapid rate.
“The group of girls we have is extremely positive, they communicate very well with each other and this is very important with everything being new. Each day they are more confident with the system and you can tell in the way they prepare and communicate that to each other.
“With everything being new, the girls have a big learning curve ahead of them. Trying to teach and explain as much as I can to them in such little time is tough. Having only four days of preseason (due to classes starting Aug. 18) puts us at a little disadvantage in terms of the number of training sessions we can get in prior to our first game,” the coach said.
“The key to our success will be for everyone to continue to buy into the new system, as well as getting as familiar with the system as possible. If the girls continue to buy in the way they have since we started preseason, it will allow them to get even more familiar with what we want to do.
“My outlook for the season is to get better each day and put an organized and hard-working team on the field each day. I want the team to pressure and play with a great deal of energy and passion for the entire 90 minutes. If we can accomplish these goals, I know we can have a successful year. As for competing in the NEAC, I am excited that the girls will have a chance to compete in a full conference schedule and a chance to play in the conference playoffs. We are looking forward to the challenge of the new conference,” McNichol said.
“I believe we have a shot to make the USCAA playoffs as we have made the tournament the past few years. The girls have set goals as a group and that is one they are very focused on achieving.
“My assistant is Kristen Gedon and I am very excited to have her as a part of the program. She has done a great job of jumping right in and providing instruction to the girls. She is very hands-on and I am very happy that she is able to commit so much time and effort to the team,” he said.
“My coaching philosophy is to recruit quality student-athletes who are good players and, more importantly, great students and people, and have them play a system-specific style. My teams will play an attacking style of soccer with a ton of energy and effort. Having players who are great students allows me to push them to a higher level and will allow the team to perform at a higher level.
“I will be as consistent as possible with how we train and how we prepare for each game. Creating this type of atmosphere allows the team to come to training and games ready to work. I am excited to take over a team that has had success in the past; coming from an NCAA Division III school, I am very excited about our provisional status. I have been fortunate enough to coach teams that have won the ECAC South Region Championship, a Freedom Conference Championship and in the NCAA Tournament. These experiences have helped shape how I coach and have prepared me for the new challenges I face at Penn College,” McNichol said.
Penn College opens play in the NEAC on Sept. 6 at SUNY-IT. It will play 13 of its 18 regular-season matches in the conference.
A year ago, Penn College finished 11-7-2 overall and went 2-1 in the end-of-the-season USCAA Association National Championships.
Key returning players from last year’s team include outside hitter Courtney Gernert, of Palmyra, who Brown said, “has been our most dynamic player so far and I expect her to only get better this year with our strong freshmen class pushing her to get better;” middle and outside hitter Loralee Lindemuth, of Tidioute, of whom Brown said, “I expect Loralee to really come into her own this year. She has two solid years of playing experience for Penn College and has always filled whatever role given very well; and middle and right-side hitter Kaitlyn Klein, of Lock Haven.
“Kaitlyn joined us last year and did very well. She has taken on a leadership role this year already and I expect her to continue that on the court as well,” Brown said.
“I am very excited about this upcoming season! We have very talented players returning and an equal set of talented incoming athletes. I expect us to have a very successful season,” she continued.
“We are still competing for positions at this time, but I know my returners will have a spot on the court. It’s just a matter of where we decide to put them.
“We are working with a younger squad, but our veterans are leading the way seamlessly. I'm looking for the returners and freshmen to become more comfortable playing together and, at that point, I think we'll be a tough team to beat,” the coach said.
“I think our strength is that we have all the right tools and talent; we just need to come up with the right lineup to accent our strengths. We have a lower roster number than anticipated, which will hopefully be rectified by having tryouts this week.
“If the girls can learn to work together and play as a team, we will have a very successful season,” Brown said.
“We haven't played anyone in the NEAC yet, but, by comparing schedules, I believe we will do well in our first year. I do believe we have a shot at making (NEAC and USCAA) playoffs. We have a talented group and, if we can make it all come together, then we have a very good chance of making it to playoffs.
“I'm very lucky to have Shawn Bradley (assistant coach) returning this year. We work very well together and we're very excited about this year,” Brown said.
Penn College opens NEAC play Sept. 20 at Wells College. Twelve of its 26 regular-season matches will be against conference opponents.
In Brown’s first season, the Wildcats finished 13-20 overall and reached the PSUAC semifinals.
PENN COLLEGE SCHEDULES/RECORDS
Friday, Aug. 29 –at Baptist Bible College, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 2 – host Alfred State College, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29 – host Rosemont College, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 4 – host Baptist Bible College, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29 – host Lycoming College, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 30 – host Lycoming College, Wilkes University, Baptist Bible College, 10 a.m. (Lycoming vs. Baptist Bible, 10 a.m.; Penn College vs. Wilkes at Field House, 10 a.m.; Lycoming vs. Wilkes, noon; Wilkes vs. Baptist Bible, 2 p.m.; Penn College vs. Baptist Bible, 4 p.m.)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – host Misericordia University, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 2 – at Baptist Bible College, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 6 – at Wilkes University, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 6 – at PSU Abington, 8:30 a.m. women; 9:30 a.m. men
Saturday, Sept. 13 – Cougar Classic at Dallas, Pa., 10:30 a.m. women; 11:15 a.m. men
Sunday-Monday, Sept. 21-22 – at PSU Harrisburg Invitational, 11:30 a.m.