Ring Ceremony, Fall Premiere Make for Super Tuesday
Players from Penn College's baseball team were presented their North Eastern Athletic Conference championship rings at Bowman Field prior to the Williamsport Crosscutters game against the Auburn Doubledays.
The Wildcats won their first NEAC championship in May in their inaugural season in the conference.
“My coaching staff and I are very excited to honor our players for the NEAC championship,” Penn College baseball coach Chris Howard said. “This is an accomplishment that we are all very proud of.”
Also on Tuesday, the seasons began for the men’s and women’s soccer and cross-country teams and the women’s volleyball team.
The Wildcats are coming off an 8-8-1 season, 4-5-1 in the NEAC, and first-year coach Tyler Mensch is hopeful for the upcoming season. In nonconference action at home against Central Penn College, freshman Randy Vance, of Greenwood Lake, scored three goals in a 6-0 victory.
“The team only missed the playoffs by a game last year in the first year of being in the NEAC. There’s no doubt in my mind we can clinch a top-six spot in the league and make the playoffs in our second year,” Mensch said.
“It would be great to earn a top-four seed where we would host a playoff game at Penn College. We would like to finish above .500 overall on the year and playing more NCAA schools (such as Juniata, Lycoming, King’s, Alfred, Summit University and Westminster) will help our strength of schedule and allow us to play better competition before league play starts,” said the Muncy native, who is a former College Misericordia standout player and served four years as an assistant coach at Wilkes University.
In a preseason poll of the conference’s 13 coaches, the Wildcats were ranked No. 7 behind Morrisville State College, Lancaster Bible College, Keuka College, Penn State Abington, Wells College and SUNY Polytechnic Institute and ahead of Cazenovia College, Penn State Berks, Bryn Athyn College, SUNY Cobleskill, Gallaudet University and Wilson College.
To finish among the top six, reach the playoffs and possibly reach the United States Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs, the coach will be counting on:
Defenders – Ian Scheller, sophomore, of Sunbury; Dan Hibbs, sophomore, of Loyalsock Township; Devin Sherman, freshman, of Butler; and Jon Myers, sophomore, of Shippensburg.
Midfielders – Chris Rutledge, senior, of Macungie; John Sabga, junior, of Trinidad; Luke McFalls, senior, of New Oxford; Dane Cessna, sophomore, of Meadville; Nate Lehman, junior, of South Williamsport; Randy Vance, freshman, of Greenwood Lake, New York; Gerry Lua, freshman, of Biglerville; Austin Dowdrick, freshman, of Olney, Maryland; John Murray, junior, of Dallas; Tarik Laroche, senior, of Milton; and Ken Zeager, sophomore, of Elizabethtown.
Forwards – Doug Binnie, junior, of Charlton, Massachusetts, and Bob Klingerman, senior, of Langhorne.
Goalies – Malcome Kane, sophomore, of Ardsley; Hunter Gosnell, freshman, of Westminster, Maryland; and Mason Merrill, freshman, of Rome.
“They are an extremely hard-working group of guys who have been buying into my system as a first-year coach,” Mensch said. “With just being hired in May we missed out on the spring season and getting to know everyone but in the past week we have made steady progress and the guys are soaking up all the information I have to tell them and have been very responsive to the culture we are trying to create for the men’s soccer program at Penn College.
“(We) have a fairly young squad with not a ton of returning experience. Some guys who may have been role players last year will now be expected to contribute in more of a way than being a reserve. A lot of the guys just need game experience to help with playing quicker and adjusting to the collegiate game.”
Addressing what he views as strengths, Mensch said, “The team works extremely hard and puts opponents under pressure all over the field. I think we will score a lot of work-rate goals this season by forcing the opposition to make mistakes deep in their defending half and being able to pounce on their turnovers and finish chances off the counter-attack. We are starting to develop ourselves a back four on defense and once they get more established with the flow of the game I feel as if our back line could be very solid. The middle of the pack should also be very solid with a lot of creative midfield and attacking players going forward.”
The coach’s concerns: “Making sure we are game-fit throughout the entire year. We have a lot of matches back-to-back so we need to make sure guys are taking care of their bodies and doing the right things to avoid nagging injuries that can hamper their play. We have a young squad, so, in the beginning of the year, nerves will be high as most of the guys saw limited time last year and not true starting roles.”
The key to success, Mensch said, “will be communicating on the field and playing simple, maintaining our composure when times get rough and most importantly having fun. When you are having fun on the field, it helps you relax and play simply without panicking.
“I am looking forward to my first year as the head coach. If the team continues to buy into our coaching staff’s philosophies, I feel as if we can start to build a solid style and brand of soccer that can be very successful in the NEAC,” he added.
Adam Scheibeler is Mensch’s assistant coach.
Coach John McNichol’s first team finished 5-12 overall and 4-7 in the NEAC and, with a 24-player roster that includes returning all NEAC Third Team honorees junior Jordan Courter, of Mill Hall, and sophomore Caitlin McCarthy, of State College, he is optimistic. Penn College opened with a 5-1 loss at King’s College. Freshman Christina Weber, of Howell, New Jersey, scored the team’s only goal in the 76th minute.
“The team is working very hard through preseason and the first weeks of school. … The girls came in fit and have continued to improve each day. We are looking to build upon the success we experienced this past spring and improve our standing in the conference,” McNichol said.
Two-time defending conference champion Penn State Berks topped a preseason poll of the NEAC’s 13 coaches to repeat and was followed in order by: Penn State Abington, Lancaster Bible College, Keuka College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Cazenovia College, Wells College, Morrisville State College, Penn College, SUNY Cobleskill, Gallaudet University, Wilson College and College of St. Elizabeth.
In addition to Courter, a defender, and McCarthy, a midfielder, McNichol and his assistant coach Kristen Gedon are counting on senior defender Laresa Paden, of Mifflintown; senior forward Robyn Beddow, of Lancaster; and sophomore forward Hailee Hartman, of Lampeter.
“I still do not have a group that I am ready to say is my starting 11. We are excited about our returning players and first-year players pushing to get time this season,” McNichol said.
“Our team is a very young squad, with 15 new players on the roster. The nine retuning players have done a great job of making the first-year players' transition seamless. Their leadership and example they set is second to none. We are looking to build upon our success at the end of last season and this spring and make the NEAC playoffs. We want to see each player improve individually and become a well-rounded player,” the coach continued.
“Our biggest strength is our work rate; the girls work so hard all the time their effort will give teams trouble. We want to high-pressure and create turnovers in the oppositions’ defensive third and the team should be able to accomplish that this year. Our depth has vastly improved since last season and will help us stay fresh later in the season.
“As a team, we are looking to improve our ability to hold possession and connect passes. The girls have worked very hard the past few weeks and I look forward to seeing them improve over the course of the season,” the coach said.
McNichol added, “The key to our success will be how our team gels as a group. With having so many new faces it is very important that we establish a cohesive group from the start.
“We are looking to improve upon where we finished in the NEAC last season. Our overriding goal is to make the conference playoffs and we hope to make that a reality in our second season in the NEAC.
“Playing in the USCAA National Tournament is one of our team’s goals this year and one that we hope to reach. Any time you get the opportunity to play in a national tournament it is very exciting and a great experience for the team.
“Our team is looking forward to a very challenging year from a schedule standpoint. We will be playing a few new teams this season, and, of course, our Battle for the Lumber game with crosstown rival Lycoming College.
“In conference play, Penn State Berks has been the top team and plays a very difficult nonconference schedule. If we are able to improve and gel as a team, we hope to be able to be there in the end playing in the conference tournament.”
The Lady Wildcats were 11-16 overall a year ago and 2-5 in the NEAC, where they just missed reaching the playoffs, and new coach Tom McLaughlin said he is ready for the challenge. Penn College opened with a 3-0 loss at Keystone College.
Leading the team will be returning starters Sophie Coldsmith, a sophomore setter from Gettysburg, and Flecia Webber, a sophomore outside hitter from West Perry.
“They have taken a leadership role the first few weeks of practice. I think we’re going to be a lot stronger with our offense at outside,” McLaughlin said.
Also returning are sophomores Kaitlyn Young, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, at libero, and Kari Fargus, of Avis.
Newcomers who have stepped up thus far are freshman Tayla Clark, of Westfield, a setter and hitter; sophomore Tara Glenny, of Petersburg, a middle hitter; and freshman Julia Kocher, of Centre Hall.
“We’re excited with what they can bring to the team,” the coach said.
“I think that we’ve come a long way since our first practice. Last year the team just missed the cutoff for the conference playoffs … and one of our major goals is to get over that hump this year,” McLaughlin said. “In order to do that we need to bring the newcomers along quickly and I feel that with our veterans we can definitely get over that hurdle this year.”
In a preseason poll of the conference’s 13 coaches, five-time champion Gallaudet University was tabbed as the team to beat followed by Wells College, Keuka College, Penn State Berks, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Lancaster Bible College, Morrisville State College, Penn State Abington, Bryn Athyn College, Penn College, Cazenovia College, SUNY Cobleskill and College of St. Elizabeth.
McLaughlin said that good height in the middle will be a strength for his squad and that it will be a good blocking team.
Improved defense and getting his newcomers acclimated to the collegiate level of play will be important too.
“The pace of play is a lot faster (in college) both on offense and defense, especially for setters – they need to be more consistent – and hitters need to be quicker to the ball.
“High school volleyball varies a lot in different areas of the country and even different areas of the state, so part of it is getting everybody on the same page and then elevating everybody’s game as a team,” McLaughlin said.
The new coach said of his philosophy, “I am very focused in practice on motor learning. I focus on things like muscle memory and teaching drills with repetition because my goal is to focus on the skills that produce the most points in games.
“I am very focused on blocking, getting solid blocks on every play and establishing our middle blockers on defense.”
Looking ahead, McLaughlin said, “Our conference games are really what matter, but we’ve set up a schedule with some pretty tough nonconference opponents the first couple of weeks just to get us ready – one to see where we are as a team and two to challenge us both on offense and defense better than we can (do) in practice.”
A year ago, the men’s team placed ninth in the NEAC and the women 10th. The women also finished 16th in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships.
Returning for first-year coach Nick Patton is junior Nathan Mashack, of Bloomsburg, and sophomore Derrick Morrison, of York. The Wildcats placed eighth in a nine-team field on Tuesday at the College Misericordia Invitational with freshman Liam McGarvey, of Cogan Station, leading the way with a 26th place finish in 19:06.45.
In a men’s preseason poll of the conference’s 12 coaches, two-time champion SUNY Polytechnic Institute edged SUNY Cobleskill for the top spot followed by Penn State Abington, Morrisville State College, Penn State Berks, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Cazenovia College, Wells College, Penn College, Lancaster Bible College and Bryn Athyn College.
Also running Tuesday for the Wildcats were sophomore Chris Traugher, of Bath; Mashack; Morrison; and junior William Cox, of Ebensburg.
“I was pretty happy with how yesterday went, considering that we haven’t had any training workouts or consistent weekly (running) mileage,” Patton said.
“I am looking at the conference meet (Oct. 31). I hope we perform well there, that’s our whole goal,” said Patton, who added that his program will stress individualized training for each runner. “We’re a young team, but I think we will surprise people by the end of the year,” the coach added.
On Tuesday, only two Penn College women ran – senior Erin Sullivan, of Elizabethtown, and junior Ashley Mahaffey, of Hughesville. Both finished in the 23-plus minute range.
“I have 11 women. The team is pretty young and lacks experience, but I think as the season goes on you’ll see them come together and I think they will run well,” Patton said.
Sophomore Jessica Wiegand, of Montoursville, is the team’s lone returnee.
In a NEAC coaches’ preseason poll, Penn College was tabbed No. 11. At the top was six-time champ SUNY Cobleskill followed by Penn State Abington, Cazenovia College, Keuka College, Morrisville State College, Wells College, Penn State Berks, Lancaster Bible College, Gallaudet University, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Penn College, Wilson College and Bryn Athyn College.
Odds ’n' Ends
Penn College has partnered with Stretch Internet to become the live video streaming provider for Wildcats athletics, Assistant Director of Athletics Matt Blymier announced.
Penn College’s athletics events will be streamed in high definition for all home games for soccer, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball through Stretch's portal. Games are free to view.
“We are very excited to offer this feature to our fan base, parents and alumni,” Blymier said. “Stretch Internet is a great company to work with, both with their customer service and their desire to improve their product every year.”
Penn College also will continue its partnership with ESPN Radio-Williamsport to broadcast select home games for soccer, basketball, baseball and softball.
“We are also excited to welcome back ESPN Radio, which offers another medium for our fans to keep up with Penn College athletics," Blymier said. “The combination of Stretch and ESPN is perfect for where we want to take this department.”
PENN COLLEGE SCHEDULES
Men’s, Women’s Cross-Country
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – at Misericordia University, men finished eighth in a nine-team field. No women’s team.
Saturday, Sept. 12 – at Misericordia University, 11:15 a.m.
Overall record: 1-0
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – host Central Penn College, W, 6-0
Thursday, Sept. 3 – host Summit University, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 5 – at Alfred State, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 6 – at Alfred University, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 9 – at King’s College, 7 p.m.
Overall record: 0-1
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – at King’s College, L, 5-1
Saturday, Sept. 5 – host Keystone College, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 6 – host Gwynedd Mercy University, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 11 – at Morrisville State College, TBA
Overall record: 0-1
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – at Keystone College, L, 3-0
Friday, Sept. 4 – triangular at King’s College with Penn State Abington, 3 and 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 5 – quadrangular at Wilkes University with Lycoming College and Summit University, TBA
Wednesday, Sept. 9 – host Elmira College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12 – host Wilkes University, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12 – host Wilkes University, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 16 – at Keuka College, 11 a.m.