Penn College men set for hoops opener, XC at NCAAs

Published 11.04.2018

Wildcat Weekly

The men’s basketball team is set to open. Cross-country runners are prepping for their final event of the season. Wrestling is underway, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams completed their seasons after reaching the North Eastern Athletic Conference semifinals. These are busy times for Pennsylvania College of Technology athletics.

Men's basketball
“Penn College basketball is on the rise and the future will be very exciting!”

That, in a nutshell, is the optimism expressed by first-year coach Geoff Hensley. The Wildcats open their season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Alvernia University. NEAC play begins Nov. 28.

Hensley spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Thomas College (Maine), where he compiled a 55-52 record and led the team in four trips to the North Atlantic Conference playoffs, as well as a 2017 appearance in the conference championship game. He coached five all-conference selections during his tenure and was 41-31 in conference play.

The key returning players from last year’s 2-22 overall (2-14 NEAC) Penn College team are 6-foot-4-inch junior forward Ben Sosa, of Loyalsock Township; 6-3 senior guard Spencer Bartron, of Camden, Delaware; and 6-2 junior forward Ryan Lockman, of White Salmon, Washington. In his first two seasons, Sosa has scored 639 points.

Other top returning players include 5-8 senior guard Brandon Fedoriw, of Williamsport; 6-4 senior forward Matt Salvent, of East Brunswick, New Jersey; and 6-1 junior forward Carson Garvis, of Taneytown, Maryland.

Among the newcomers who are expected to contribute early are 6-5 sophomore forward Anthony Deitrick, of Troy; 6-2 forward Imari Walker, of Pittsburgh; 6-1 guard Cameron Gloster, of Pittsburgh; and 5-11 guard Obens Luxama, of Port St. Lucie, Florida. The latter three all are freshmen.

“This is a very hardworking, energetic team,” Hensley said. “The players are buying into the new system and will do whatever it takes to be competitive and win games. We lack significant size with our post players, but have very good perimeter play, which allows us to play up-tempo and spread the floor.

“We have a relatively young team. With only three players returning with significant experience from last season, we will rely on many first-year players to step in and be key contributors on the floor. By having a young team, I anticipate experiencing our bumps in the road early, but as the season progresses, we will continue to improve and only get better.”

According to the coach, who is assisted by former Lewisburg High School boys coach John Vaji, “the team’s main strength is our competitiveness. We have players who really play hard and really compete every day at practice. We have a saying that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ meaning when our players work hard and push each other at practice, everyone improves as a result.”

One early concern for the team is rebounding.

“With our limited size, our main area to improve is rebounding. We will not be the biggest or the most athletic team on the court, which will make it difficult for us to compete on the boards for rebounds. We need to be more fundamentally sound with our boxouts and pursuit of the basketball for rebounds,” Hensley said.

The key to success, according to the coach, “will be how quickly the team can gel together and play great team basketball. With a new coach, new players and a new philosophy, every day is an opportunity for our team to learn and grow together. The sooner we can connect everyone and everything, the sooner we will put it all together and be a force to be reckoned with.”

Hensley describes himself as an energetic and disciplined coach. “We believe in hard work, toughness and playing as a team,” he said.

Offensively, the Wildcats will look to attack in transition and spread the floor, using their speed and spacing to create scoring opportunities.

Defensively, the team will employ an aggressive man-to-man defense with all five guys on the court guarding as a single unit to stop the basketball.

Hensley takes over a program that has struggled over the past seven years, averaging just over four wins and 20 losses a season under three different head coaches.

“With taking over a struggling team, we need to lay the foundation and build the program from the ground up. Right now, we are in the process of breaking bad habits and developing good habits that will put us in a position to have future success. Our staff is coaching precise details and our players are doing an outstanding job learning and growing as young men. We can’t rush success as it will be a constant development and we will need to trust the process,” Hensley said.

Looking ahead, the coach added, “The NEAC is an extremely strong, competitive conference with some of the best teams in the region including Lancaster Bible, Morrisville State and others. Every conference game will be a battle, which is what makes college basketball so exciting. As we continue to grow and improve, we will become more and more competitive in league play.”

On Saturday, Penn College runners compete in the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at DeSales University in Center Valley.

“There are really no expectations. We want to do better than we did last year on the men’s side and, on the women’s (side), we’re going to go in and see what we can do. I think the kids are looking forward to going there and running and having fun,” coach Nick Patton said.

Among those expected to compete for the Penn College men are Josh Velez, of Lewistown; Thomas Runner, of Elkridge, Maryland; Matt Leiby, of Danville; Jonah Isaacson, of Muncy; Ben Ericksen, of Norwich, New York; Chris Hogan, of Halifax; and Alex Giffin, of Chambersburg.

Eligible to compete for the Penn College women are Sidney Trunzo, of Williamsport; Rosey Thomas, of Port Allegany; Katie Plankenhorn, of Montoursville; Nikki Crow, of Elizabethtown; Brittany Weiskopff, of Blossburg; and Mallory Hoffman, of Minersville.

“I’m not sure if we’ll run a complete women’s team, but we will run a few individuals,” the coach said.

During the NEAC end-of-the-season championships, both teams exceeded a preseason poll of the conference’s coaches as the men, who were picked fourth, finished third, and the women, who were picked eighth, ended fourth.

The Penn College men and women advanced to Saturday’s NEAC semifinals with quarterfinal wins over Morrisville State College on Tuesday and by doing so each team exceeded preseason polls of the conference’s coaches who picked the men to finish no higher than seventh and the women no higher than fifth.

For the second year in a row, sixth-seeded Penn College was forced into a postseason quarterfinal shootout and won, this time 2-0 after a 1-1 double-overtime tie, on the road at third-seeded Morrisville State. Wildcats Hunter Gosnell, of Westminster, Maryland, was brilliant in goal, stopping an overtime penalty kick and four Morrisville shootout tries. On the day, he had seven saves. Daniel Jackson, of Phoenixville, scored Penn College’s first goal in the second half. Morrisville’s lone score came on an own goal. Finding the back of the net for Penn College in the shootout were Jackson and Kevin McFarland, of Coatesville. Morrisville led in shots, 24-14 (9-7 on goal), and the Wildcats led in corner kicks, 7-2.

Facing second-seeded Lancaster Bible College on Saturday, the Wildcats’ season ended with a 4-1 loss that concluded its campaign at 7-8-3 overall, 6-5-2 in all NEAC matches. Collin Klinger, of Dornsife, scored the lone Penn College goal in the 82nd minute. Each team took nine shots, Lancaster Bible led in shots on goal 7-3, and Penn College led in corner kicks, 2-1.

It was announced on Thursday that sophomore midfielder Chris McFarland, of Coatesville, had been named to the NEAC Second Team while Gosnell, a senior, and freshman forward Colton Wartman, of Ellicott City, Maryland, were awarded NEAC Third Team honors. For the season, Gosnell allowed 25 goals and made 58 stops. Wartman and Vance Gradwell, of Bernville, led Penn College with six goals each. Wartman led the team with 15 points, Gradwell had 14 points and McFarland 13 points. McFarland also topped the team with five assists. On the season, Penn College scored 29 goals and allowed 41.

Penn College coach Tyler Mensch described Gosnell’s performance in Tuesday’s win as “one of the most amazing feats that you’ll ever see in the game of soccer when (he) made five penalty-kick saves. … It was just an incredible feat.”

Commenting on Saturday’s finale, Mensch said, “I felt like we actually played pretty well at times, we had a few unlucky bounces go against us and they ended up scoring.”

Assessing the program, the coach, in his fourth season, said, “This program, five years ago, just started NCAA Division III soccer, and to be in two conference semifinals in my four years is pretty incredible. I think we now have put ourselves in a spot where this is the expectation. … Now teams have to prepare for us and plan for us and respect us. We have the potential to be in this Final Four weekend every season. That’s the goal now, always to be back playing in the Final Four.”

On Tuesday, the third-seeded Wildcats celebrated Christa Matlack’s first day as the team’s head coach with a 2-1 NEAC quarterfinal home win over Morrisville State College. Trailing 1-0 at the half, Penn College rallied with goals from Dominique Brown and Morgan Brooks, the latter in the 86th minute, to lift it into Saturday’s semifinal. The Wildcats led in shots, 14-8 (8-4 on goal), and in corner kicks, 6-5. Goalkeeper Taylor Gonzales, of Lititz, made three saves.

A year that included a school single-season record 12 wins came to an end on Saturday with a 5-0 loss to second-seeded Penn State Berks. Statistically, Berks dominated the match as it led in shots, 27-1 (16-0 on goal), and corner kicks, 11-1. The Wildcats closed out a 12-8 overall campaign, 9-4 in all NEAC outings. The 12 wins is the most in a season dating back to 2001. Both the college’s 2013 and 2016 teams posted 11 victories.

Also during the week, it was announced that freshman forward Kaelan Cronan, of Leesport, had been named to the NEAC First Team and sophomore Gonzales to the NEAC Third Team for the second year in a row. Cronan led the team with 15 goals and 35 points. Tiffany Brown, of Mechanicsburg, was second on the squad with seven goals and 21 points. Gonzales allowed just 25 goals and made 117 saves. Teamwise, Penn College scored 48 goals and allowed 28.

Matlack, a former standout player at South Williamsport Area High School and Bucknell University with coaching experience on both the college and high school levels, served as an assistant a year ago and was the interim head coach through this regular season.

“The girls are excited. … It’s an exciting thing for all of us to know that next year we all get to be together again,” Matlack said of her appointment.

Assessing Saturday’s loss, the coach said, “Today was a rough one. We just seemed to not do some of the small things that we needed to do to get the win. We got caught watching the ball a little bit too much and didn’t get as many opportunities in the attacking half of the field as we’d like. … It was disappointing all around.”

Yet with 12 wins, there is optimism.

“That was a huge milestone for the program and now we have set a standard for years going forward. We’re going to keep trying to one-up that each year,” Matlack said.

“Next year will be a little bit tougher (in the NEAC) with Penn State Harrisburg coming in, but there’s no reason that we can’t make it a standard to try to get to the Final Four each season,” the coach added.

Trailing 26-0 after losing the first five bouts in its season opener Thursday at home against Delaware Valley College, Penn College rallied to win four of the final five matches but lost, 29-20. Recording falls for the Wildcats were Dan Bergeron, of Jackson, New Jersey, in the 165-pound weight class and Jared Mooney, of Palmerton, at 197. Dylan Gettys, of Etters, added a technical fall at 174.

Right back in action on Saturday at the King’s College Ned McGinley Invitational, the Wildcats finished 11th in a 16-team field and had a third-place finisher in Dylan Otis, of Wyalusing, at 285 and fourth-place finisher in Mooney at 197. Otis ended the day with a 5-1 record, including two pins, and Mooney finished 4-2, with four falls. Other Wildcats who finished with winning records were Jon Pineda, of Easton, at 285 and Colin Jens, of Centreville, Maryland, at 133, who both were 3-2.

Men’s soccer
Final overall: 7-8-3
Final NEAC: 6-5-2 (6-4-1 regular season)
Tuesday, Oct. 30 — NEAC quarterfinal at Morrisville State College, W, (2-0 in shootout, tie 1-1)
Saturday, Nov. 3 — NEAC semifinal vs. Lancaster Bible College at Penn State Abington, L, 4-1

Women’s soccer
Final overall: 12-8
Final NEAC: 9-4 (8-3 regular season)
Tuesday, Oct. 30 — NEAC quarterfinal host Morrisville State College, W, 2-1
Saturday, Nov. 3 — NEAC semifinal vs. Penn State Berks at Keuka College, L, 5-0

Men’s cross-country
Saturday, Nov. 10 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at DeSales University, Center Valley, noon

Women’s cross-country
Saturday, Nov. 10 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at DeSales University, Center Valley, TBA

Overall record: 0-1
Thursday, Nov. 1 – host Delaware Valley, L, 29-20
Saturday, Nov. 3 – at King’s College Ned McGinley Invitational Tournament, finished 11thin a 16-team field
Saturday, Nov. 10 – at Gettysburg College Invitational, 10 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17 – Southeast Duals at Ferrum, Va.

Men’s basketball
Saturday, Nov. 10 – at Alvernia University, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 13 – at Elmira College, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 16 – at Montclair State, N.J., 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17 – at Montclair State Tip-Off Tournament, TBA
Monday, Nov. 26 – host Lycoming College, 6 p.m.

Women’s basketball
Saturday, Nov. 17 – vs. Susquehanna University at Susquehanna Trailways Tipoff Tournament, 8 p.m. (Nazareth College vs. Westminster College, 6 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 18 – vs. either Nazareth College or Westminster College in Susquehanna Trailways Tipoff Tournament at Susquehanna University, TBA 1 or 3 p.m.

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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