Basketball start, cross-county finish on Penn College slate
ON THE HORIZON
In their first two seasons under coach Britni Mohney, the Wildcats have continued to see on-court improvement both in play and in the win column. This year’s motto, Mohney said, is to compete.
“We had to find our purpose to practice and that is to be at least 1% better than the day before. If we are competing in every aspect of our practice, we are getting better each day.”
The Penn College women open their season at 5 p.m. Tuesday hosting Elmira College at Bardo Gym. (The men’s team, previewed Oct. 23, gets its season underway against Elmira at 7 p.m. Tuesday).
Returnees who played key roles in the success of last year’s team that finished 7-16 overall and 6-10 in the United East are junior Rachel Teats, a 5-foot, 9-inch guard from Middleburg who led the team in scoring with 292 points; senior Ja’Quela Dyer, a 5-11 forward from Dover, Delaware, who topped the squad with 212 rebounds; and junior Aubrey Stetts, a 5-6 guard from Jersey Shore whom Mohney describes as a defensive specialist with quickness.
Three freshmen expected to contribute early are 5-8 guard Maddie Adams, of Montoursville; 6-1 forward Eliza Newcomer, of Newell; and 5-6 guard Lexi Troup, of Huntingdon.
“Newcomer has big shoes to fill in our losing two outstanding senior forwards – Cassi Kuhns and Maci Ilgen – and we have high expectations for her to make an immediate impact. Eliza averaged 10 points and 15.0 rebounds per game in her senior season at Frazier High School, with a career-high 22 points and 21 boards,” Mohney said.
The coach continued, “Both Maddie and Lexi will be threats in the guard position. Lexi was the second-highest in points per game in Huntingdon County her senior year, scoring 313 points in her senior season (with a game-high of 27), and ranked ninth in program history for 3-pointers.
“Maddie had a season-ending injury her senior year when she was well on her way to scoring 1,000 points. She finished her career with 876 points and 704 rebounds.”
“We hope to build off of our defensive prowess of last season and add a more competitive offense. In the past, our experience was in the post position and now that is being transitioned to our heavy experience being in the guard position. While putting in a new half-court offense, we are looking to outrun teams in the transition game,” Mohney said.
“Our team thrives on our defensive abilities and quickness. We were second in the conference last year, holding teams to a 33.6 shooting percentage. We were also third in defensive rebounds and third in the conference for holding teams to 36.8 rebounds per game. We like to use our defense to fuel our offense. If we can get big stops on the defensive end to score easy on the offensive end, we will be playing our best basketball,” Mohney said.
“The area that we have consistently needed to work on is our ball control. Last year, we averaged 20.9 turnovers per game; that is 20.9 missed opportunities. We run a very fast up-tempo offense, which forces our decision-making to be quick in regard to reading the defense. If we can read our teammate’s strengths better this year, which we should with a veteran cast, then we hope to decrease the average turnovers to give ourselves more opportunities to outscore our opponents,” said Mohney, who is assisted by Travis Heap.
The keys to success, according to the coach, “we talk about communication, defense and rebounding being the key tools to become a championship team. Add poise within our half-court offense and we will look to have a successful season.
“We continue to build upon prior years of competition and that is building a harder strength of schedule. These tougher nonconference games will only prepare us for conference play.
“As always, we are striving for our first United East playoff appearance. With many of our team gaining valuable experience as first-year student-athletes last season, we look to build upon that to reach those goals.
“We have an outstanding group of women who are putting in the time to make themselves better as athletes, as students and as women. What these women are able to handle in the classroom and on the court is astounding and should be praised for their contributions and work to Penn College. From their labs, clinicals, to showcasing their talents on the hardwood; not many can do what they do. They are a group any coaching staff would be proud to stand up for and support. We are a first-class program built on toughness, effort, commitment and honor.”
Also this past week, Mohney, who also serves as an assistant director of athletics, was honored with the YWCA Northcentral Pennsylvania Women of Excellence in Sports award.
Since 2009, the YWCA Northcentral PA has celebrated Women of Excellence, which celebrates strong, creative and caring change makers who lead by example, embrace civic responsibility, and demonstrate exceptional leadership.
First-year coach Tom Leeser hopes to field both a men’s and women’s team on Saturday for the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Region Championships at Lock Haven University and also is hopeful of improvement over a year ago when the men finished 27th and the women 30th, both in 31-team fields.
“Our women’s team has been making steady progress this season,” Leeser said. “We began with a small group of women with various levels of experience and fitness levels and, by midseason, their improved confidence and commitment to training began to show as times began to drop. Unfortunately, injuries and illness prevented a few women from competing in the past two meets but we are hopeful to have them back by regionals.
“Individually, Skyelar Splain, of Liverpool, has been a pleasant surprise. Skyelar is a member of the softball team who agreed to join us to help fill out our roster in August. She has gradually built up her mileage and seems to improve every day. Her 16th-place finish at the United East Conference meet is outstanding for someone with no competitive racing experience three months ago. Emily Witherow, of Perkasie, and Isabella Telford, of Greensburg, have shown tremendous heart and perseverance. They struggled early at the women’s 6K distance, but handled the challenging Abington course with strong races at championships.
“On the men’s side, we began with a mix of experience and some talented freshmen. The group seemed to come together and form bonds quickly, with Alec Rees, of Centerport, New York, and Mitch Campbell, of Riegelsville, filling key leadership roles. They were eager to work and each small success seemed to motivate them to achieve more. Our recent top-three finish at the United East Championships was celebrated, but was also met with a ‘We can do better next year’ response.
“Campbell was our top runner from start to finish this season. He came to campus in shape, put great effort into his workouts and gained confidence as a collegiate runner. He was honored as the UE Rookie of the Year, and I expect much more from Mitch in the next few years.
“Rees was the top returner from last year’s team (he finished 149th in a field of 222 at regionals in 2021) and is an important leader for us. He had a difficult season with a busy class schedule and unfortunate illnesses, but found a way to push through those things and help the team to its third-place finish. Matt Woolcock, of Oil City, also overcame an early-season injury. With only a few races under his belt and minimal training, Matt put together a super race (at the conference meet) to secure a spot on the all-conference team.
“We will miss seniors Spencer Doughty, of Mechanicsburg, and Nick Snow, of York, next fall, but the returning group is already raising the expectations for 2023.
“I am pleased with our season at this point and do not know what to expect at regionals. There will be a lot of quality teams competing. The course is generally flat and times should be fast. Our goals individually will be to shoot for a season-best time. A top 20 or 25 placing for the men’s team would be nice. Having a full women’s team would be a great way to wrap up the season.”
Tuesday, Nov. 8 – host Elmira College, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 9 – at Marywood University, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 16 – host Mt. Aloysius College, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 8 – host Elmira College, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 11 – host John Jay College, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12 – host Clarks Summit University, 1 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 14 – host Juniata College, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12 – NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Region Championships at Lock Haven University, 11 a.m.
For more about the United East, visit the conference website.
For additional information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.