Pennsylvania College of Technology men's and women's soccer teams open their seasons this week and the women's volleyball squad got off to a good start by winning its opener
In six seasons under coach Enrique Castillo, the Wildcats have won five Penn State University Athletic Conference championships and finished second once. Some things, such as winning, never get old.
"At the beginning of the year you've got a new group of guys and they're going through the whole thing again and it's exciting," Castillo said.
Key returning players from last year's squad, which went 13-7-2 overall and won the PSUAC crown for the second season in a row, are midfielder Ben Shade, striker Chris Brennan, defender Phil Bair, defender Cody Sollenberger and center-midfielder Jacob Tuck.
"We have a lot of new faces and we're trying to fill in the voids of some key player who have left. I'm excited about a couple of freshmen who should start," the coach continued.
"We're the target; the team to beat in our conference, and we know that," Castillo said. "We know we have challenges and we know we have to get better quickly. Some of the freshmen have to adapt to the speed of the game.
"My defense should be solid. My middle should be strong," he said.
The Wildcats open their season Saturday on the road at Southern Virginia University, which like Penn College is a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
Assisting Castillo are Pat Page and volunteer Patrick Kehoe.
"We'll do our best to win another (conference) championship and the ultimate goal is to win a national championship. We know the competition is tough, but we've got a couple of months to get better," the coach added.
Markus Rybak has had a tough road since assuming the coaching duties three seasons ago as his teams have gone 6-7 and 3-7-2, but with 29 players on this year's roster - his most ever - he's looking for vast improvement. The team opens its season Saturday hosting Baptist Bible College at 1 p.m.
Senior midfielder Kierstin Steer, a former South Williamsport Mountie, and sophomore Valeria Passalacqua, a forward, will be the leaders on and off the field, according to Rybak.
"The team is a very competitive and deep. I have depth on every position and during the preseason everyone is working very hard to make the team better. I think that we can have a very successful season," the coach said.
"I do not have a first 11 starting lineup. My team has been working very hard. With the depth in the team and overall skill, I have yet to be able to decide who would be starting. It's going to be a very hard decision for me and my assistants," Rybak continued. "I have a fairly young, yet a very smart squad. I am looking for continued improvement in play over the course of this season.
"My outlook is to have a successful season, which would mean to qualify for the (United States Collegiate Athletic Association) national tournament, to be competitive with Lycoming College (they meet Sept. 20 at Penn College) and to make sure that all my players are also successful in the classroom," he added.
Rybak said the team's overall skills level, competitiveness and drive to want to succeed are the best he's seen yet, and he hopes that translates into wins during the squad's 14-match regular season.
On Saturday, the women's volleyball team opened its season with a 3-0 win over Luzerne County Community College. Courtney Gernert and Melissa Lake led with eight kills each while setter Caitlyn Curley had 12 assists. Also for Penn College, Morgan Moberg shared setting duties with Curley and added 11 assists.
SCHEDULE, RESULTS and RECORDS
Overall record: 1-0
Saturday, Aug. 25 at Luzerne County Community College, W, 25-6, 25-11, 25-20.
Saturday, Sept. 1 host Lycoming College, 11 a.m.; host Baptist Bible College, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 at Southern Virginia University, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 host Alfred, N.Y., State, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 host Lycoming College and Baptist Bible College, 11 a.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 host Rosemont College, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4 at PSU Leigh Valley, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 a PSU Scranton, 12:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 11 at PSU Hazleton, 3 p.m.