WILDCAT WEEKLY: Penn College soccer teams make mark
The Pennsylvania College of Technology soccer program made great strides this season as the women’s team advanced to Sunday’s North Eastern Athletic Conference Championship for the first time and the men’s squad made it to the semifinals, also for the first time.
After 110 scoreless minutes of play, Tuesday’s NEAC quarterfinal match came down to a shootout and Penn College won, 3-1, after Hannah Williams, of Marion, New York; Hailee Hartman, of Lampeter; and Olivia Murgo, of Hazlet, New Jersey, all connected to push the Wildcats into Saturday’s semifinal against SUNY Poly. Keuka outshot Penn College, 18-7 (6-2 on goal), but freshman goalkeeper Taylor Gonzalez, of Lititz, kept the home team off the scoreboard through regulation and two overtime periods, then made two diving saves to end the shootout. Each team had five corner kicks.
On Saturday, for the second match in a row, Penn College went into an overtime shootout and used a 4-3 advantage to eliminate SUNY Poly and advance to Sunday’s title match against conference unbeaten Penn State Berks, the four-time defending champ. A NCAA Division III playoff berth awaits the winner. The contest was tied 1-1 after regulation and two scoreless overtime periods. Hartman tallied for the winners at the 52:52 mark. Penn College led in shots, 18-14 (8-7 on goal), and corner kicks, 5-3. Williams; Christina Weber, of Howell, New Jersey; Murgo; and Jane Herman, of Greencastle, notched goals in the shootout. Gonzalez made seven saves in goal on the day and had two stops in the shootout. Going into the championship, Penn College was 9-7-5 overall and 6-2-4 in all NEAC matches.
Also last week, it was announced that Penn College had a program-high seven players named to the All-NEAC team. Freshman Ashley Donat, of Lehartsville; junior Herman; and sophomore Francesca Timpone, of Smithtown, New York, were named to the Second Team, while senior Hartman; sophomore Brecia Beck, of Lancaster; and freshmen Dominique Brown, of Benton; and Gonzalez earned Third Team honors. It marked Hartman’s third all-NEAC honor – second-team last year and third-team the year before – and Herman’s second straight second-team honor. Hartman also broke Penn College career record for points and goals.
In NEAC quarterfinal play on Tuesday at Keuka College, Gerry Lua, of Biglerville, netted what turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-2 double-overtime tie, 7-6 shootout win that moved the Wildcats into Saturday’s semifinal against top-seeded Penn State Abington. Austin Dowrick, of Olney, Maryland, gave Penn College a 1-0 lead in the first half but the Wildcats had to rally in the second half to force OT when Lua connected at 83:53. Chris McFarland, of Coatesville, assisted on both goals. Keuka led in shots, 19-12 (7-6 on goal), and in corner kicks, 5-3. Penn College senior goalkeeper Malcolm Kane, of Ardsley, had five saves.
Facing Penn State Abington in an NEAC semifinal on Saturday, the Wildcats lost, 3-0, to finish 8-12-2 overall and 5-5-2 in all conference matches. PS Abington led in shots, 21-5 (6-3 on goal), and corner kicks, 8-3.
Entering the season, Penn College had been picked to finish 11th, so to make the Final Four was a significant achievement.
“We used it (preseason poll) for (motivation), saying, ‘guys, nobody is expecting you to compete out there. Everybody just thinks they’re going to roll over you and that we’re not going to put up a good fight.’ For us to finish in the top four, that’s incredible,” coach Tyler Mensch said.
“We’re a young squad. We won four games last year (3-10 NEAC) and now, all of the sudden, we win eight games this season and make it to the Final Four. It’s just going to help bring in good players. We’re putting ourselves on the map. We’re not quite there, as far as being at the top, but final four is a good place to be,” Mensch said.
Also last week, Kane was named to the All-NEAC First Team, becoming the first All-NEAC First Team selection in program history.Kane led the conference with an overall .810 save percentage and four shutouts. He was third with seven wins, fourth with 85 saves and eighth with 20 goals against.
“Malcolm was so deserving of the First Team recognition, and to be honest I thought he was the Defensive Player of the Year. … In my opinion, there was no better defender in the league. … He’s such a quality goalkeeper, it’s just a shame that we won’t have him back next year, but I’m excited for Hunter Gosnell, of Westminster, Maryland, and Brendan Skwirut, of Aston, to see what they can do. They’re our goalkeepers of the future and they learned a lot from Malcolm,” Mensch said.
Looking ahead, Mensch, in his third season, said, “We probably played five or six first-year guys throughout the year and they gained so much valuable game time, which is going to help carry us over into next year.
“With us getting into the Final Four the recruits are starting to take notice … We have a lot of kids that I’ve been talking to for 2018 recruit-wise and the excitement is there.
“I told the seniors they made the foundation for this program. … From here on out, we just continue to build our way up. I’m excited to see what we can do. … Last year, not winning wasn’t fun. This year we won and (now) they know they can win.”
A pin by Dan Bergeron, of Jackson, New Jersey, in the 165-pound weight class and decision from Dylan Otis, of Towanda, at heavyweight accounted for all of Penn College’s points in a 38-9 season-opening loss at Delaware Valley University on Wednesday.
At the King’s College Monarch Invitational on Saturday, Penn College finished last in a 12-team field with three points. Freshman Jacob Canfield, of Stroudsburg, went 1-2 with a pin in the 174-pound division for the Wildcats.
Commenting on her team’s recent 3-16 overall, 2-7 NEAC season, coach Bambi Hawkins said, “It was pretty obviously a year with potential to build. With only three returning players, the freshman class had to be relied upon in unexpected ways.
“As anticipated, the returning members, Sophie Coldsmith, of Gettysburg; Felicia Webber, of New Bloomfield; and Jordyn Smeltzer, of Manchester, were as hardworking as ever in their leadership roles. Sophie was able to achieve 1000-plus milestones in both digs and assists as she maintained her hustle that was commented on by our opponents who knew her by name. Felicia was probably the most versatile player as we had to utilize her well-rounded skill set in various positions throughout the year. And, Jordyn was an example for the newer players with her technique that just made each skill look easy. Unfortunately, we will not get any of these three ladies back next year. However, the team mentality and skills base that the freshmen gained will be beneficial as they move ahead.”
Statistically in the NEAC, Coldsmith finished fifth with 0.64 service aces per set, seventh with 3.89 digs per set, eighth with 4.42 assists per set and 11th with a .211 hitting percentage.
“We are fortunate to have time and opportunity to develop some volleyball muscles and experience even in the off-season,” Hawkins, in her 14th season as coach but returning after four years away from the program, continued.
“In the freshman group, there was an overall mentality of developing all attributes of a solid team. Several of them showed up with minimal volleyball experience, but generally an immense amount of intent to learn. We look forward to continuing the development of all and anticipate that players like Emalie Marnati, of Canton, and Christine Limbert, of Curwensville, will be leading the way.
“It’s hard not to mention each one of the ladies who played and their strengths, but with Emalie there has been a tenacity that followed suit with Sophie and I anticipate our opponents will know her by name as well. Christine is a player whose energy is palpable and, although she sometimes surprises herself, she was placed in a starting position for many good reasons that will likely continue to become great reasons as she gets more experience,” Hawkins said.
“Because we anticipate needing to increase the experience level of our team quickly, we are actively recruiting young ladies who have played several years of high school and club volleyball,” the coach added.
Final overall: 8-12-2
Final NEAC: 5-5-2 (5-4-1 regular season)
Tuesday, Oct. 31 – NEAC quarterfinal at Keuka College, T, 2-2 (2 OT, 7-6 shootout winner)
Saturday, Nov. 4 – NEAC semifinal at Penn State Abington, L, 3-0
(End of season)
Final overall: 9-7-5
Final NEAC: 6-2-4 (6-2-2 regular season)
Tuesday, Oct. 31 – NEAC quarterfinal at Keuka College, T, 0-0 (2 OT, 3-1 shootout winner)
Saturday, Nov. 4 – NEAC semifinal vs. SUNY Poly at Penn State Berks, T, 1-1 (2 OT, 4-3 shootout winner)
Sunday, Nov. 5 – NEAC final vs. Penn State Berks, 2 p.m. (winner to NCAA Division III Tournament)
Saturday, Nov. 11 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Qualifier at Big Spring High School, Newville, 11 a.m.
(End of season)
Saturday, Nov. 11 – NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Qualifier at Big Spring High School, Newville, 12:15 p.m.
(End of season)
Wednesday, Nov. 1 – at Delaware Valley University, L, 38-9
Saturday, Nov. 4 – at King’s College Monarch Invitational, finished last in a 12-team field
Saturday, Nov. 11 – at Wilkes University PA/NY Duals, 11 a.m.
Final overall: 3-16
Final NEAC: 2-7
Wednesday, Nov. 15 — host Alvernia College, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 — host Thiel College, 5:30 p.m.