The Pennsylvania College of Technology men's and women's soccer teams are headed for United States Collegiate Athletic Conference National Championship playoffs this week and the college's women's volleyball team in on the verge of joining them.
On Saturday, the men's soccer team claimed the Penn State University Athletic Conference championship to earn a spot in the national limelight. Earlier in the week, based on its national USCAA ranking, the women's soccer team was awarded its berth, and Sunday night the women's volleyball team played in a PSUAC semifinal match and remains hopeful of landing a national bid.
Taking advantage of what it was given on offense and playing outstanding defense, Penn College blanked PSU Hazleton on Saturday to win its third consecutive PSUAC championship and eighth in nine years.
Tarik LaRoche scored two goals and Blayne Allen added the other while David Munn was perfect in goal for the Wildcats who improved to 11-0 in the conference and 15-2-1 overall.
"We were prepared," said coach Enrique Castillo, who was informed before the match that he had been named the conference's Coach of the Year for the third time in his seven years as coach of the Wildcats.
The Wildcats next travel to Asheville, N.C., for the USCAA Championships where, as the No. 7 seed, they will take on No. 2 West Virginia University Institute of Technology at 1 p.m. on Thursday in first-round action at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex.
"We're going for the championship. That is our goal," Castillo said. "It's going to be a tough first game. West Virginia Tech is a tough team. They're very skillful, well organized, well coached and fast. They like to put pressure on right away, so they're not a team that is going to give us much time to think and make decisions. We need to react and put the ball in the back of the net."
In PSUAC semifinal action Wednesday, Ben Shade and Christian Dressler scored goals while Munn recorded seven saves in goal as the Wildcats eliminated PSU New Kensington, 2-0, to advance to the championship for the seventh straight time.
For the first time since 2009, Penn College will compete in the USCAA National Championships Thursday through Saturday in Ashville, N.C. The Wildcats go in as the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 seed Daemen College at 11 a.m. Thursday at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex.
"Overall with the regular season, I am very, very pleased. A tie against Lyco and tie against Susquehanna speak for themselves and the program here," said coach Markus Rybak.
The coach knows his team has its work cut out against Daemen, "but if we continue to play the way we have been we have a shot of winning in the first round.
"My outlook for the national tournament is, hopefully, to win it. We just have to make sure we play well. I want us to play well, to the best of our ability, and give a good showing for Penn College."
Penn College competed in the national tourney in 2008, where it went 1-1, and 2009, when it went 1-1 and tied for third.
During action last week, after trailing 4-1, Penn College battled back to tie NCAA Division III Susquehanna University 4-4 in double overtime Thursday. Sisters Kirsten and Jamie Steer and Madilyn Walters each scored second-half goals to key the comeback. Robyn Beddow scored during the first half for the Wildcats.
Penn College closed out its regular season on Saturday with a 1-0 penalty-kick loss to Division III Alfred (N.Y.) University to go to 8-4-2 on the season.
Sunday night, the second-seeded Wildcats stopped No. 3 PSU Brandywine, 3-1, in PSUAC semifinal action at Penn State's Rec Hall to advance to today's 3 p.m. championship match against PSU Fayette, also at Rec Hall. The Wildcats enter the title match with a 17-1 conference record and are 23-7 overall.
In PSUAC quarterfinal action on Wednesday, senior Tara Powell recorded 17 kills to lead Penn College to a 3-0 (25-5, 25-16, 25-15) sweep of PSU Mont Alto. Sophomore Courtney Gernert added 11 kills while sophomore Caitlyn Curley totaled 23 assists.
USCAA pool play begins Friday. In Pool A, Penn College will face Daemen College at 1 p.m. and UC Clermont at 3:45 p.m. at the SUNY-Canton.
Matt Haile was named PSUAC Golf Coach of the Year. In his fourth season, Haile led the Wildcats to one of their strongest showings in several years with the regular season championship and a second-place finish at the PSUAC Championships.
"I definitely was excited, and shocked at the same time," Haile said. "It's just a great honor. When I first took over it was more work than I had anticipated, but over the last four years it's been pretty great. With the talent that I've had and the individuals that I've the opportunity to coach; they're just all great. The greatest thing about the job is the people you meet, the talent you see and these kids growing up. It's just neat."