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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thomas More Eyes Ninth-Straight PAC Crown

By John D’Abruzzo

The coaches have spoken.

With nine of 10 first-place votes, Thomas More College’s women’s basketball team was selected as the preseason favorite in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. Voted on by the conference’s head coaches, the PAC released its annual poll Nov. 13, and the eight-time defending Saints once again headlined the picks.

“Being picked No. 1 in the preseason poll by our fellow coaches is a great honor for our team and our program,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans, who is back for his fourth season. “But it’s not any indication of where we’ll stand at the end of the year.”

Thomas More is ranked No. 2 in the USA Today’s Division III Top 25 Coaches’ Poll as well as listed No. 3 on the current D3hoops.com Women’s Top 25.

Thomas More is coming off a pretty impressive season. Last year, the Saints posted a most-impressive and program-best 31-1 overall record as well as made its first appearance in the sectional finals of the NCAA Division III Championship.

“We have a growling schedule every night with a lot of good players in our league,” Hans said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.

“Our goals are to get better every day and work together to develop our chemistry that’s needed to finish on top of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.”

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Thomas More junior Sydney Moss

Sydney Moss (St. Albans, W.Va.), a 5-foot-10 guard/forward, returns for her junior year. Moss is the reigning PAC Player of the Year and earned three Division III National Player of the Year awards last season after averaging close to 30 points a game as a sophomore. She also was named the 2014-15 DIII News Preseason National Player of the Year. Sydni Wainscott (Erlanger, Ky.), a 5-5 senior guard, also returns to Hans’ starting lineup.

Following Thomas More in the coaches’ poll was Saint Vincent College, Washington & Jefferson College, Waynesburg University, Westminster College, Bethany College, Grove City College, Thiel College, Chatham University and Geneva College, respectively.

Saint Vincent welcomes back sophomore Mara Benvenuti (Franklin, Pa.), a 5-9 guard, as well as 6-2 senior forward Taylor Mathers (Uniontown, Pa.) and 5-2 sophomore guard Jasmine Weems (Prince Frederick, Md.). Mathers averaged 14.8 points last season to help the Bearcats finish 19-10 overall and 14-4 against the conference.

Despite graduating its leading scorer Chelsea Apke, Washington & Jefferson brings back 5-9 junior guard/forward Beka Bellhy (McDonald, Pa.) and 6-3 senior center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa.). Bellhy averaged 14.2 points as a sophomore and played a role in the Presidents’ 21-9 record and 13-5 run in the PAC.

Waynesburg went 15-12 last return 5-4 junior guard Lauren Blair (Granville, Ohio), 5-7 senior guard Hayden Giuliani (Morgantown, W.Va.) and 5-9 senior guard Becca Kerr (New Castle, Pa.). Giuliani led Waynesburg in scoring last year by averaging 10.9 points a game.

After graduating three top scorers from last year’s roster, Rachel Durbin (Lowellville, Ohio), a 5-8 sophomore guard, and Andrea Marsh (Panama, N.Y.), a 5-8 junior forward, headline Westminster’s top returnees. The Titans went 15-11 overall last season and 12-6 against the conference.

Bethany welcomes back 5-6 sophomore guard Hayley Holenka (Shadyside, Ohio) and 5-9 junior forward Sami Schott (Caldwell, Ohio). The Bison finished 7-19 overall and 6-12 in the PAC. Schott averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore.

Kathryn Erbelding (Rochester, N.Y.), a 5-10 junior forward, and 5-7 senior guard Kelsey Shirey (Macedonia, Ohio) are Grove City’s top two returning players. Shirey averaged 12 points a game last year and helped the Wolverines finish 8-18 overall and 6-12 against the conference.

Thiel looks to rebound from last year’s 5-21 overall record and 4-14 campaign in the PAC. The Tomcats return 6-0 junior forward Jaclyn Watkins (Aliquippa, Pa.) and 5-3 junior guard Kayla Welty (Portville, N.Y.). Watkins averaged 14.9 points and 8.1 rebounds a game last year as a sophomore.

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Chatham junior Rachel McClain

Rachel McClain (Hollidaysburg, Pa.), a 5-3 junior guard, as well as 5-9 sophomore forward Jesse Hinkl (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) and 5-6 sophomore guard Nikki Ingel look to help Chatham rebuild following a 3-22 overall showing and 2-16 PAC record last season.

Geneva also looks to improve from last year’s 4-20 overall record and 3-15 mark in the conference. Nicole Hyland (Trafford, Pa.), a 5-8 sophomore guard and 5-7 junior guard Heidi Mann (Colorado Springs, Colo.) are back for the Golden Tornadoes.

“Every Wednesday and Saturday are big games,” Hans said. “Just going through the schedule, in February we’re on the road five out of our last seven [games]. That’s going to be a challenge for our program to be ready to go, especially at that time of the year and against those teams.”

The PAC Sports Network will tipoff its coverage this season Dec. 3 when Westminster travels to Chatham. Fans can follow most games live at www.pacstream.net or check out archived broadcasts on the site. Click here for our 2014-2015 broadcast schedule.

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Saint Vincent The Favorite In A Deep PAC Field

By John D’Abruzzo

Expect the St. Vincent College men’s basketball team to be a frontrunner in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference this season. The two-time defending champion Bearcats were voted as the preseason favorite when the conference released its coaches’ poll on Nov. 14.

“With what we’ve been able to accomplish in the PAC the past few seasons, we always have high expectations,” said longtime St. Vincent head coach D.P. Harris, who is back for his 12th season. “Our goal every year is to win the conference, win 20 games and go to the NCAA tournament.

“Our players are on board with that goal and want to follow the tradition of the program.”

As voted on by the league’s head coaches, St. Vincent College earned four of nine first-place votes to headline this year’s annual preseason poll. The Bearcats went 22-7 last season and finished 12-4 in the PAC to capture their second straight PAC championship. The program also made its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

Sean Kett

Saint Vincent senior Sean Kett

Despite graduating stars Dillon Stith, who was last year’s PAC Player of the Year, as well as Isaac Turner, Harris welcomes back a wealth of experience in 6-foot-5 senior forward Sean Kett (Miami, Fla.), 6-2 junior guard J.C. Howard (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 6-2 junior guard Dan Sinwell (Greensburg, Pa.), 5-9 junior guard Ben Klimchock (Greensburg, Pa.) and 6-3 junior guard Pat Jones (Frostburg, Md.).

“Since we began this season, I’ve been surprised by what Pat Jones has done,” Harris said. “After losing two big players in Dillon Stith and Isaac Turner, Pat has sort of come out from their shadows and has played very well early by averaging about 20 points a game. He’s certainly been a bright spot.”

Harris also is excited about the additions of transfers Jaylon Bell (Ocoee, Fla./Leo University), a 5-11 junior guard, and 6-7 sophomore forward Austin Ford (Blue Bell, Pa./Kutztown).

“Because we have some new players, this season is going to be about how these guys want to play,” Harris said. “Early into this season we began rotating players in and out of the game. Five guys in and five guys out to keep them fresh on the court.

“We’re going to put more bodies on the floor, and that’s something I believe you need to do to be successful at the Division III level.”

Waynesburg University finished second in the preseason poll, followed by Thomas More College, Bethany College, Thiel College, Washington & Jefferson College, Grove City College, Geneva College and Westminster College.

Waynesburg went 9-7 in the PAC last season and was led by Jason Propst (Brighton, Colo.), who averaged 11.2 points a game as a junior. The 6-5 senior forward as well as 6-4 senior forward Jacob Fleegle (Jennerstown, Pa.) headline the Yellow Jackets’ returning starters. Waynesburg is guided by head coach Mark Christner who won the PAC’s Coach of the Year award last season, making him the school’s first men’s basketball coach to receive the honor since Jacket legend Rudy Marisa following the 1997-98 season.

Drew Mumford (Louisville, Ky.) paced Thomas Moore with 14.7 points a game last year to help the Saints to a 15-12 finish and third straight appearance in the conference title game. The 6-2 senior forward is back this season as is 6-2 guard/forward Nate McGovey (Alexandria, Ky.).

Bethany College is coming off a 21-6 overall campaign. The Bison went 14-2 in the conference last year and were led by Delonte’ Joyce (Annapolis, Md.), who averaged 16.9 points as a junior. The 6-1 guard is back for his senior season. He as well as Antonio Rudolph (New Castle, Pa.), a 6-2 sophomore guard, are expected to be two key offensive weapons for the Bison.

Khari Bess (Waldorf, Md.) averaged 13.1 points last season to help Thiel finish 7-9 in the conference. The 6-1 guard is back for his junior year. He and 6-6 senior forward Eric Mallinger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) are the Tomcats’ top returnees this season. Mallinger garnered the first PAC Player of the Week award of the young season with an impressive performance at Westminster’s Buzz Ridl Classic.

W&J posted an 8-8 mark in the PAC last year but has been beset by injury early in the 2014-15 campaign. Players like 5-7 senior guard Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa.) and 6-1 senior guard Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa.) are returning starters who will try to keep the Presidents afloat in the early portion of the schedule.

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Grove City senior Mitch Marmelstein

Grove City finished 7-9 in the conference last year and were led by Mitch Marmelstein (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), who averaged 13.3 points a game. Already looking sharp, Marmelstein reached the 1,000 point plateau for his career with a 21-point performance in a season opening win against Franciscan University. The 6-3 senior guard is complimented by Brian Giesler (Harrisville, Pa.), a 6-3 senior forward, and 5-8 senior guard J.T. Schwartz (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who are expected to guide the Wolverines this winter.

Geneva College struggled through a 1-15 run in the conference last year. The Golden Tornadoes welcome back 6-4 junior guard/forward Ethan Adamcyz (Uniontown, Ohio), 6-3 senior guard/forward Tyler Damazo (Beaver Falls, Pa.) and 6-3 sophomore guard Chaese Vaudrin (Uniontown, Ohio).

Westminster is expected to go through another rebuilding season after winning just two conference games last year. The Titans, though, do return 6-3 junior guard/forward Paul Carswell (Painesville, Ohio) and 6-4 junior guard/forward Charlie Wallander (Pittsburgh, Pa.).

“This is the most competitive and most talented I’ve seen this conference,” Harris said. “From top to bottom, every team is well coached.

“The PAC has a history of being known as a football conference, now we’re seeing basketball improve greatly. We’re getting closer to where more than one team will be making the NCAA tournament.”

We’ll take a look at PAC women’s basketball next week. The PAC Sports Network will be broadcasting 12 doubleheaders and 27 total basketball games this winter.  Click here for our 2014-2015 broadcast schedule.

W&J To Face Wittenberg In NCAA First Round

by Randy Gore

NCAA logoWhen it comes to winning football programs at the Division III level, two of the most successful are Washington & Jefferson College (9-1) and Wittenburg University (9-1). In the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, the Presidents and Tigers will go head to head on Saturday at noon from Edwards-Maurer Field in Springfield, Ohio. While these teams have been regulars in the NCAA D-III playoffs, 41 appearances combined, this is only the third meeting all time between the two schools with the last coming back in 1930.

An overtime loss to Waynesburg University in the regular season finale prevented the Presidents from hosting a playoff game and instead has W&J traveling three hours west to face Wittenburg.  However, W&J still enters the postseason as champions of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference for the third consecutive season. The Presidents are looking for their first NCAA playoff win since 2008 when they reached the quarterfinals with victories over Christopher Newport, 35-29, and Millsaps College, 35-20, before bowing out to Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Wittenberg completed an undefeated run through conference play with a 52-21 win over Allegheny on Saturday, capturing its fifth North Coast Athletic Conference crown in the last six seasons. Like W&J, this is the third consecutive trip to the NCAA playoffs for the Tigers.  In the past two playoff appearances, the Tigers earned first round victories before being upended in the second round.  Last season Wittenberg posted a 59-17 opening round win and then fell to the eventual national runner-up Mount Union, 56-21, in the second round.  The Purple Raiders also cut short the President’s 2013 campaign with a 34-20 win in the NCAA first round.

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W&J junior Ryan Ruffing

A quick glance at Saturday’s meeting reveals an intriguing matchup between one of the best offenses in the nation against one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country.  W&J has imposed its will on opponents this season with the third best offense in D-III, racking up 548 yards per game.  A well-balanced offense, head coach Mike Sirianni compliments the passing of sophomore quarterback Pete Coughlin with the legs of running back Ryan Ruffing.  The junior from Thomas Jefferson high school has toted the football for 1,565 yards and has scored 24 touchdowns, ranking him second in the nation.  Thomas More’s Dominique Hayden leads D-III with 25 rushing scores. Ruffing ranks No. 1 in scoring with an average of 16.8 points per game.

The Presidents will face a ball-hawking Wittenberg team that ranks sixth in the nation in turnover margin with a plus 17. The Tigers defense has recovered 16 fumbles and has 14 interceptions this season.  Of the thieves in the secondary, junior Winston Thomas has pirated four enemy passes and senior Victor Banjo has three picks.

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Wittenberg senior Zach Culvahouse

Some notables on the Wittenberg offense: junior receiver Zach Culvahouse has 1,010 yards and a school single-season record 71 receptions this season.  Culvahouse started the year in a big way, reeling in a school single-game record 14 passes in the season opener against Butler on September 6. The passing game is certainly a strength for this Tigers team and quarterback Zack Jenkins has thrown for 2,499 yards and 23 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  Junior running back Sean Gary is the team’s leading rusher with 549 yards and five scores. Gary averages only 3.3 yards per carry and 54.9 yards per game.

Kickoff for Saturday’s NCAA first round game between W&J and Wittenberg is set for noon.  The winner will face the winner between Mount Union (10-0) and Adrian (8-2) in the NCAA second round. For a look at the entire NCAA playoff bracket, click here.

A Look Back & A Look Ahead For The PAC Soccer Champs

By John D’Abruzzo

PITTSBURGH – Thomas More College collected some extra hardware for its trophy case last weekend. Both its men’s and women’s soccer teams captured Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships Nov. 8 at Highmark Stadium.

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A sunny start to the day on Saturday at Highmark Stadium for the PAC Soccer Championships.

What started out as a sunny and beautiful fall afternoon down in Pittsburgh’s Station Square, slowly became brisk, chilly and overcast by the end of the day. Nevertheless, fans from both Thomas More and Grove City made up nice-sized crowds as the conference took its soccer championships away from the college campus and into the home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend either game, don’t worry. Both games can be streamed online on the PAC Sports Network home page at www.pacstream.net or on the Network’s archive page.

The two-game event started with the men’s match between the Saints and Wolverines, and that contest began with a pretty interesting play. Just five minutes into the game, Thomas More’s senior forward Jake Plummer drew a red card after he used his hand to knock down a Grove City shot. Despite losing a man for the rest of the match, Thomas More never appeared as if they were shorthanded. And while the Wolverines battled hard the entire game, they were unsuccessful with each opportunity.

Just when most might have begun to think that the game could end up in overtime or possibly a shootout, senior defender Pat Jacobson (Washington Borough, N.J.) came through for the Saints when he booted the lone goal of the game. From the far side of the field, Jacobson drilled a 30-yard shot that hit the top corner of the net and scored an unassisted goal at the 58:39 mark.

“I was able to get the ball from my teammate [senior defender] Jack Little,” Jacobson told the PAC Sports Network after game. “I saw an opening so I cut across. I told myself I was going to hit this [shot] and hope it goes in. All of my teammates then were screaming. It was just so surreal.

“That goal means so much for me. I haven’t scored that much in my career, so it meant I was able to give back to my team for all they have given me.”

While Jacobson was as named the Foster Law’s Player of the Game, his teammate, senior goalkeeper Matt Kees (Covington, Ky.) also deserved a lot of credit in the win. The veteran goalminder was vocal the entire match and helped set up the Saints’ defense during each corner kick attempt by Grove City. Kees made nine saves to record the shutout.

The victory gave Thomas More its sixth consecutive men’s conference championship. The Saints also improved to 17-2-1.

Soon after that game ended, the women’s teams from the same two institutions took the pitch.

Thomas More entered the game as the three-time defending champion and was believed to be the heavy favorite. Grove City still hung with the Saints early and tried to control possession during the first half. Once the second half started, however, the Wolverines lost their momentum.

Thomas More’s Julia Flagge-Echols (Colerain, Ohio) displayed impressive footwork and ball control the entire match. The freshman phenom netted the game’s lone score a little more than two minutes into the second half. Star junior forward Olivia Huber (Woodlawn, Ky.) earned the assist. Huber also displayed her offensive presence and had many shots on goal.

“Our goal is to win,” Flagge-Echols told the PAC Sports Network after being named the Foster Law’s Player of the Game. “Every game, we have to work harder than the last time.”

The Saints held on the rest of the way to win their fourth-straight and fifth overall conference crown. The shutout also set a new school record as it was their 19th of the season. Ranked 10th in the nation, Thomas More improved 20-1 and earned an automatic bid into this weekend’s NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

Thomas More’s home field, The Bank of Kentucky Field in Crestview Hills, was selected by the NCAA earlier this week to host the first two rounds on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16. Maryville (Tenn.) College, Emory University and Kenyon College also will participate in the two-day tournament. Thomas More and Maryville will play at 11 a.m. Saturday before Emory and Kenyon take the field at 1:30 p.m. Maryville enters this match 14-6-1 after winning the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament.

Thomas More’s men’s team, on the other hand, also advances to the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament and will face North Park University at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Kenyon College’s Mavec Field. North Park University is 13-5-1 and earned an at-large bid after finishing as a semifinalist in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) tournament last week.

PAC Women’s Soccer Championship Preview

by John D’Abruzzo

For the third consecutive year, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference women’s soccer championship will be decided between Thomas More College and Grove City College.

This year’s title match will be held in Pittsburgh at Highmark Stadium on the South Side. The women’s game has been set for 3 p.m. and will follow the men’s championship game, which starts at noon. Coincidently, the men’s game also will feature Thomas More and Grove City.

The PAC men’s and women’s championship games will both be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network at www.pacstream.net.

As the top two teams in the women’s conference tournament, Thomas More (19-1) and Grove City (9-9-2) each punched their ticket into the championship contest following semifinal wins on Wednesday. While top-seeded Thomas More cruised past Washington & Jefferson, 5-0, Grove City worked extra hard to beat Westminster.

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GCC Freshman Lacy Harkrader

The Wolverines battled through a scoreless double-overtime draw before winning 7-6 in a nine-round shootout. Grove City freshman forward Lacy Harkrader (Mineral, Va.) ended up with the game-winning goal. She broke a 6-6 tie in the shootout after No. 3 Westminster missed its final shot.

Sophomore Lindsey Reichert (Northbridge, Mass.), freshman Megan Van Kirk (Allison Park, Pa.), junior Sammie Wild (Carmel, Ind.), junior Kristin Thomas (Ellicott City, Md.), sophomore Jordyn White (Mars, Pa) and junior Abby Mathes (Charlottesville, Va.) each scored for Wolverines during the shootout.

During the regulation and overtime sessions, Grove City outshot Westminster, 15-13. Grove City’s senior goalkeeper Kristi Lathrop (Flemington, N.J.) stopped five shots on net.

Three-time defending champion Thomas More posted its fourth shutout victory of the season by blanking No. 4 Washington & Jefferson.

Junior forward Olivia Huber (Woodlawn, Ky.) put the Saints on the board at the 1:54 minute mark when she headed in a corner kick by senior defender Emily Sanker (Alexandria, Ky.). Huber helped Thomas More take a 2-0 lead with an assist to freshman forward Julia Echols-Flagge (Colerain, Ohio) at 15:10. Thomas More took a 3-0 lead into the half after freshman midfielder Ally Wimmers (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored off an assist from freshman forward Abby Stadtmiller (Alexandria, Ky.) at the 41:14.

The Saints, who are ranked No. 10 in the country, jumped out to a 4-0 advantage at 52:32 when the ball bounced off a W&J player. Flagge-Echols helped seal the victory with an assist to Stadtmiller, who scored at the 62:07 mark.

Thomas More outshot W&J, 28-1. Sophomore goalkeeper Megan Barton (Florence, Ky.) earned the win and recorded one save. She played the first half, while sophomore Christy Smith (Washington Courthouse, Ohio) played the final 45 minutes in net.

The Saints enter the championship game riding an impressive 10-game winning streak. Each of those victories were by way of a shutout. Thomas More, which has surrendered only two goals in 20 games, hasn’t lost since dropping a 1-0 decision against non-conference Ohio Northern on Sept. 27.

TMC Junior Olivia Huber

TMC Junior Olivia Huber

Huber, a 5-foot-9 junior, has been a guiding force behind the Saints’ high-powered offense. She has been named the conference player of the week six times this season. Huber also set a new program record with 31 goals during the regular season.

Grove City, however, has a variety of scorers in freshman midfielder Katherine Kouzelos (five goals, three assists), Mathes (five goals, two assists), Thomas (five goals, two assists) and Harkrader (five goals, two assists).

Behind nine-year coach Jeff Cummings, who also is the head coach of the men’s team at Thomas More, the Saints looks to secure a fourth-straight league title and fifth since joining the conference. Grove City hasn’t won a women’s crown since 2001 and is coached by Melissa Lamie, who is in her 22nd season with the Wolverines.

These two teams recently met in a regular-season finale on Nov. 1. Thomas More’s Kait Owens (Cold Springs, Ky.), a junior midfielder, and Huber each scored during the Saints’ 2-0 win against the Wolverines.

Thomas More is 10-2-4 all-time against Grove City. The winner of the PAC championship game will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships next week.

Admission for this conference championship game, as well as the men’s game, is $5. If you can’t make it to the game, the title tilt will be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network at www.pacstream.net.