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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Westminster’s Lone Senior was a Rare High School Athlete

By Justin Zackal

MarshWriting an article about Andrea Marsh, the Westminster women’s basketball player, could start by asking a few questions that, in retrospect, would seem hilarious upon finding out what Marsh did in high school.

“As the only senior on the Titans this year, Andrea, do you feel isolated or pressured because of your status on the team?”

“Because you don’t seem to shy away from contact, was it hard to get used to the physical play of the college game?”

“Would you be embarrassed by having media attention, even from a profile for the PAC Sports Network blog?”

A “Faces in the Crowd” profile in Sports Illustrated four years ago would answer all these questions (No, no and no). Marsh was recognized by the magazine for her achievements on her high school team – her high school football team.

Marsh was an all-state safety for the Panama Central (N.Y.) High football team, helping lead the Panthers to a 5-3 record as a senior with a team-high four interceptions and ranking fourth on the team with 55 tackles.

“It was an experience like no other,” Marsh said. “Looking back it was really cool, but at the time it was like ‘Ugh, man, this is annoying and having all this news and stuff.’”

To outsiders, Marsh was known as the girl football player, but “not to my team,” she insisted.

“My teammates, they were like my brothers,” said Marsh, who began playing football when she was 9 years old to be like her older brother. “I fell in love with it because you can go out there and just hit people.”

Marsh_AndreaRight now, Marsh is concentrating on being a leader and improving her Westminster team. A 5-foot-8 forward, she played in 23 games as a freshman and then sustained a broken hip that needed surgery as a sophomore. Marsh is now in her second year as a starter, averaging 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

“Each year has been a learning experience,” said Marsh, mentioning the team’s recent struggles (0-8 this year, 7-20 last year and 15-11 during the year she was injured). “It’s definitely gotten me to come in contact with adversity and learn how to face it and be part of something that is bigger than myself. It’s been a great experience.”

Marsh’s experience playing football also helped her as a college athlete. Sure, laying out a 230-pound running back with a bone-crushing tackle was a memorable moment. But football instilled something more important.

“For me playing football, I definitely had to work a lot harder,” Marsh said. “I put in time in the weight room and watching film and being on the field with my teammates. I always felt like I had to prepare a little more. Putting in that extra work allowed me to come here and know what it’s like to put in work and be the worker, be the hustler. Obviously, I like being physical so setting screens and playing defense [means that] I’m not afraid of contact. It definitely prepared me.”

But you won’t see Westminster’s football coaches recruiting her to return to the gridiron.

“They joked about it,” Marsh added, failing to hold back a smile. “In the weight room one day they saw me because we were maxing out and they were pretty excited and said ‘Maybe we need you to come play safety.’ I was like ‘I appreciate it, I’m flattered, coach.’”

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Grove City’s Games in Michigan are Fruits of Senior’s Labor

By Justin Zackal

NatalijaGalens

Grove City senior forward Natalija Galens.

College coaches often reward fourth-year members of their teams who live the farthest from campus by scheduling games near the seniors’ hometowns.

That’s why the Grove City women’s basketball team is playing two games in Michigan Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 against Alma and Kalamazoo, respectively.

That, or it’s to repay Natalija Galens for always bringing back fruit from her family’s farm each year.

“Coach (Chelle) Fuss is obsessed with our blueberries,” said Galens, a senior forward who hails from Covert, Michigan. “Every time I come back from summer break I always make sure I bring her a pint.”

Or maybe it was to reward Galens for a sacrifice she made her freshman year. Galens had no intentions of playing basketball, let alone volleyball, four years ago. She got a call the summer before she enrolled at Grove City from then volleyball coach Sue Roberts who convinced Galens to play volleyball in the fall. Then, a junior teammate, Ashley Branch, recommended Galens giving basketball a try because Branch regretted not being a two-sport athlete when she first attended Grove City.

There was just one problem: Galens was homesick.

The thought of spending her first semester break back on her family’s blueberry farm was comforting, especially with most of her classmates, aside from her new basketball teammates, vacating Grove City’s campus for a month. But Galens, who attended a small Christian high school, found motivation and strength through her faith.

“It was a struggle for me debating if I wanted to be in sports year-round or if I wanted to have a break and come home,” said Galens, who typically makes it home just three times per year. “What helped me overcome that fear was realizing that putting myself in a situation that would cause me to rely solely on God was the best place that I could be.”

Galens (far right), with GC volleyball seniors Libbie Casey and Amy Trageser.

Galens (right), with fellow volleyball seniors Libbie Casey (left) and Amy Trageser (middle).

The six-hour drive home seems small compared to the four-year journey Galens made as a two-sport student-athlete – and a successful one, to boot. Galens saw playing time as a freshman on the volleyball team and started the last three years, earning second-team all-PAC honors a senior outside hitter. She was also a key bench player the last three seasons in basketball, starting 12 games, before earning a spot in the starting lineup this year. So far she’s averaging 3.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 27 minutes for the Wolverines (2-6, 0-3 PAC).

“It was a journey that told me to love the process and not just look for a goal or result,” Galens said. “That constant work ethic and wanting to get 1-percent better every day and knowing that the end goal might not be a certain stat or record but the end goal for me is that constant process of knowing I’m better than I was the day before.”

Kalamazoo is a 45-minute drive from Covert, so Galens will have “quite a few” friends and family attending the game, including her parents, Karlis and Jody, who both played and coached volleyball. Her father, Karlis, is a second-generation farmer whose parents were born in Latvia. Natalija’s name is Latvian, pronounced and translated into English as “Natalie.” She even attended a weekly Latvian class in Michigan to learn the language and culture.

Galens is thankful that Grove City scheduled a game close to her home. She’s spending Christmas in Michigan, returning to Grove City for two practices Dec. 27 and 28, then making the trip back with her team next week.

One of the biggest challenges and biggest blessings for a two-sport athlete, according to Galens, is that you have two teams at all times. The same can be said about having two homes as well.

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W&J to Host NCAA Baseball Regional Again in 2016

By Justin Zackal

Ross Memorial Park

W&J’s Ross Memorial Park.

The road to the NCAA Division III College World Series will once again go through Washington, Pa. Washington & Jefferson recently announced that it will host the 2016 Mideast Baseball Regional May 18-21 at Ross Memorial Park, just as it did in 2015.

Also as it did in 2015, the PAC Sports Network will provide live video broadcasts of all the games.

“We are thrilled to once again serve as one of the eight regional hosts for the NCAA baseball championship,” said W&J Director of Athletics Scott McGuinness in a statement released by the school. “Our goal is to make the 2016 Mideast Regional an enjoyable experience for the teams.”

That goal was achieved last year.

“I thought they did a very good job,” said Frostburg State head coach Guy Robertson, whose team won the 2015 Mideast Regional at W&J and advanced to its first-ever College World Series. “They built up the look of the place. They have a cozy environment for fans and it’s a fun environment to play in, which raised the level of intensity for the players.”

Opened in 2004 and recently updated, Ross Memorial Park has become “one of the great venues in NCAA Division III baseball,” according to McGuiness, with its 400-chairback seats, two-tiered press box and artificial turf for the entire playing surface except for the pitcher’s mound and home-plate area.

“It’s a very fair playing surface,” Robertson said. “The all-turf surface sometimes levels the playing field, but when you have the best teams in the country it is already (level).”

Frostburg State (43-9), which also played in the 2011 regional at Marietta, was one of two teams in the country to win 40 games last year. The Bobcats prevailed in the 2015 regional’s deciding game against La Roche, 8-4, after losing to La Roche, 4-3, earlier in the weekend.

W&J, Adrian, Heidelberg and Shenandoah also made up the six-team field. The Presidents were the sixth seed and went 1-2 including a 7-1 loss to Frostburg State.

Robertson compared the experience W&J provided at last year’s regional to that of Marietta, which has hosted several regionals over the years. However, he paid the ultimate compliment that a visiting coach could make.

“It’s a neat facility, but the people are what makes the experience,” Robertson said. “Their staff was great and Scott was fantastic and hospitable. It was well run. For me, it felt like we were playing at home.”

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Saint Vincent’s Susie Ellis Makes Seamless Transition From One Court to Another

By Justin Zackal

Twenty days. That’s how long Susie Ellis had to win a pair of PAC tennis championships and then earn a spot in the starting lineup for the Saint Vincent basketball team.

Not only did she win the No. 1 singles title, the No. 1 doubles and PAC Player of the Year honors in tennis on Oct. 24, but she also scored a whopping 30 points in her debut in the basketball team’s starting lineup during an 84-62 win vs. Allegheny on Nov. 13.

Susie Ellis HoopsBut when talking to Ellis about her transition from tennis to basketball, you quickly realize this all didn’t happen in less than three weeks.

“I worked hard on basketball during the offseason, even when I was in tennis (season), I’d shoot around and play pickup (games),” Ellis said. “As soon as I was done with tennis I had to focus on basketball right away. I worked really hard at practice, hoping I would get more playing time this year.”

Ellis, a 5-foot-5 junior guard, averaged 4.4 point and 8.8 minutes in 19 games last year. Through the first seven games this year, she’s leading the team in points (14.1) and minutes (29.9).

Her preparation also took place over the summer, when Ellis played on a summer-league team that played three times and week while playing tennis five times a week. You don’t have to be an accounting major, like Ellis, to know there are not enough days in the week to train.

Somehow, she did it, winning her last 12 singles matches of the season to finish with a 13-2 record, despite finding time to play basketball a few times per week.

“Tennis is a lot of footwork and quick movements and that has helped me with basketball, and it helped me stay in condition,” Ellis said. “Playing basketball has helped me bring more of that teamwork and togetherness into tennis.”

Susie Ellis TennisEllis admits she’s more relaxed on the tennis court, but that’s doesn’t mean she prefers one sport or even that she has a different personality while on one court compared to the other.

“No, I wouldn’t say so,” Ellis said. “I’m very competitive. I hate losing. I’ll be very angry if I lose at anything. I try to be positive. I work hard in practice every day.”

Ellis has exceeded her own expectations. She didn’t play tennis as a freshman because she didn’t think she’d be able to handle two sports and class work, but after having outgoing tennis coach Dr. Christopher McMahon for theology class in the spring of her freshman year, and talking to incoming coach Jym Walters, she decided to come out for the team the following year.

“I never would have expected to be PAC Player of the Year,” Ellis said. “My teammates, they pushed me to be a better player, so I owe a lot of my success to them. They are always supporting me and also my family and coaches.”

“I’m very happy I play both sports,” she added. “I would regret it if I played one.”

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