Yearly Archives: 2016

Thomas More at Saint Vincent – Jan. 14, 2012

by Randy Gore

The Thomas More women’s basketball team has been so dominant over the years, including an undefeated national championship last year, that some folks may have forgotten when the Saints last lost a game to a PAC opponent. I was digging through the PAC Sports Network archives this weekend and came across our broadcast of the Thomas More vs. Saint Vincent game on January 14, 2012, which happened to be the last time the Saints lost a conference game. The Bearcats, led by the 2012 PAC Player of the Year, Brittany Sedlock, defeated the Saints 68-65. Below is the broadcast of that contest.

It’s fun to look back at this game for several reasons. First off, there were so many great players that participated in this contest, including four All-PAC first team selections. For Saint Vincent, Sedlock and Devin McGrath were later named to the All-Conference team. For Thomas More, Katie Kitchen and Allison Long were tabbed as First-Team selections. Secondly, check out the Saint Vincent logo at midcourt. The Bearcats transitioned to a new look and logo since then. Finally, this broadcast was from the PAC Sports Network’s very first season broadcasting PAC basketball. Since then, the PAC Sports Network has added a scoreboard bug with a game clock and now broadcasts in HD, among other improvements. Just an example of how far we’ve come as a network and how long it’s been since Thomas More last sustained defeat to a PAC foe.


Catching Up with PAC’s Postseason Football Games

By Justin Zackal

The Division III football postseason concludes Saturday, and even though weeks have passed since PAC teams played a down, two of the league’s four postseason teams are still catching their breaths.

PAC champion Thomas More overcame a 17-0 deficit at home to Wittenberg in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Nov. 19. However, the Saints wound up losing in four overtimes, 33-30, in the longest game in Division III playoff history.

Three PAC teams played in ECAC bowl games in Philadelphia, including Washington & Jefferson coming back after trailing Brockport, 31-16 in the fourth quarter, for an exhilarating 38-31 win in the aptly named Presidents Bowl on Nov. 18.

Westminster won its second straight James Lynah Bowl with a 33-6 win over Utica Nov. 19, and Carnegie Mellon lost, 52-20, to Salisbury in the Legacy Bowl Nov. 20.


Thomas More celebrates the 2016 PAC title.

The sting from Thomas More’s loss is still felt.

“Eh, it’s one we could’ve, should’ve,” said Saints head coach Regis Scafe. “One play here, one play there makes a huge difference. You look back at everything and just kinda shake your head. Wittenberg, you give them credit; they were tough. They have a solid program. It’s one of those games that no one should’ve lost; it was so closely played.”

The Saints scored 24 straight points to take a 24-17 lead, but Wittenberg sent the game to overtime with a touchdown with 1:39 left in regulation. Then the game turned into a field-goal kicking contest in overtime: matching made field goals in the first OT, blocked fields goals in the second, Saints freshman Cole Mathias hitting a 47-yard equalizer in the third but missing a 40-yarder in the fourth.

“It was a crazy situation,” said Scafe, who compared it to a tied soccer game decided on penalty kicks. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Both kickers were really good under pressure.”

Scafe seemed to have mixed emotions looking back on the game.

“We had chances,” Scafe said. “Looking at it, we could’ve folded because we were way down and we didn’t. Then we fought back and played really well, and then we could’ve iced it, but we didn’t.”

Thomas More instead heads into an offseason in which all five of its first-team, all-PAC players graduate. However, next year the Saints will welcome back starting quarterback Brenan Kuntz, two of their top three running backs (Hjavier Pitts and Luke Zajac) and their top two receivers (Daylin Garland and Logan Winkler).


W&J senior quarterback Pete Coughlin.

W&J’s quarterback will not return, but what a way for senior Pete Coughlin to end his career. Coughlin earned Presidents Bowl MVP honors after passing for 473 yards including a 35-yard touchdown to Anthony Keriotis with 13 seconds to complete the comeback.

The game marked the first time W&J played at University of Pennsylvania’s historic Franklin Field since 1897 when the Presidents lost 18-4 to an undefeated Penn team that won the national championship.

In a postgame interview with ECAC Sports, W&J head coach Mike Sirianni raved about his team’s resiliency as well as the ECAC bowl experience at Franklin Field.

“To come back here and play where they’ve played before with all the great games that have been played on this field,” Sirianni said, “you get chills.”

Westminster’s quarterback, junior Paul Columbo, was also named MVP of his team’s bowl win, as he rushed 17 times for a game-high 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans successfully defended their James Lynah Bowl title.

Last year was the first time PAC teams won two of the six ECAC bowl games with Westminster and Carnegie Mellon winning (click here). The league matched the feat again this season.

Even though Thomas More is not part of the ECAC, Scafe sees the bowl games as an opportunity to advance the conference.

“We had some really good teams in our league this season,” Scafe added. “For them to get another game and succeed on a regional scene, it shows the strength of the conference.”

For a coach looking to catch his breath from a wild playoff game, seeing how challenging it will be to defend conference championship will not making him breathe easier.


PAC Men’s Basketball Preview: More Competitive League Aims to Dethrone Saint Vincent

By Justin Zackal


Saint Vincent celebrating its 4th consecutive PAC title last season.

Saint Vincent won the PAC men’s basketball title the last four years, so when it came time for the league’s coaches to pick a favorite in the 2016-17 preseason poll, it was last year’s runner up, Thomas More, that was anointed. Even though the Saints return a girth a talent, they are still a young team with just one senior.

Is it a bad thing to have such lofty expectations so soon for a young team?

“It’s a good thing in terms of a cumulative effect,” said Drew Cooper, Thomas More’s fourth-year head coach. “If it were a more immature, naive group, I would be more concerned about it than I am.”

Cooper said his team is approaching the season the same way as every other team in the league. Well, that is, except one.

“Saint Vincent is the defending champion, the four-time defending champion,” Cooper said. “To look at it any other way would be a mistake because champions need to be dethroned. Our goal for the season is the same goal as the other nine teams, that is try to dethrone a four-time champion.”

Still, each team has its own set of circumstances. So here’s a look at the cards dealt for the 10 PAC teams in order of predicted finish in the coaches’ poll, followed by a parting shot from Cooper about why the PAC will be a much better conference this year.

THOMAS MORE (17-11, 12-6 PAC in 2015-16)
Injuries last year allowed several returning players to gain valuable experience. Thomas More returns nine of its top 10 scorers and seven players who started at least 13 games, led by junior forward/center Simon Clifford (14.2 ppg) and junior guard Daniel Williams (13.7), a pair of all-PAC selections. Cooper will likely rotate starting lineups, but look for Clifford at post, sophomore Damion King (8.3) at point guard and junior Austin Young (6.2) at forward, Williams or sophomore Ryne Callahan (8.4) at guard and senior Sawyer Pauly (6.5) or Brandon Horne (9.5) at shooting forward.

“I feel more prepared coming into this year because I have young men coming in with experience that they wouldn’t have otherwise had,” Cooper added.

SAINT VINCENT (22-7, 15-3)
The Bearcats lost their top five scorers from last year but they return a pair of starters, both named Austin and both forwards, senior Austin Ford (5.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and junior Austin Dedert (5.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

“Austin Ford from Saint Vincent is a man-child and someone that each opponents’ interior defense is going to have to really battle to contain,” Cooper said.

BETHANY (17-10, 12-6)
Bethany advanced to the PAC semifinals last year, despite first-year head coach Nick Hager not inheriting many scorers from the previous season. There will be greater expectations this year as all five starters are back, led by senior guard Antonio Rudolph (12.1 ppg, PAC-best 82. rpg), a first-team all-PAC selection, junior guard Calique Jones (13.3 ppg) and junior forward Andrew Williams (11.3 ppg).

Noting how Bethany developed into a team that can score in many different ways, Cooper said that Bethany “can turn a 10-point deficit into a four-point lead in a click of a button.”

WESTMINSTER (10-18, 8-10)
Last year, the Titans improved by five PAC wins, including a win over Thomas More, and they upset second-seeded Grove City to advance to the PAC semifinals. They return four starters including their top two scorers, junior guard Brandon Domenick (11.3 ppg) and junior forward Jarret Vrabel (10.0).

“Our three main focuses this year is defense, not turning the ball over, and free throws,” said Westminster head coach Kevin Siroki.

THIEL (12-14, 10-8)
Thiel graduated two of the PAC’s top six scorers (and 45 percent of its team’s points) in Luke Kochka and Khari Bess. The Tomcats return two starters, led by junior forward Clandell Cetoute (8.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), as they look to improve on a 10-win PAC season, the most since going 13-3 in 2011-12.

GROVE CITY (18-9, 13-5)
Head coach Steve Lamie turned a 13-loss PAC team in 2014-15 into a school-record 13 conference wins last year. The Wolverines, who also won 18 games overall for the most regular season wins since 1988-89, return two starters this year, junior forwards Cory Huff and Andrew Beckman, who both averaged 10.3 points per game last year.

WAYNESBURG (10-16, 10-8)
Two years removed from a runner-up finish in the PAC, the Yellow Jackets placed fifth and lost to last year’s finalist, Thomas More, in the quarterfinals. Waynesburg returns just one starter this year, junior forward Jon Knab (8.7 ppg).

GENEVA (5-21, 5-13)
Geneva had two of the league’s top three scorers last year in Ethan Adamczyk (18.3 ppg) and Chaese Vaudrin (17.3), but the Golden Tornadoes were just eighth in the PAC in team scoring (66.8). Adamczyk graduated but Vaudrin is back for his senior year along with junior Jimmy Leichliter (13.0).

“This season was a season that had games of runs,” said Geneva head coach Jeff Santarsiero after the GTs lost to Chatham in the PAC tournament. “All teams in America go through these kinds of years.”

CHATHAM (5-22, 4-14)
After beating Geneva in the first round, the Cougars lost to Saint Vincent in the quarterfinals to end Chatham’s inaugural season of men’s basketball. All five starters are back, led by sophomore Alex Schoppen (11.3). The other four had scoring averages between 9.0 and 9.9.

W&J’s leading scorer, junior guard Brian Graytok (15.7 ppg), is back as the Presidents’ rebuild continues under second-year head coach Ethan Stewart-Smith.

All the programs in the PAC should see improvement this year, making the league more competitive.

“It helps our conference that there was no coaching turnover,” Cooper added. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see four or five losses win the thing. It’s going to be an evenly played conference season.”


PAC Women’s Basketball Preview: Narrowing the Gulf

By Justin Zackal

Thomas More celebrating the 2015-16 National Championship.

Thomas More celebrating the 2015-16 National Championship.

There’s a gulf between the Thomas More women’s basketball team and the rest of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. The reigning national champion Saints rolled to another conference crown last year, while outscoring PAC opponents by an average of nearly 50 points per game in the process.

Somewhere between Thomas More and the shoreline of the PAC field is Washington & Jefferson, which tied a school record with 24 wins last year after three straight 21-win seasons. Is the gap between W&J and Thomas More or W&J and the rest of the PAC narrowing entering the 2016-17 season?

Well, both W&J and Thomas More lost its best players from last year, all-PAC first-teamers Beka Bellhy and Sydney Moss, respectively. Moss was a three-time Division III National Player of the Year who averaged 22.1 points per game last year.

“You go into those games with Sydney Moss and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s nothing we can do,’” said W&J head coach Jina DeRubbo. “At least that 20-point intimidation factor may be gone right off the bat. I’m sure Thomas More is going into the season with everything to prove that they are more than just Sydney Moss, which I always thought that to be true anyway. But I think some of that wow-factor in terms of players’ perceptions will be diminished a little bit.”

Let’s raise the periscope from the gulf of the PAC for a peek at each team’s outlook.


THOMAS MORE (33-0, 18-0 PAC in 2015-16)
Yes, there will still be an intimidation factor, but instead of 20 points from one player it will be at least 40 points spread across Thomas More’s three returning starters in juniors Nikki Kiernan (13.4 ppg) and Abby Owings (15.0) and sophomore Madison Temple (11.4).

“We’re trying to figure out some holes we’ve got to fill (with the players we lost) and where our new pieces fit in and how we can replace the scoring, the rebounding and the leadership,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans.

There was still more than a 30-point average gap between W&J and Thomas More in three meetings last year, including a 93-74 Saints win in the PAC championship game.

However, W&J returns four starters, including juniors Amirah Moore (10.2 ppg) and Rachel Bellhy (9.3), Beka’s sister who scored in double figures 13 times after becoming a starter midseason. The Presidents also focused on a specific area to win more games this year.

“We set some goals this year to be a better defensive team,” DeRubbo said. “That’s something we spent an enormous amount of time on in the preseason.”

SAINT VINCENT (15-13, 8-10)
The Bearcats were PAC runners up two years ago with a 22-5 record, but they’ll easily rebound from last year with all five starters returning, including four senior starters led by Mara Benvenuti (13.3 ppg) and Susie Ellis (12.1).

“Saint Vincent should have a really good year,” DeRubbo said. “They have most of their people back.”

WAYNESBURG (15-14, 11-7)
DeRubbo mentioned Waynesburg as a tough matchup because the Yellow Jackets shoot a lot of threes (24.3 attempts per game, making 31 percent) and they have second-team All-PAC forward Addy Knetzer (14.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg) who can dominate a game.

GROVE CITY (13-13, 11-7)
The Wolverines improved by one PAC win last year, but it marked their first back-to-back winning conference seasons in 13 years. Junior forward Lexie Arkwright (13.3 ppg) is back to try to make it three straight.

CHATHAM (11-16, 6-12)
The Cougars’ overall record last year tied for their best mark since 2009-10 and they doubled their PAC win total from the previous year. Sophomore guard Katelyn Sieg (11.0 ppg) returns.

BETHANY (8-18, 6-12)
Bethany has a new coach in Brian Sansom, who inherits four players who started at least 10 games last year, including senior guard Hayley Holenka (14.1 ppg) and junior forward Kelsea Dougherty (13.4). Six-foot-three senior forward Dakota McKenzie joins the team after starring for the PAC-champion Bison volleyball team.

GENEVA (9-17, 6-12)
The Golden Tornadoes won five more games last year than they did the previous season, but that kind of overcoming adversity is nothing compared to head coach Lori Wynn’s battle with cancer following an offseason diagnosis. Geneva will look to rally around its coach as the team returns four of its top five scorers, led by sophomore guard Callie Ford (10.4 ppg).

WESTMINSTER (4-21, 4-14)
Opposing coaches, including DeRubbo, typically identify Westminster as a team that “always plays really hard” and that “they are tough and scrappy and defensively they get after it.” But the Titans just haven’t been able to score many points, ranking last in the PAC in scoring average the last two years with 55.3 and 52.7, respectively. Junior forward Kristine Fromknecht is the top returner (10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

THIEL (4-21, 4-14)
The Tomcats won a combined 14 games the last three seasons, but there’s hope with a young backcourt that will consist of sophomore Jess Vormelker (11.7 ppg) and freshmen Sadie Buchser, who was a 1,000-point scorer at Riverview High School.

“I think this conference is getting better. It will continue to get better,” DeRubbo added. “I think we had some teams last year that will build on their successful seasons. Thomas More is a national power and they’re going to continue to be so, but we’re looking forward to the year. I think it’ll be a good battle.”


2016 PAC Football Preview: What to Say About These 11 Teams?

By Justin Zackal

There’s a lot to say about the 11 PAC football teams as they enter the 2016 season. The soothsayers who participated in the preseason poll pretty much recreated last year’s standings, but for the following exercise we’ll let an optimist, the statistics and each head coach have their say about the teams:


THOMAS MORE (11-1, 8-0 PAC in 2015)
thomasmoreOptimist Says: For the seventh time in the last eight years, the Saints are defending at least a share of the PAC title. Only two teams came within two touchdowns of the Saints last year, one of which was an overtime loss to Wabash in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. Thomas More should only get better as second-year head coach Regis Scafe puts more of his fingerprints on a team that sure didn’t seem like it was unfamiliar with a new coaching staff last year.

Statistics Say: Thomas More outscored opponents by an average of 48.6 to 17.3 last year, including 52.1 to 13.6 through the first nine games.

Coach Says: “We try to stay balanced and we have some good young guys in the program, but (with all-PAC receivers Goose Cohorn and Tyler Vogelpohl graduated) … we’re going to have to do it more by committee.”


wj-newOptimist Says: W&J won eight games last year and head coach Mike Sirianni still called it a disappointment, lamenting that his team did not get better during the season. After stewing all offseason, during which he hired a new strength coach, Sirianni has his team’s attention. The Presidents have had too much success (nine wins per season in 13 years under Sirianni and 23 PAC titles in 32 years) to let this program slip any further.

Statistics Say: Senior quarterback Pete Coughlin completed 71 percent of his passes last year, leading all of Division III and setting W&J and PAC records for a season. He led the PAC with 302.3 passing yards per game (25 TDs, 7 INTs).

Coach Says: “(Coughlin) gives us a chance to beat anyone in our league because of what he can do with his feet. Some of our best plays I just let him go, (just) running around, see what you can do. He’s a special type of player.”


Case LogoOptimist Says: The Spartans went from 3-7 in 2014 to 7-3 last year under head coach Greg Debeljak, and this year they return 13 starters, including eight all-PAC players. They have six offensive linemen who have starting experience protecting first-team all-PAC quarterback Rob Cuda. Only losing to Thomas More by four points last year, Case showed how close it is to dethroning the Saints.

Statistics Say: Cuda ranked ninth in the nation last year with 334.6 total yards per game, leading the Spartans with 2,631 passing yards (28 TDs, 5 INTs) and 715 rushing yards.

Coach Says: “You can get caught up in the numbers and how many people we have back. We have an excellent quarterback coming back. We try to stress to the kids all year, it’s not going to happen just because we were good last year.”


westminsterOptimist Says: If Westminster is considered a sleeping giant, with six NAIA national championships before joining NCAA Division III 16 years ago, then last year the Titans woke up with their most wins since 1997. Third-year head coach Scott Benzel won’t let them doze off after one season, not with 16 starters returning, including the team’s leading passer (Paul Columbo), rusher (Dominique McKinley) and receiver (Jemetrius Bentley).

Statistics Say: Westminster’s defense, which returns seven starters, led the PAC last year in scoring defense (16.7 points per game) and total defense (257.0 yards per game).

Coach Says: “(The older players) need to teach these guys coming in this is how you play college football, this is how you prepare and this is what you need to do to be successful.”


CMU1Optimist Says: The Tartans enter the season with a seven-game win streak, third most in Division III. Under head coach Rich Lackner, they’ll learn from last year’s 1-3 start. CMU also has three preseason All-Americans: junior safety Drew Fitzmorris, junior running back Sam Benger and senior defensive end Brian Khoury. The rest of the PAC has one (W&J’s Coughlin).

Statistics Say: Benger led the nation with 2,092 rushing yards, averaging 190.2 yards per game while becoming the 21st player in Division III history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau.

Coach Says: “It says a lot about the character of our kids and the quality of our assistant coaches to turn things around and win six in a row. We hope to have a better start to the 2016 campaign than we had last year. A lot will depend on how that offensive line shapes up (three starters lost).”


BETHANY (5-5, 4-4 PAC)
bethanyOptimist Says: The Bison were supposed to be better than a .500 team last year, but, still, 11 wins in a two-year span hasn’t happened at Bethany since 2000-01. Bethany hasn’t had a losing PAC record since 2012, the year before fourth-year head coach Bill Garvey took over the program.

Statistics Say: Senior running back Jalen Holmes ranked second in the PAC in rushing last year (135.3 per game, 6.0 per carry) with a school single-season record 1,353 rushing yards, but Bethany will need him to help control possession after the Bison were third-worst in the PAC in time possession (28:09 per game) to go with a PAC-low 13 forced turnovers.

Coach Says: “We’re definitely going to go through (Jalen). … The biggest thing we need to work on as a program is our consistency throughout a 10-game season.”


st-vincentOptimist Says: So Saint Vincent didn’t see a four-win improvement like it did from 2013 (0-10) to 2014 (4-6), but the Bearcats should improve this year with five new assistant coaches on third-year head coach Ron Dolciato’s staff, including defensive coordinator Shawn Rohrer for his second stint at Saint Vincent after spending the last five years running W&J’s defense.

Statistics Say: Senior running back Shavonta Craft scored a team-high eight rushing touchdowns last year with 124 total touches (103 carries, 21 receptions) for 670 yards (437 rush, 233 receiving).

Coach Says: “Well, I should give (Shavonta) the ball more than I did last year … the more he gets the ball the better he gets.”


waynesburgOptimist Says: Even though last year was Waynesburg’s worst record since 2001, you could have expected a lull with a true freshman, quarterback Jake Dougherty, starting at the most important position. Head coach Rick Shepas admitted that they were patient to develop their signal-caller, not to “throw him to the wolves early on” and that they “played close to the vest with him.” Last year was a reboot and the Yellow Jackets should soon get back to averaging more than eight wins a season like they did the previous three years.

Statistics Say: Dougherty averaged 187.2 passing yards per game with 19 TDs and 12 interceptions.

Coach Says: “(Jake) developed exactly the way we wanted him to and I think we took some chances as we finished the season with him. His development is right on where we want him to be. The biggest thing for us is we’re going to be able to surround him with much more talent and I think that’s going to be the most significant thing that could change for us.”


GENEVA (2-8, 1-7 PAC)
genevaOptimist Says: Geneva keeps trending downward each year (5-5 in 2013, 3-7 in 2014 and 2-8 in 2015), but the Golden Tornadoes have stability in 24th-year head coach Geno DeMarco to reverse their fortunes. They also have a first-team all-PAC linebacker as the backbone of their defense in Jimmy Quinlan (99 tackles in 2015).

Statistics Say: Geneva ranked in the top half of the PAC in total defense (389.9 yards per game) last year, but its offense couldn’t move the ball, ranking 10th (296.1).

Coach Says: “I know a lot of people think we are dead but I will go on record saying we’re not dead yet.”


THIEL (2-8, 1-7 PAC)
thielOptimist Says: Having an experienced quarterback affects what your team can do — just ask Waynesburg — and Thiel has a good one in senior Ryan Radke. His athletic ability will allow the team to accelerate its capabilities as first-year head coach Dan Blume gets acclimated.

Statistics Say: Radke is already Thiel’s all-time leader in career total offense (6,108 yards) after ranking fifth in the PAC last year with 2,129 yards (151.8 passing average, 61.1 rushing average).

Coach Says: “Ultimately, we are going to fit our scheme and our system to what our players do well. Coming in, Ryan Radke is a dynamic player and he’s arguably our best football player, so the first thing we wanted to do as a staff is find ways to stress teams with his athletic ability.”


GROVE CITY (0-10, 0-8 PAC)
grovecityOptimist Says: Only one way to go, right? Well, you could have said that last year, but the Wolverines didn’t win a game for a second straight year. However, this year is different because the program finally belongs to first-year head coach Andrew DiDonato, who was the offensive coordinator/head-coach-in-waiting last year. The transition is complete; time to rebuild.

Statistics Say: Grove City was either 10th or 11th in the PAC in the major team categories last year except pass offense (221.1 per game, 6th) and pass defense (218.0, 5th), but that’s mostly because the Wolverines were playing from behind and opponents were protecting leads.

Coach Says: “We have a bold vision of what we want to do, but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a process.