Monthly Archives: November 2017

PAC Women’s Basketball 2017-18 Preview: Talent Abounds Even Beyond Thomas More’s Dominance

By Justin Zackal

PAC Player of the Year, Abby Owings, and the Thomas More Saints hope to continue their run of dominance in the PAC.

It’s easy to overlook Presidents’ Athletic Conference women’s basketball when no team has looked down on Thomas More from the league standings since 2006. Because of the Saints’ dominance, especially from their top two or three players, other players on their roster and the top players on teams throughout the league can be taken for granted.

Just ask someone who viewed the league with a fresh set of eyes last year.

“In the PAC, some of the players are underappreciated,” said second-year Bethany head coach Brian Sansom. “Not so much from our local area, but outside we’ve got some good kids in this conference that may not get to be seen on the national spotlight. Each team has somebody who is capable of any night of being the best player in the conference.”

Sansom’s evaluation of the PAC entering the 2017-18 season is not much different from what everyone else in the league knows: “Thomas More’s entire roster is going to a ‘Player to Watch,’” he quipped. But while he thinks Saint Vincent, Washington & Jefferson and Waynesburg are going to be back up there in the top four, Sansom sees growth from the bottom six teams, including his own.

“We’ve got some really good coaches and teams who aren’t typically in the top four who are building their programs up,” Sansom said. “Yeah, I’ve only been here one year, but I can see the improvement (in the league).”

Here’s a preview of each team in order of predicted finish in the preseason coaches’ poll with last year’s overall record and PAC record in parentheses:

THOMAS MORE (28-1, 18-0)
The Saints haven’t lost to a PAC team since 2012 or in a PAC tournament game since 2006 and they outscored conference teams by an average of 92.4 to 50 last year. Expect more of the same this year as senior guard Abby Owings (16.0 ppg), the reigning PAC Player of the Year, is back, alng with two returning first-team all-PAC selections: senior forward Nikki Kiernan (14.7 ppg) and junior guard Madison Temple (15.8 ppg).

Senior guard Amirah Moore (14.0 ppg) and junior forward Danielle Parker (14.5 ppg) are back after they both were named second-team all-PAC last year. The Presidents have won at least 13 PAC games in each of the last five years. W&J has gone 126-54 (.700) in PAC games since it last won the league in 2006.

SAINT VINCENT (18-10, 13-5)
The Bearcats lost to Thomas More in the PAC championship game in 2011, 2012, 2015 and with last year’s 66-53 loss. They don’t return any all-PAC players, although guard Mara Benvenuti (11.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg) was an honorable mention. Benvenuti didn’t make it through the fall semester before her senior year was shortened by injury. She’s back for another year of eligibility as a graduate student.

WAYNESBURG (19-12, 11-7)
Other than Thomas More, Waynesburg is the only PAC team to post winning conference records in each of the last seven seasons. A big reason for their success in the last three years has been senior forward Addy Knetzer (16.2 ppg, 11.4 rpg), who led the PAC in rebounding and ranked fourth in scoring last year to earn first-team all-PAC honors.

GROVE CITY (14-13, 10-8)
The Wolverines have posted winning PAC records in three straight years after going 13 years without back-to-back winning conference seasons. Senior guard Lexie Arkwright (20.8 ppg), a first-team all-PAC selection last year, was the league’s leading scorer. “She just has a way about her game that is tough to defend,” said Sansom, whose Bethany team surrendered 26 and 35 points by Arkwright in two meetings.

BETHANY (12-14, 10-8)
Senior forward Kelsea Daugherty (18.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg) ranked second in the PAC in both scoring and rebounding to earn second-team all-PAC honors last year. Considered by Sansom to be scrappy, yet crafty, especially when it comes to reading defenses, Daugherty will be heavily relied on with Hayley Holenka (17.3 ppg) graduating and junior Ashley Duthie (7.0 ppg) sliding from point guard to the two-guard. Although a freshman will be handling the point, Daugherty and junior guard Sammie Weiss (16.4 ppg), a midseason transfer from California (Pa.) last year, will take some of the scoring burden from the younger players, which includes 13 freshmen in all.

WESTMINSTER (11-16, 5-13)
Of the teams in the bottom half of the conference, Sansom considers Westminster to be the most dangerous. “Westminster might shock some people because they were so young last year” he said. “Don’t be surprised if you see them sneaking up around four or five this year.” The Titans return four starters, including last year’s PAC Freshman of the Year, sophomore forward Emily Fromknecht (11.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), but that doesn’t include senior forward Kristine Fromknecht, Emily’s older sister who was the team’s leading scorer two years ago but missed half of last season with an injury.

CHATHAM (13-13, 7-11)
Chatham’s 13 overall wins last year were the most in program history and the Cougars qualified for the last two PAC tournaments, capturing a first round win in each of those trips to the postseason. Junior guard Katie Sieg (15.9 ppg) ranked sixth in the league in scoring last year and she was named second team all-PAC.

THIEL (5-20, 2-16)
The Tomcats won a combined 19 games the last four seasons, but the Tomcats return four starters including their top scorers: junior guard Jess Vormelker (14.9 ppg) and senior forward Taylor Duchon (13.6 ppg).

GENEVA (4-21, 1-17)
Geneva returns three starters but the focus last year and this offseason was on someone else who is returning and what horrible thing is now gone. Sixth-year head coach Lori Wynn, who was away from the team last year after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June 2016, is back with a clean bill of health. Doctors detected no evidence of cancer in January and again in July, according to the Beaver County Times. The Golden Tornadoes hope that battle won will foreshadow more victories ahead.


PAC Men’s Basketball 2017-18 Preview: Stars are Aligned for a Competitive Year

By Justin Zackal

Reigning PAC Player of the Year, Tyreik Burton, and the Thiel Tomcats are hoping this is their season to win the PAC.

Every year coaches are going to boast about how tough it is to play in their conference that it can also be tough to take such platitudes seriously. But when Thiel College men’s basketball coach Tim Loomis said that the Presidents’ Athletic Conference this year is “the best it’s ever been” and “from top to bottom, anyone can win this league,” he was not exaggerating.

There are three reasons for this, according to Loomis, two of which are the raised standards in recruiting and coaching, but the other is more coincidental: the stars are aligned for the 2017-18 PAC men’s basketball season, meaning all the stars are coming back.

Twenty-one of the highest 22 scoring averages last year are returning, including the league’s top 15 scorers and each team’s leading scorer. All 10 teams are returning at least three starters, including three with four and three with five. Eight of the 10 players named all-PAC last year are back as well.

“Recruiting efforts have amped up the last two years, good players are returning on all the teams and there’s better coaching,” Loomis said. “It’s going to make it very competitive this year.”

Loomis welcomes back the reigning PAC Player of the Year in senior guard Tyreik Burton, who led the league with a 18.0 scoring average a year ago. According to Loomis, Burton has Division-I quickness and because it’s rare to see a defensive equivalent at the Division III level, Burton’s presence alone can open up shots for teammates.

One teammate who Loomis considers just as much of a player of the year candidate as Burton is senior forward Josh Lumbus, who averaged 12 points and 5.6 rebounds last year. Both Burton and Lumbus did not finish the season, nor did they play in the conference tournament because of knee injuries.

Coaching experience is also a prevailing theme. Loomis is entering his 12th season and he’s only the fourth longest tenured coach, while the remaining six coaches are entering at least their third season at their school.

Thomas More broke up Saint Vincent’s four-year run as PAC champion by winning its first league title since 2009. But, as Loomis indicated, anyone can win it this year. Here are the teams listed in their predicted order of finish in this year’s coaches’ poll with last year’s overall and PAC records in parentheses:

SAINT VINCENT (21-7, 15-3)
For the first time since 2012, the Bearcats are not entering the season as defending champs, but head coach D.P. Harris is returning four of five starters, including senior guard Matt D’Amico (12.6 ppg), but that’s not including senior forward Tom Kromka, who was named first-team all-PAC despite coming off the bench and averaging 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds.

THOMAS MORE (22-7, 15-3)
The Saints return all five starters from last year’s PAC championship team, including four juniors who averaged at least 7.3 points per game, led by guard Damion King and his team-best 14.1 average. Fifth-year head coach Drew Cooper’s team led the league in scoring (78.0), average scoring margin (+8.7) and average rebound margin (+4.7) last year. They also enter the year having played Kentucky and Xavier in preseason exhibition games.

WESTMINSTER (17-12, 11-7)
The Titans return three of five starters for sixth-year head coach Kevin Siroki. Senior forward/guard Deontay Scott averaged 13.7 points and a PAC-best 9.4 rebounds last year, and he will be joined again in the frontcourt by Jarret Vrabel (13.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg).

THIEL (16-9, 11-7)
Loomis said his Tomcats will be deeper this year and they’ll be able to play at a faster pace, especially at guard with sophomores Terrance Holloway and Nyric Gosley getting up to speed as freshman last year, especially after Burton went down with his injury. Thiel hasn’t won the PAC title since 2000. This could be the year.

BETHANY (17-13, 9-9)
The Bison lost Antonio Rudolph, the only first-team all-PAC player and the league’s only top-22 scorer not to come back. But this year’s team will be more about who is returning, as in three starters and their top two scorers from last year: senior guards Calique Jones (14.8 ppg) and Andrew Williams (12.8 ppg).

GROVE CITY (12-14, 8-10)
Steve Lamie enters his 20th season as head coach of the Wolverines seeking the team’s first PAC title since 2010. If they do it this year it’ll be because of their 6-foot-6 big men, Andrew Beckman (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Cory Huff (14.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who account for two of the team’s four returning starters.

CHATHAM (10-16, 6-12)
All five starters are back for Chatham’s third year of varsity basketball, including junior guard/forward Alex Schoppen, who averaged 12.0 points per game last year. Isaiah Brown (11.5 ppg) and Anthony Bomar (7.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) are also back.

GENEVA (10-16, 7-11)
The PAC’s longest tenured coach, Geneva’s Jeff Santarsiero, welcomes back three of five starters for his 21st season. The Golden Tornadoes typically rely on one or two players to do most of their scoring and last year was no different. Sophomore guard Ethan Moose (16.2 ppg) and senior forward Jimmy Leichliter (15.5 ppg) ranked second and fourth in the league in scoring, but as a team the GTs were sixth (70.6 ppg).

WAYNESBURG (6-19, 4-14)
The Yellow Jackets return three starters, including senior forward Jon Knab, who ranked third in the league in scoring last year with 16.0 points per game. Waynesburg hasn’t won the PAC since 1996, which would be the longest drought if not for …

… Washington & Jefferson, which has not won the PAC since 1995, the last of four straight years the Presidents won the league. The Presidents return all five starters from last year, including two senior Brians, Lindquist (13.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) at forward and Graytok (11.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) at guard.