PACSN Blog

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

By Justin Zackal

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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.

WASHINGTON & JEFFERSON (1-25, 1-17)
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.”

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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.

WASHINGTON & JEFFERSON (24-6, 16-2)
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.”

 

WASHINGTON & JEFFERSON (8-2, 6-2 PAC)
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 WESTERN RESERVE (7-3, 6-2 PAC)
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.”

 

WESTMINSTER (9-2, 7-1 PAC)
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.”

 

CARNEGIE MELLON (8-3, 6-2 PAC)
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 d3football.com 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.”

 

SAINT VINCENT (4-6, 3-5 PAC)
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.”

 

WAYNESBURG (3-7, 2-6 PAC)
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.

W&J Unveils New Athletics Brand, Logo

W&J image 1A diligent and creative process to develop a new brand and logo for Washington & Jefferson College Athletics came to fruition on Wednesday night. The brand and logo was unveiled to the public on WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh Action News 4 following months of preparation. The immediate response from the Washington community, students and alumni was more than favorable following the brand’s unveiling.

The new brand was developed by SME, a strategic branding agency based in New York City. Among its clients, SME has produced logos and branding for the Atlantic Coast Conference, Miami Marlins and the Kentucky Derby.

“This is an exciting time for W&J Athletics,” said Director of Athletics Scott McGuinness. “I would like to thank SME for the company’s creativity and strategy during this process. Our committee considered valuable input from students and alumni to help us build an athletic logo program that encompasses the vast and rich history of this athletic department, but also keeps an eye towards the future.”

The brand will be rolled out in phases over the next year as it is integrated into the athletic facilities expansion and renovations, added to team uniforms in line with the College’s uniform replacement policy, and implemented throughout social media and web platforms. For the official W&J press release and a look at the team specific logos, click here.

The PAC Sports Network is proud to say it played a role in the editing of the “brand reveal video” which can be seen below. Congratulations to W&J Athletics for a great new look!

Top-Seeded La Roche Riding a Crescendo into the NCAA Mideast Regional

By Justin Zackal

wjThe La Roche baseball team just keeps getting better and better, improving its season win total each year since 2009. The Redhawks enter the NCAA Division III Baseball Mideast Regional riding a crescendo of success by making their fourth appearance at regionals since 2012.

Follow all the action as the PAC Sports Network (pacstream.net) will broadcast each game of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament from Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park May 18-22.
Let’s go “around the horn” with La Roche head coach Chase Rowe, followed by a “quick pitch” for each of the other seven teams:

AROUND THE HORN
FIRST BASE. La Roche (36-9), ranked 12th in the nation, is the FIRST-ever Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference team to earn the No. 1 seed in a regional. After becoming the FIRST team in school history to win more than 33 games, is this team expecting to break even more new ground with a FIRST-ever trip to nationals? “I don’t talk to the group about expectations,” Rowe said. “They’ve wanted to win this regional since the first workout in the fall. That’s been the expectation they put on themselves. This group has been hungry to make their own mark.”

SECOND BASE. This will be the SECOND year that La Roche is playing in a regional at Ross Memorial Park. The Redhawks went 3-2 in last year’s regional as the fourth seed before losing to Frostburg State, 8-4, in the championship game. La Roche has played 11 games (7-4) the last three seasons at Ross Memorial Park. “W&J is pretty much like a second home field to us,” Rowe said. “It’s a great place, we love playing there and we’re excited to be back.”

SHORTSTOP. The most important player on La Roche’s team may not lead the Redhawks in many statistical categories (only his 28 walks). But, senior SHORTSTOP Colin Williamson (.337, 30 RBI, 6 HR) plays a critical role. “He’s our leadoff hitter; he sets the tone,” Rowe said. “He’s the heartbeat for this group. He’s the hardest-working, nicest kid, best student that you can get. He’s just an all-around guy that kids look up to. He’s the table-setter at the top of the lineup. When he’s going good, we’re really good. When he’s struggling, we have to scratch and claw to win. He’s the most important factor right now.”

THIRD BASE. This is La Roche’s THIRD straight regional appearance and the Redhawks have won 30 or more games in each of the last three years. Will they draw on this experience? “Not really. I think this group is much more staying in the moment right now,” Rowe said. “We had a tough conference tournament. We had to come out of the losers’ bracket after losing the first game and late in the regular season we were trying to put ourselves in a position from an overall record standpoint to get an at-large bid. We’ve been grinding games at least for the last three or four weeks. They are drawing from that a lot more than from last year or the previous year. Hopefully they’ll keep the momentum going.”

QUICK PITCHES
#2 RANDOLPH-MACON (32-6-1). The Yellow Jackets are ranked second in the nation, and second in the regional. The Old Dominion Athletic Conference champions don’t have a proven track record, having never won a regional game in four other appearances (1977, 2008, 2011 and 2013). PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior third baseman Travis Lodge, the ODAC Player of the Year, ranks second in the nation in slugging percentage (.867).

#3 WOOSTER (34-11). The Scots, on the other hand, have that experience, despite making their first appearance since 2013. Champions of the North Coast Athletic Conference, Wooster’s 28 tournament appearances are the fourth most in Division III, while the Scots have won five regional titles (1989, 1994, 1997, 2005, 2009) and have finished second twice (1997, 2009) or third once (2005) at nationals. PLAYER TO WATCH: The ace of the pitching staff for the last two years, junior left-hander Michael Houdek is 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA this year.

#4 THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY (30-10). The highest seeded team with an at-large bid, the Lions come out of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, which produced three tournament teams this year. The Lions are making their first NCAA postseason appearance since 2009. PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior outfielder Patrick Roberts owns team highs in the key average stats – batting average (.392) on-base (.476) and slugging (.582) – and counting stats – hits (62), walks (24) and homers (6).

#5 OHIO WESLEYAN (27-14). An at-large team out of Wooster’s conference, the NCAC, the Battling Bishops are making their first NCAA playoff appearance since 2008 and their 18th overall. PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior C.J. Tosino is a first-team all-NCAC outfielder who’s batting a team-high .403, which ranks fourth in the NCAC.

#6 JOHNS HOPKINS (28-13-2). The Blue Jays, an at-large team from the Centennial Conference, are making 21st appearance in the NCAAs, including 12 in the last 16 years. Last year, they went 3-2 in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, falling short of their first regional title since 2010. PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Conor Reynolds, a first-team all-Centennial shortstop, has more than 150 career hits and 125 career runs, both on pace to rank in the top-five in team history.

#7 ST. JOSEPH’S LONG ISLAND (24-11). Despite finishing fourth in their conference, the Golden Eagles grabbed an automatic bid by winning the Skyline Conference Tournament for the second time in team history. PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior utility player Nick Girardi, Skyline Player of the Year in 2015, earned second-team honors this year after batting .387

#8 WIDENER (24-16-1). The Pride automatically qualified by capturing their second Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth crown over the last three seasons. PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior second baseman Justin Healey is batting .366 and earned conference tournament MVP laurels by going 8-for-11 in the team’s three wins.