Written by Tom Klemick
Think back to your freshman year of college.
Penn State Harrisburg softball player Kayla Seyfert displayed tremendous character and toughness in the wake of a series of personal hardships during her freshman campaign last spring.
She was one of the Lions’ brightest spots on the diamond, but it was her efforts off the field that left even more of a lasting impression on her teammates and coaches.
In late March, Seyfert was faced with the first of back-to-back unfortunate events – the death of her grandfather. Less than 48 hours later, before her grandfather’s funeral had even taken place, came more tragic news: The 18-year-old’s home in Lebanon was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm, caught fire and partially burned.
Despite the unimaginable burden she faced, Seyfert refused to walk away from softball.
Aided by her teammates and coaches’ support and generosity, she persevered through the most difficult stretch of her young life. Penn State Harrisburg’s softball team was at Seyfert’s side when her grandfather’s funeral took place a few short days later. She made time between classes, practice and the heart of the Blue & White’s schedule to leave campus and travel home to support her family’s rebuilding efforts, and team captain Gabby Wolfe, roommate Amanda Hartman and other teammates rallied around her and pitched in with the salvage.
While those players and coaches eased her struggles off the field, Seyfert thanked them with her efforts every time she stepped foot on the diamond. The freshman played in 26 of the Lions’ 29 games last spring and quickly cemented her spot as the team’s leadoff hitter and second baseman.
She recorded 19 hits, four of which were doubles, and scored 15 runs.
Kayla pitched in 12 outings and became the squad’s most consistent relief hurler, earning one win and averaging nearly four strikeouts per game.
Her .982 fielding percentage was the best of any Penn State Harrisburg starter and she was perfect defensively in Capital Athletic Conference play.
Even more impressive than her statistics was her academic output. Rather than using her tribulation as an excuse to ease up, Kayla transformed her personal struggles into classroom success.
Balancing softball with 17 credits worth of classes, she earned a 3.71 GPA during the spring semester and a spot on the dean’s list. For her efforts this spring, Kayla was named Penn State Harrisburg’s Newcomer of the Year.
No young person should have to share the joys of their first year of college life with the hardships Seyfert was forced to overcome during her freshman season. Still, Seyfert not only dealt with them, but thrived in spite of them.
Her determination, her poise, her selflessness in the face of great adversity, especially at such a young age, set her apart from the crowd.
As she and her family continue to cope with the loss of a loved one and the rebuilding of their home, Seyfert continues to be an exemplary student-athlete. She is one of the Lions’ building blocks of the future and she currently holds a 3.4 cumulative GPA.
It is this ability to succeed on the field of play and the field of life that make sher one of Penn State Harrisburg’s student-athletes with the brightest of futures.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 20:54
Written by Penn State Harrisburg
Penn State Harrisburg lost a tough game against a scrappy York (N.Y) team in the consolation game of the inaugural Penn State Harrisburg Tip-Off Tournament, 69-61 on Sunday, Nov. 16 in Middletown.
The Lions (0-2) could not pull off the comeback, falling to the Cardinals in the tournament, which was presented by Hersheypark.
Penn State Harrisburg, playing without three key players from last year's team, began this season looking for someone to step up and lead its young team. They may have found that leadership from junior Arick Sodini and freshman Tariq Bennett, who scored 14 points and 12 points, respectively.
Both teams battled point for point through the first half with a lot of physical play. Sodini scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, but the Cardinals lead at intermission, 35-31.
The second half proved to be much of the same as each team went on runs of their own before allowing the other team to come back to keep the game close from start to finish.
The Lions battled back within 1 point with 6:00 left in the game on two free throws by Marquese Daniels. But York continued to push, converting shots from deep outside and controlling the glass in the final minutes.
Penn State Harrisburg had a chance to see new faces on its roster perform, with three returning starters out due to injury, in its opening-round loss to CCNY in the Lions' inaugural tournament on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Daniels had a solid outing for the Blue & White, finishing with 9 points, including some very tough points late in the game to help cut into CCNY's lead.
Sodini also had a strong showing, slicing through the CCNY defense and converting time and again. He finished with 17 points.
While the Lions' speed and pressure caused some turnovers, CCNY maintained a strong lead throughout the game. Their constant crashing of the glass halted the speedy Lions from getting out on the break.
With the game seemingly out of hand for the Lions, Coach Don Friday called a timeout and urged his team to make a run and cut the deficit. And that’s exactly what they did.
The Lions went on a run that cut the deficit in half, and a free throw by Daniels brought Penn State Harrisburg within 9 points with 7:00 left in the game.
Newcomers Danny Downs and Bennett saw their first action as Lions. Downs used his size and strength to bully his way inside on multiple offensive put-backs, while Bennett used his quickness and energy on both offense and defense to help spark the late Lion rally. Bennett finished the game with a team-high 20 points.
But CCNY won the game by knocking down free throws in the closing minutes.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 17:23
Written by Penn State Harrisburg
The Penn State Harrisburg women's basketball team lost a tough one against Alvernia, 78-67 in the consolation game of the McDaniel Tip-Off Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 16 in Westminster, Md.
The Lions (0-2) started slow and were outscored 37-27 during the first half of play. Kaitlyn Carmo kept Penn State Harrisburg in the game with 11 first half points.
But Penn State Harrisburg came out inspired in the second half. The Blue & White were outscored by just one in the final 20 minutes of play 41-40.
Carmo led all scorers with 23 points and earned herself a spot on the all-tournament team. Tyra Roberts led Alvernia with 16 points.
Penn State Harrisburg Coach Ross Patrick saw some positives in his team's performance.
"The girls really did some great things on the court today, put some things together,'' Patrick said, "and now just have to continue building on the positive momentum from today and apply it to practice this week as we prepare for the Susquehanna tournament" at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22 in Selinsgrove.
The Lions lost to the Green Terror (2-0) in the opening round of the McDaniel Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 15 in Westminster.
Carmo led the Blue & White with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Also playing well for the Lions was freshman Janel Brown, who also scored 11 points.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 17:21
Written by Penn State Harrisburg
A penalty kick by Penn State Harrisburg's Alex Panuccio sails high
into the Cabrini net over goalkeeper C.J. Serratore, giving the Lions
a 1-0 overtime victory in a first-round game in the
ECAC South Championships at Hersheypark Stadium.
Penn State Harrisburg lost a heart-breaker to Misericordia, 1-0 in the ECAC South Championship tournament final on Sunday, Nov. 16 in Reading, ending the Lions' Cinderella season.
The Lions did not finish their outstanding season with a championship, despite winning their first two tournament games, but they had no reason to hang their heads – they completed arguably the best season in the history of the school's soccer program.
The top-seeded Lions and the third-seeded Cougars played to a scoreless first half draw. Misericordia sent several shots toward the Lions' goal, but goaltender Brandon Hoover did all he could to keep the game tied at zero. The Cougars out shot Penn State Harrisburg, 7-6 through the first 45 minutes of play.
Misericordia came out firing in the second half and wasted no time jumping on Penn State Harrisburg. The Cougars' Derek Antonini scored the only goal of the game just 27 seconds into the second half.
The Blue & White, which lost the title game of the Capital Athletic Conference and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III soccer championships the previous week, did all it could to find the equalizer, but the Cougars held off the Lions' second-half rally.
Penn State Harrisburg finished with a 14-7-2 overall record, taking down multiple nationally-ranked teams while finishing second in the conference despite conference coaches picking them to finish last in a preseason poll.
The season has set the bar high for the still young squad, but that is exactly where the rising Lions expect to be.
(Lions win on PKs)
Penn State Harrisburg reached the ECAC South championship game by eliminating fourth-seeded Alvernia on penalty kicks on Saturday, Nov. 15 in Reading.
It took two overtime periods and a penalty kick shootout to decide the winner. But the Lioins out-shot the Crusaders 4-2 in penalty kicks to win.
With both teams exhausted from their long seasons – followed by numerous postseason games – the match-up seemed to be a mental game as much as it was a physical contest.
Both teams had opportunities to put the ball in the net but came up empty. Both teams battled shot for shot to the end of regulation, searching for the game-winner.
Penn State Harrisburg notched four goals on penalty kicks by James Bilger, Alex Panuccio, Colby Brown and Malik Cameron. Hoover, the Lions' goalkeeper, recorded several stops on penalty kicks as well as a clean sheet through 110 minutes of soccer.
"It was a tough game, could easily have gone either way,'' Connelly said. "Alvernia are a very dangerous team with quality players, and this is not an easy place to play. But somehow, some way, we are finding a way to wins these games this year. We have a fantastic group who won't ever give up.''
Cabrini 0 (OT)
Penn State Harrisburg refused to let its Cinderella season end, showing their perseverance in an exciting 1-0 victory over Cabrini (13-8) in an ECAC South championship first-round game on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at Hersheypark Stadium.
Both teams started out strong as the impressive passing and movement showed why both squads deserved a place in the ECAC tournament.
The Lions had multiple goal scoring opportunities in the first half, with the Blue & White testing Cavalier goalkeeper C.J. Serratore frequently. But Penn State Harrisburg struggled to get anything past Serratore – and the crossbar, which the Lions hit twice in the first half.
In the second half, it was more of the same as the large Hersheypark field allowed for plenty of back and forth play.
In the end, it became a defensive standoff, with both squads not allowing their opponent to end the scoreless tie. Lion keeper Hoover made four big saves on very dangerous Cabrini shots.
Offensively, the Lions hit the crossbar another two times in the second half as they continued to win the possession and shot battle. Penn State Harrisburg outshot the Cavaliers, 16-8 and held a 10-3 advantage in corner kicks.
After a full 90 minutes of regulation plus an almost-completed overtime period, it seemed as though the outcome would be determined by penalty kicks. But Panuccio beat two Cabrini defenders to get into the 18-yard box, then was fouled by a third defender, and the referees awarded the Lion player a penalty kick in front of the Cavalier goal with just 1:34 left in overtime.
Panuccio then stepped up and calmly buried his shot into the top left corner for the game winner.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 17:09
Written by Penn State Harrisburg
After a fairy tale season, Penn State Harrisburg men's soccer coach Seamus Donnelly was named Coach of the Year in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Donnelly, in his third season as coach, led the Lions to a 13-5-1 record and a second-place finish in the conference, a year after the team struggled and finished with a 3-13-1 record.
The Lions, picked to finish last by conference coaches in a preseason poll this season, finished second, losing the conference championship game to Christopher Newport, 3-1 on Saturday, Nov. 8 in Middletown.
Five Lions were picked as conference all-stars.
Aaron Kline was selected to the CAC first team. He led the offensive attack for the Lions, scoring 8 goals, including three game winners in the 16 matches he played this season. Kline is a junior playing his first season.
Four others took second team all-conference honors: Alex Panuccio, who was second on the team with 5 goals; Jon Willingham, who was third on the team with 3 goals – impressive, considering he spent most of the season playing defense; Michael Jones, who was the backbone of the Blue & White defense; and Jonathan Vanaskie, who also was a mainstay on the back line for the Lions.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 17:06