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Fall sports preview: the quest for one last PAC title

As the athletic department gears up for its move to the MAC next fall, one goal is in the back of every coach and team’s mind: “Win the PAC, flat out,” Women’s Soccer Coach Dan Mouw said.

“We want to leave as champions, to prove that last year wasn’t a one-time event,” Field Hockey Coach Camrin Azzarano said.

Whether their teams have been named champions before or are still searching for their first title, the upcoming switch puts an even greater emphasis on ending with success.

“We want to win the PAC now more than ever before,” said Volleyball Coach and 11-time PAC Champion Mark Birtwistle. “We need to focus and work hard, doing whatever we must to reach that goal.”

With their eyes set on claiming the title one last time, here’s a look at each of the fall sports teams.

Women’s Tennis

Head Coach: Angela Sprock (3 years)’06 Record: 4-11 (4-7 PAC) Must-See Matches: Messiah, Cabrini, Marywood, Immaculata

After a rebuilding season that ended with one of the lowest finishes in the team’s recent history, the tennis team returns with all of its players from last year.

“Our team is still young, but we have the experience of last year,” Sprock said. “The team is very coachable and the best I could expect or hope for.”

Some team goals include becoming fit both physically and mentally, building confidence, and qualifying for both the individual and, new this season, the team tournament in the fall.

Since the team only has seven players, Sprock is concerned that injuries and sickness could potentially be problems. Anyone interested in joining the team should contact Sprock at asprock@eastern.edu

Men’s Soccer

Head Coach: Mark Wagner (9 years)’06 Record: 13-5-2 (6-2-1 PAC)Lost in PAC Semifinals to Alvernia in Penalty KicksMust-See Matches: Cabrini, Gettysburg, Rutgers-Camden, Richard Stockton

With their entire 2006 squad returning and 12 new players, the men’s soccer team has very high expectations for this fall. Boasting such a large and talented roster, the team’s depth gives them an advantage over other teams.

“I think we’ll be able to play 22 players deep every game,” Wagner said.

The team will also be unveiling their new crest, which features their team’s motto P.U.S.H., which stands for patience, unity, selflessness, and humility.

“We’ve had very good chemistry so far and fantastic attitude,” Wagner said.

Women’s Soccer

Head Coach: Dan Mouw (6 years)’06 Record: 13-6-1 (9-0-1 PAC)Lost in PAC Semifinals to WesleyMust-See Matches: Misericordia, Cabrini, Messiah, Moravian, Ursinus

Posting an impressive regular season in 2006, which boasted a school record 13 shutouts, the women’s soccer team still has the bitter memory of their early playoff exit in the back of their minds.

With a largely veteran team with only one senior, Mouw is excited to see how far the girls can go this year and the next.”The junior class is the backbone of what we’re doing,” Mouw said.

As long as they can maintain their consistency, the team should find even more success this season.

“They will be an exciting team to watch,” Mouw said. “They play with a lot of spirit and attitude.”

Field Hockey

Head Coach: Camrin Azzarano (3 years)’06 Record: 17-5 (10-1 PAC) PAC Champions, Lost in first round of the NCAA Tournamnet to William Smith Must-See Matches: Alvernia, Cabrini, Montclair State, Rowan, William Patterson

Hoping to defend their PAC title, this year’s field hockey team will need to reload after losing a talented senior class.

“We definitely lost some strong seniors in important positions, but we brought in some good freshman,” said Azzarano. “It will take some time, but as long as we’re patient and make smart decisions, we will find success again.”

In addition to getting to know eight new players, some athletes are adjusting to new positions. However, Azzarano has complete confidence in her team and is excited by the strong unity they have created.

“They really care about each other and want to find success, not just as individuals, but as a team,” Azzarano said.

Cross Country

Head Coach: Eric Mundy (3 years)’06 Results: Women 7th in PACMen-Tied for 7th in PACMust-See Meets: Misericordia, Cabrini

Entering the ’07 season with its largest team yet, cross country hopes to be more competitive than ever.

“We have a very strong women’s team, with four girls who run very close to each other,” Mundy said. Runners who finish near each other is a huge advantage in cross country, so point totals stay low.

On the men’s side, Mundy is excited with both the team’s size and potential, after two years of barely fielding teams.

“Mike Wilson is very good, with the potential to finish in the top three ever race,” Mundy said.

However, the team’s main goal is to have fun and develop a lifelong hobby. “I never stress how they finish, but that they beat their own times,” Mundy said.

With no first-years on the team and hopes to continue to grow, Mundy encourages anyone to join the team, no matter how experienced. He can be contacted at emundy@eastern.edu.

Volleyball

Head Coach: Mark Birtwistle (17 years) ’06 Record: 26-11 (11-0 PAC) PAC Champions, Lost in second Round of NCAA Tournament to eventual champion JuniataMust-See Matches: Neumann, Cabrini, Juniata, Wittenburg

Looking for their 11th straight PAC championship, the women’s volleyball team will need to fight both injury and a tough non-league schedule.

“We play the number one team twice, and the number two in our first tournament,” Birtwistle said. “We go to tournaments to see better competition and we’ve never shied away before.” Such a diverse schedule brings a challenge in itself, but the team desires to play each game the same, no matter who is across the net.

With a young team consisting of five new players, chemistry will be a huge factor.

“We need to play to our strengths and get everyone on the same page,” Birtwistle said. “It’s important for us to be willing to play hard for each other.”

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