Seasons changing; history made
Some general observations while enjoying the longer, warmer days….
Driving around the region, it’s nice to see spring sports finally in full swing … and getting to practice and compete outside. Though some days are still cool and the ball fields still somewhat soft, there’s nothing like the smell of grass and mud in the springtime.
Pennsylvania weather makes the spring sports season seem abbreviated; by the time the thermometer actually cooperates, school days are waning. Still, there’s a special feeling during baseball, softball and track and field seasons, when everything starts to bloom, including the budding local talent.
n In Loretto, the Saint Francis softball team is picking up where it left off last season, one of its best in program history. The Flash are now receiving votes in the NFCA/USA Today National Coaches’ Poll, riding the longest win streak in program history.
Their 13-game string of victories has been highlighted by the play of Jordan Seneca, who has earned FastPitchNews National Player of the Week honors. Seneca has been on fire at the plate, leading the nation with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs. Her homers include two grand slams in one game at Texas Tech.
Saint Francis has been dominating the Northeast Conference awards as well. In addition to Seneca’s five player of the week awards, pitcher Ethel Santai has earned multiple pitcher of the week honors. Earlier this month, Santai threw a perfect game, the first for the Red Flash in almost a decade.
Kudos to head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift, the program’s all-time winningest coach. In just her fifth season, she has the Flash poised for a postseason run. This is local college softball worth watching.
n Celebrations continue in Happy Valley after a banner year by the Penn State men’s ice hockey team. After capturing its first Big Ten Tournament title in dramatic, back-to-back, double-overtime fashion, the Nittany Lions received their history-making NCAA tournament bid. But not satisfied just to make the tourney, coach Guy Gadowsky’s team added some more pages to the history books, scoring 10 goals in a win over Union, a record for tournament newcomers, before falling to top-seed Denver in the regional final.
In a season that saw this young varsity program climb to No. 1 in the national rankings, the Lions have plenty to be proud of and many moments to remember. At the same time, the Lions have set a new standard for themselves and new expectations for their fans.
This exciting taste of success and national notoriety will be something to build upon with a strong core of returning student-athletes.
With a first-rate coaching staff, world-class facility and the confidence that they can skate with and win against anyone in the country, the Nittany Lions are just getting started, and proving again, that Penn State is far more than football.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.