Cross Country, Soccer Teams Headed To USCAA National Championships

Brianna Banks
Brianna Banks

MEDIA, Pa. -- Penn State Brandywine will be sending its men's and women's soccer teams and four cross country runners to Virginia Beach, Va., on Thursday to compete for national championships during the United States Collegiate Athletic Association's fall championship week at the Princess Anne Sports Complex.

Brandywine's men's team will be represented at the USCAA National Championship for the fifth-straight year with 2018 being the fourth time during that span with at least two national qualifiers. The women's team is sending a pair of runners for the second consecutive season after a two-year hiatus.

Senior John Li became Brandywine first-ever four-time qualifier after finishing sixth at the PSUAC Championship in late October. A three-time all-conference runner, Li looks to improve on last year's performance when he finished 86th during the 8K race in a time of 31:07. Half of the fastest 10 8K times in program history belong to Li.

Freshman Brian Abel has enjoyed a standout rookie season as he shattered the school 8K record in his debut and then broke his own benchmark less than a month later. Abel completed the regular season with three of the top five 8K times in the team's history. He became Brandywine's first-ever individual medalist in September at Lebanon Valley's Dutchmen Invitational before finishing as the runner-up two weeks ago at the PSUAC Championship.

On the women's side, Catharine Mooney and Rachel McIntire have both produced strong first seasons at Brandywine. Mooney finished second at the PSUAC Championship, her second top-two showing of the season, to earn first team all-conference honors. Mooney's top 6K time came at the Delaware Valley Invitational in September when she crossed the line in 27:10, giving her the fifth-fastest time in team history.

McIntire was the fourth woman to cross the finish line at the PSUAC Championship, also earning first team all-conference accolades. Her time of 29:10 at the conference championship meet was her top 6K time of the year and bested her previous time on the Norlo Park course by over 90 seconds.

Both cross country championships will be run at the Princess Anne Sports Complex on Friday. The women's race gets the day started at 9:30 am, while the men's race begins at 10:30 am.

For the third-straight year and fifth time in the last six seasons, Brandywine claimed the PSUAC automatic bid to the USCAA National Championship after winning the conference title. The Lions eased to a 6-1 victory over Beaver in the championship game last Wednesday, extending their winning streak against conference foes to 33-straight games under Head Coach Jesse Zafiratos.

Daniel Willie, one of nine first team all-conference standouts from Brandywine, scored twice, giving him 22 goals this fall, tied for the third-highest total in the USCAA.

In 18 games this fall, Brandywine scored more goals than any other USCAA team and needs just three scores this weekend to reach 100 goals for the year. The Lions outscored USCAA opponents 82-3 and reached double figures in scoring three times. Brandywine also posted seven shutouts in 10 USCAA matches.

The No. 3 seed, Brandywine will face No. 2 Berkeley (N.Y.) in its opening game of Pool B on Saturday and then will battle No. 6 NHTI Sunday. The winner of Pool B will match up with the winner of Pool A, which features No. 1 Johnson & Wales (N.C.), No. 4 King's College (N.Y.) and No. 5 SUNY ESF, on Monday for the national title.

The Lions lost a pair of games to Johnson & Wales, including one at the USCAA Tournament, last year and dropped a 1-0 decision to NHTI at the national championship in 2013. Brandywine, winner of 13-straight matches, has never faced Berkeley, King's College or SUNY ESF.

Brandywine will make its third consecutive trip to the national championship as the Lions cruised past Hazleton 7-2 last Wednesday to win the PSUAC Tournament. Brianna Banks upped her USCAA-leading goal total to 24 by scoring three times, while Emily Jefferson and Averie Florschutz both netted a pair of goals. Banks led seven all-conference performers by winning her third-straight PSUAC Player of the Year award.

Brandywine, playing just its fourth season of varsity women's soccer, has won 29-straight games against PSUAC opponents. The Lions enter the USCAA Tournament with a record of 11-4, having won six consecutive games.

In its tournament opener, Brandywine faces a familiar opponent in No. 2 Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The teams met in the first match of the USCAA Tournament last year, a match won 3-2 by ACPHS. Brandywine trimmed a three-goal deficit to just one with 10 minutes to play in regulation, but could not muster the tying score.

The teams will battle Friday afternoon at 2:30 in the tournament's Pool B. Brandywine, seeded sixth, wraps up pool play Sunday afternoon against No. 3 NHTI at noon in the teams' first-ever meeting.

The winner of Pool B plays for the national championship on Monday at 1:00 pm against the Pool A winner. The three teams competing in Pool A are Cincinnati-Clermont, Southern Maine CC and SUNY ESF. Brandywine has never faced any of those teams.