Individually and collectively, Penn State Abington women’s soccer is off to a rousing start this season. Not only has the team won its first three games, but two of its players were named North East Athletic Conference (NEAC) student-athletes of the week. Junior midfielder Brittany Middleton and first-year goalie Gabrielle Benedict were honored for their performances in the team’s first two games. Middleton has scored three goals and racked up two assists, and Benedict has 14 saves and two shutouts to her credit this season.
According to head coach David Castellanos, both women enrolled at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Abington seeking a better balance between academics and athletics. “They both have Division I backgrounds, but it wasn’t what they wanted out of the college athletics experience. It was fortunate for us,” he said.
The two athletes have more than soccer in common: Middleton and Benedict are both business majors as well as graduates of the Central Bucks School District.
“They are extremely special players. Benedict is a sound goal keeper. She is 5 feet 8 inches, so she has the height as well as the voice for it,” he said
The fifth-year coach credits the team’s record to a change in long-term strategy. “We have been trying to recruit students who played competitively in high school, whether on a travel or a club team, so they would be better prepared to play Division III soccer,” he said.
With a nearly equal number of new and returning players, Castellanos said, “Our team is so young in every way. This is only our third year as a varsity program.” Abington is a provisional member of Division III, but the college’s active NCAA status could begin with the 2012-13 academic year.
With 13 regular-season games remaining, Castellanos forsees an exciting season ahead of the team. “We are one of the teams to beat in our conference. I believe that we will have continued success. We have the potential to do anything.”
For the team’s schedule and other information, go to http://abington.psu.edu/psasite/athletics/athletics-w-soccer.html.