Penn State Hazleton has announced the addition of women's soccer to its array of intercollegiate athletic programs, set to begin play in 2016. The women's soccer program will be the first of its kind at Hazleton.
"We are excited to support our female student-athletes with the addition of this dedicated athletic program," Chancellor Gary Lawler said. "As our men's program has improved and seen an influx in female participation, this was an obvious step for us to take."
Director of Athletics Ryan Ehrie said, "As we continue to develop our programs, it's been encouraging to see a growing interest in athletics, particularly soccer. I look forward to the growth of this new program in the coming years."
The Penn State Hazleton men's soccer program has five women on the team in 2015, as well as a female manager with a background in soccer. Head men's soccer coach Jesse Shadle will serve as the interim head coach of the women's program while a coaching search is completed.
"We have always welcomed women onto the men's team, and we're happy to see that the number of females on the team just keeps increasing. It's an exciting time for us and I look forward to helping launch the women's program," Shadle said.
Shadle, in his second year at the helm of the men's program, is a Penn State alumnus and former Penn State Hazleton soccer player and captain. As the interim coach of women's soccer, he will be responsible for working with interested female soccer players already on campus as well as beginning to recruit for the program until a permanent coach is named.
"Jesse has continued to demonstrate his commitment to soccer at Penn State Hazleton," Ehrie said. "Once he learned we were considering implementing a women's program, he volunteered to help in any way possible. His leadership and willingness in the early stages of this process allowed us to make the decision to add a women's soccer program."
Penn State Hazleton will play games in 2016 as an independent in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association before transitioning into conference play in 2017. The Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference is currently home to five women's soccer programs, including the Penn State campuses of Beaver, Brandywine, Greater Allegheny, Mont Alto and Schuylkill. Penn State Worthington Scranton is also in the process of adding women's soccer, which will bring the number of women's programs in the PSUAC to seven by 2017.
The women's soccer program will bring the total number of sports at Hazleton to eight and will be the first addition to its intercollegiate athletic offerings since golf was added in 2006.
Director of Student Services and Engagement Tracy Garnick said, "Athletics is an important component of college life for student athletes. Not only is it beneficial for them physically, but they also gain valuable skills in areas such as leadership, time management and teamwork. I am pleased to support a growing program for our students."
For more information on Penn State Hazleton athletics, visit www.psuhazletonsports.com.