By Archama P. Ort
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – While fall creeps up on our campus in New Kensington, the weather gets cooler while the soccer season heats up.
Coming off a strong season last year the soccer organization here at school looks to have another great season. Leading the team this year is newly hired head coach Samuel Lauris. Lauris took over for former coach Jordan Valentine, who recently left for the head coaching position at Defiance College in Ohio. Players on the team describe Lauris as a motivated person that wants to win just as badly, if not more than themselves. He is new to the program with high hopes of making a mark at Penn State.
Assistant coaches Pat and Casey Cavanaugh also act as a key empowerment to the team’s success. Pat has dedicated years to this organization and continues to give contribution to the lions through his great knowledge of the sport. His son, Casey Cavanaugh, who last year was named to the all-conference team for the third consecutive year, continues making a very large impact on the soccer program at Penn State by being a big brother and a great coach to the entire team. Every player on the New Kensington team has no difficulties expressing how fond they are of the Cavanaugh’s and their support.
The team this season makes it clear that family is everything. They work in unison to accomplish their goals of becoming the best they can be. One of the newest editions to the team is junior Roya Fashandi. Fashandi describes how being a woman in a men’s league only pushes her harder to become as fast and as physical as everyone else on the field. Another new face on the field is freshman Cole Wilson who says he appreciates the small campus atmosphere and the tight knit soccer program that he plays in.
With many young players on the team this year, the team has had several students step up as the leaders of the team. While only playing his second season at the New Kensington campus, sophomore Joaquim Atayi, better known as Joc is coming into the new season knowing he needs to step up and become a front-runner for the creation of a successful season. Atayi plays the demanding position of center back and sticks with the mentality of staying driven and being a key role for the Lions. Atayi was born in West Africa and states that his motivation stems from being blessed with the position he is in currently. He says, “How many kids from my country make it to the U.S. and get a chance to play and be a part of a family and program like the one we have here in New Kensington?”
Another teammate who is making a hefty impact on the team is sophomore striker Pascal Bikanura, who is also appreciative of the situation he has found himself in. If you catch yourself around Bikanura and the slight mention of soccer comes up, you will notice a certain type of sensation and charisma that emits off of him. The love for the game and the people he plays it with mean everything to Pascal. He says, “This is not a game that you can play by yourself, you need teammates and mine are also my brothers.” He continues with expressing how happy he is with the time he has got to spend with friends and family at Penn State. Bikanura explains how he wants to continue to challenge himself in hopes of becoming a better person and player every day.
Some season games that the players and their fans are looking forward to will be the long awaited game that is coming up on Oct. 3 against Penn State York and the much anticipated game at Brandywine on Oct. 24. With the season shaping up, these games will be essential to the team’s success this year.
Get out there and support your men and woman in blue & white and see for yourselves the hard work and dedication that makes this team push themselves, and the family that has been brought together solely through the love for the game.