DALLAS TWP. — As each year passes for the Misericordia University football program, more of the obstacles of being a relatively young program are left behind.
In the team’s sixth season, head coach Mark Ross will have two graduate assistants, Ben Cregger and Sam Johnson, and two student coaches, Chris Hutter and Mark McMaster, on his staff.
“It’s a function as we age as a program that we’re getting into an area where we have an opportunity to do some things that more established programs do and we couldn’t in our first four or five years,” Ross said.
Having players finish their active careers but want to remain in the program is something that Ross likes to see. Now, the Cougars are old enough for that to occur more often.
“We’ve reached that point,” Ross said. “This will be our third senior class so now you’re seeing where guys who have played and have had a great experience want to give back to the program and want to be involved.”
Ross said it is also beneficial as he approaches 50 to have people on his staff to help him coach players, some of whom are not yet 20.
“My perspective is different than theirs because we’re just separated by too many years,” Ross said. “Now you get a couple guys closer to their age. It can kind of be a bridge to bring us together.
“It’s a big plus to have them around.”
The Cougars, who were scheduled to open the schedule Saturday at Merchant Marine Academy, are trying to find ways to become more of a force on the field. They were 1-9 a year ago.
Most of the school’s fall teams are getting their seasons underway this weekend.
The soccer teams are again expected to be strong.
The women’s soccer team is a unanimous choice by opposing coaches to repeat as Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom champions.
The Cougars were 7-0 in the league last year and 17-4 overall. They defeated DeSales, 5-0, for their third championship in four years.
Misericordia had the top men’s soccer team in the MAC Freedom during the regular season, but lost to Eastern in a penalty kick shootout in the conference championship match.
The Cougars (6-1, 12-5-3) are ranked second in the preseason poll of coaches, just behind Eastern.
After going 3-4 and 5-13 last season, the field hockey team is picked fifth out of eight MAC Freedom League teams.
Emily Galasso, a junior from Lake-Lehman, and Rachel Miroslaw, a sophomore from Tunkhannock, are defenders on the team.
Galasso played in 13 games, starting 12, and made two defensive saves last season. Miroslaw made one start and appeared in two other games.
Clare Schoen, the top finisher when the women’s cross country team placed 11th at the NCAA Mideast Regional, is among the returnees.
Chris Sabol, a Lake-Lehman graduate who had three top-20 finishes in four races last season as a freshman, is part of the men’s cross country team.
Sean Luzzi is also back after leading the team during a 16th-place finish at the season-ending Mideast Regionals.
The women’s volleyball team is picked sixth in the conference after going 2-5 and 9-22 in Rob Wingert’s first season as coach.
The men’s and women’s golf teams each play a portion of their schedules in the fall with the remainder, including conference play during the spring.