Several Pine-Richland student athletes sign National Letters of Intent
As a young player, Pine-Richland soccer player Olivia Brandy stood out at an early age on the field. She attended camps and polished her game to the point where Penn State took notice.
Brandy said she never considered Penn State as an option, citing the large campus as too big. But a visit to the school to attend a camp, followed up by a conversation with the coach, changed her mind.
“I talked to coach Erica Walsh, who also coaches the women's national team,” Brandy said. “I met the girls on the team, and it just felt like family. The coaches lift you up and are just fantastic.”
Walsh gave Brandy some advice a few years back, and Brandy took it to heart.
“I was not in the kind of shape I needed to be,” Brandy said. “Erica told me that I had potential, but I had to get my foot skills and fitness in order. I took her advice.
“She also told me she liked my team leadership and field vision.”
Brandy was a forward for the Pine-Richland team but said in college she may be put at any position.
Penn State expressed interest in Brandy's junior year, but she put the pen to the paper last week.
“It only took 30 seconds, but I am super excited. I can't wait,” she said.
Brandy is planning to study sports medicine or perhaps business, depending on how much work she feels she can balance once she gets going.
“I think Olivia's athleticism and speed are two of her standout qualities as a player that will serve her well at the next level,” Pine-Richland coach Jodi Chmielewski said. “She has evolved over the last four years as a player, and her ability to take shots from a variety of ranges has stood out as well as her high work rate.”
Another soccer player from Pine-Richland made her decision on where to attend college as Brenna Budd chose the University of Chicago to study and play.
“The whole process was really crazy,” Budd said. “The academics are the most important to me, but I was hopeful to play soccer.
Budd fell in love with the campus during a clinic she attended, and when she learned about the school's international studies program, she was sold.
“I met with the coaches, and they said they liked me, but I didn't want to get overly excited,” Budd said.“I had an overnight visit, and that confirmed it.”
Budd said the fact the team seemed united and not divided was another plus of the program.
“Brenna is a very technical and cerebral player, which will serve her well at the collegiate level,” Chmielewski said. “She is also versatile and will be able to play outside back or center-back, which will hopefully help her earn playing time and a starting role early in her collegiate career.”
Pine-Richland football player Collin Jackson signed his letter of intent to study and play football at Indiana (Pa.).
“My sister and cousin go there, so I was familiar with the campus,” Jackson said. “I had an overnight visit and made a lot of friends. I like the atmosphere, and the campus is not too big or small.”
With no tight ends on the roster as of the final game of last season, Jackson's skills as a catcher and a blocker will be needed this season.
“Last year I worked on my blocking, because I knew I would not be catching the ball as much with a young quarterback,” Jackson said. “I will be more balanced, and that is OK. I just want to play.
“I just want to thank all the people who helped me along.”
Jackson plans to study safety science.
Pine-Richland star running back Brock Baranowski signed up to go to Penn State, where he will walk on for the Nittany Lions this fall.
“I saw what (Shaler's) Jesse Della Valle did, and that inspired me to see him do such a good job,” Baranowski said. “My friend and former teammate Austin Whipple is going up, too, so that gave me a little more interest.
“I wanted the opportunity to go to a big-time program, and I thought Penn State would be a little easier to walk on. I am looking forward to being a small fish in a big pond.”
Baranowski said he didn't want to regret not trying to make it at a big school, so he made an unofficial visit to the campus and listened to Penn State coach Bill O'Brien speak about the program.
“He was inspiring, so the opportunity to play for him is incredible,” Baranowski said.
Baranowski said he plans to study business.
Patrick Kline, an offensive/defensive lineman, signed to play football with California (Pa.) and plans to major in business and biology and minor in Russian. He is the son of Lisa and Dan Kline of Richland Township.
His father; grandfather, Chester Kline, retired chief of Hampton Township Police; and uncle, James Kline, chief of Hampton EMS; joined him as he signed. Kline, who earned a scholarship, is one of only seven recruits to sign with the Vulcans' football program this year.
Luke Merhaut, son of Mary and Tom Merhaut of Richland Township, plans to attend Clarion University and major in business. During his Pine-Richland football career, he was a wide receiver.
Kevin Rader, son of Janet and Eric Rader of Pine Township, plans to attend Youngstown State. During the P-R football season, he was a tight end.
T.J. Muzzonigro, son of Tom and Deb Muzzonigro of Pine Township, plans to study pre-medicine at Tufts University. He was a tackle on the Pine-Richland football team.
Nicolas Elms, son of Jeff and Diana Elms of Richland Township, is undecided on his college choice but plans to major in engineering. Elms was a linebacker on the football team.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.