ON CAMPUS: Indiana grad Stossel dealing with highs, lows at Seton Hill
It’s been about five weeks since Tiara Stossel and her teammates on the Seton Hill University women’s basketball team stunned the IUP Crimson Hawks with a 63-62 setback.
But if you’d expect Stossel to feel an ounce of guilt about helping hand her hometown team its first loss of the season, well, you’d be wrong.
She relished it, and that might not even be the right word.
“That win was an awesome feeling,” Stossel said of the Dec. 7 victory. “It really motivated us to keep playing the right way. It told us we are capable of anything. We believe we can beat any team on any given day. It gave us a lot of confidence. It was great for me because I’m from Indiana. I played well in that game, and my team played well.”
The Griffins, who joined the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference this season, are off to a 9-5 start to the season. They play host to Pitt Johnstown on Saturday.
Stossel, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, is third on the team in scoring, at 11.6 points per game. She leads Seton Hill in minutes per game (33.1) and steals (25).
So far, she characterizes the season as a series of highs and lows.
“We’ve definitely had our ups and downs,” Stossel said. “We’ve done well outside the conference, but inside the conference we’ve had some troubles. Some of our losses could have been wins. But they were at the beginning of the season when we were still getting into the swing of things.”
The highs and lows of college basketball are quite a change of pace from Stossel’s high school days, when she was part of an Indiana team that went 72-13 in her three years on the varsity roster.
During her senior year at Indiana High School, in 2010, Stossel was recruited to play basketball by several colleges. She sifted through the offers and eventually whittled the list down to IUP and Seton Hill. She struggled for a while before eventually choosing the private school in Greensburg over the crosstown state school.
“IUP was definitely close and convenient,” said Stossel, the daughter of Tom and Joan. “But I didn’t think it was the right fit for me. It came down to IUP and Seton Hill, and I was more attracted to Seton Hill in every single way. I’m glad I made the decision, and honestly, I wouldn’t change it.”
During her high school days, Stossel was a standout guard for head coach Dave Woodall and the Indians, who were one of the top Class AAA programs in the WPIAL. It all culminated in March 2010, when Stossel helped lead the Indians to the state championship game, where they succumbed to Archbishop Wood, leaving them with silver medals around their necks, some tears in their eyes and a ton of memories to hang on to.
But these days, Stossel doesn’t always look back at the state finals with much fondness. Her competitive side feels unsatisfied with just getting to the PIAA championship game.
“I think about that game a lot,” she said with a sigh. “When I think about it, sometimes I wish I hadn’t thought about it. I miss high school a lot. And then I get sad that we lost. It was a great experience for me. We went far, probably farther than anyone thought we could go. But I still really wish we had won.”
Speaking of that 2010 Indiana team, here’s what the rest of Stossel’s classmates are up to:
• Aubree Frye recently completed her senior season on the volleyball court at IUP. She transferred from Clarion after two years and helped guide the Crimson Hawks to 13 wins this season. She is majoring in nursing.
• Olivia Houser is in the fourth year of a five-year program at Duquesne University, which will culminate with a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy. Up first, she will receive a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences in May.
• Megan Lewandowski completed her senior season of volleyball at Washington & Jefferson College, where the Presidents finished with a 15-11 record this year, the best mark of her college career. She is majoring in Business Administration.
• Jordan Mateer is a senior at Saint Vincent College, where she is majoring in Early Childhood Education.
• Kelsey Thompson is set to graduate from Penn State (main campus) in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations.
What Stossel remembers most about that season is the reaction the local community had to the Indians’ improbable playoff run.
“I loved it all,” she said. “I loved being around my team, the coaches, my family. It was so much fun, that whole experience. The pep rallies, police escorts through town, the parade. It was all unheard of in Indiana. I loved every second of it.”
She will have another batch of good memories in a few weeks if she and her teammates can complete a season sweep of IUP by taking out the Crimson Hawks at the KCAC, on Feb. 8.
It’s still a few weeks away, but Stossel, who is studying mathematics education, already knows what the night could add up to be like.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a huge game for us,” she said. “Its’ going to be like the last one. I think it will go down to the wire, with good defense on both ends. I know they’re going to be hungry to beat us. But we’ll be the same way because we want to win. I love close games. Everybody does. I hope a lot of people show up to see it.”
ARIC GRESKO (Saint Francis, basketball): A 5-10 sophomore guard for the Red Flash, the former Penns Manor High School standout has seen action in two games this year, against American (Nov. 30) and Denver (Dec. 31), but he has not registered any statistics. Interestingly enough, when Gresko took the floor against American, he matched up on the floor with Jesse Reed, a Saltsburg native who is the Eagles’ leading scorer (12.2 points per game).
Gresko, who is studying business administration, played in five games as a freshman last year. He originally enrolled at Washington & Jefferson College after graduating from Penns Manor in 2011.
DAVID PACCAPANICCIA and MATT ROCHNA (St. Bonaventure, swimming): The Division I Bonnies are off to a solid start to their season, thanks in part to this pair of Indiana High School graduates.
Most recently at the Zippy Invitational at Akron University last weekend, Rochna, a junior majoring in history, placed third in the 200 butterfly (1 minute, 53.26 seconds) to help St. Bonaventure to a second-place finish in the team standings. Rochna was just seven-tenths of second out of second place, and 16 tenths of a second out of first.
Paccapaniccia, a senior, was a key member of the 400 freestyle relay team that placed third, with a time of 3:09.05. He also took seventh in the 100 freestyle, in 47.52 seconds.
After a few more weekend meets this month, the next big event for St. Bonaventure is the Atlantic 10 Conference championships, which will be held Feb. 19-22, in Geneva, Ohio.
JOHN BLANKENSHIP (Pitt Johnstown, wrestling): In his first season of college wrestling, the United High School graduate and New Florence native is off to an up-and-down start to his season. At the Clarion Open in November, Blankenship won two of his four matches in the 165-pound weight class.
He has since wrestled in two team matches, against Kutztown and east Stroudsburg, and he has lost both of his bouts.
A redshirt freshman, Blankenship is majoring in Engineering Technology.