ON CAMPUS: IHS grads lead St. Bonaventure to A-10 title
• EDITOR’S NOTE: On Campus features graduates of area high schools who are playing college sports. This installment appears every week in The Indiana Gazette throughout the school year. If you know of anyone who should be featured or included, email Mirza Zukic at email@example.com or call (724) 465-5555, ext. 267.
David Paccapaniccia is going out on top. Better yet, he’s walking away from competitive swimming as a two-time champion.
A fifth-year senior at St. Bonaventure University, Paccapaniccia wrapped up his college career in style six days ago, swimming a leg of the Bonnies’ conference title-winning 200-yard freestyle relay team and helping St. Bonaventure claim its second straight team title at the Atlantic-10 Championships.
It was St. Bonaventure’s fifth conference title overall, and the first time the Bonnies won consecutive titles.
Indiana High graduates Paccapaniccia and Matt Rochna have been there for both. And to think that at this time two years ago, Paccapaniccia didn’t even know if he’d ever be effective in the pool again, let alone a champion.
“I’ve been through a lot, battling illness and not being close to 100 percent my first two years,” Paccapaniccia said, “so last year and this year it was nice to be healthy and be a major contributor, especially at an important meet like the A-10s.
“I got my lifetime best by over a second in each event. And especially this being my last season as a swimmer, I couldn’t ask for a better way to end it. Made headway in the water this season. I had some achievements I wasn’t sure I’d ever get. I’m proud to represent the programs I’ve come from, and it’s good to have Matt with me, to have someone who comes from the same roots.”
Paccapaniccia qualified for the A-10 Championships in three individual events and he was also part of the Bonnies’ record-setting 200 freestyle relay.
In addition to winning the A-10 title, the relay team shattered the conference record by 2.67 seconds and broke the school and pool records.
“That was my first conference win,” Paccapaniccia said, “and I had my first conference finals this year as well. Last year, I only made it in one event, and I made it to the consolation finals.”
Individually, Paccapaniccia took sixth in the 50 freestyle and eighth in the 100 butterfly to earn medals, and 14th in the 100 freestyle. He scored valuable points for the Bonnies in every event he swam.
Similarly, Rochna reached the finals and scored team points in each of his three individual events, taking fourth in the grueling marathon that is the 200 butterfly, sixth in the 100 butterfly and 10th in the 100 backstroke.
Unlike Paccapaniccia, Rochna’s had some practice at hoisting a trophy overhead.
A junior, Rochna was still at Indiana High School in 2011 when the Indians won the first of their three straight WPIAL Class AA team titles. With two more titles under his belt at St. Bonaventure, Rochna has been a part of three conference championship teams in four seasons.
“I know Matt was lucky enough to experience that, his team won the WPIAL meet,” Paccapaniccia said. “I was part of a couple (winning) relays, and I won a couple individual events (at WPIALs), but I never got the team success. Never winning a championship, there was always kind of that hunger to experience it, and now we’ve done it two years in a row.”
Neither Paccapaniccia nor Rochna qualified for the NCAA Championships in any of their individual events, and Paccapaniccia’s winning 200 freestyle relay missed qualifying by 0.3 seconds.
“It would have been phenomenal to be able to go,” Paccapaniccia said. “We fell short a little bit, but it was all worth it. I can’t think of a better way to end it.”
HANNAH SHAFFER (Westminster, basketball): A mainstay in the Titans’ starting lineup until she got hurt earlier this month, Shaffer concluded her collegiate career this week after helping Westminster achieve its best season in six years.
The team’s leading rebounder as a senior, Shaffer averaged 7.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She added 2.1 assists per game and ranked second on the team with 33 steals despite missing six games.
Shaffer pulled down 10 or more boards six times this season, including a season-high 13 rebounds on three occasions, most recently on Jan. 18 in a 66-62 overtime win over Geneva. She scored a career-high 18 points in a win at Saint Vincent on Feb. 1, when she got hurt.
A 5-foot-8 guard, Shaffer started the first 19 games of the season before missing six of the final seven with an injury. Until her injury, she had played in all 95 possible games during her career.
A 1,000-point scorer at Apollo-Ridge High School, Shaffer finished her collegiate career with 446 points and 330 rebounds while playing in 96 of a possible 102 games over the past four years. She made 63 starts.
Westminster (15-11) enjoyed its best season since going 17-11 in 2007-08. The Titans lost in the first round of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference playoffs to Waynesburg on Tuesday to cap their first winning season since 2007-08.
JAKE EISENHART (Williamson School of Mechanical Trades, basketball): A graduate of Marion Center, Eisenhart has played his last game for the trade school in Media, Pa.
A 6-foot-5 forward, he appeared in 24 games for the Mechanics this season with 10 starts. He averaged 2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game and shot 43 percent from the floor. He was a three-year varsity letter winner.
A member of the United State Collegiate Athletic Association, Williamson has built a reputation as a perennial contender in recent years. The Mechanics won back-to-back USCAA Division II national titles in 2008 and 2009. This season, they were ranked as high as No. 15 in the USCAA Division II national rankings. In one three-week stretch in January, Williamson knocked off three top-five teams in the USCAA Division II rankings.
Eisenhart never put up big numbers, but he’ll be missed and remembered as the “ideal teammate,” coach Bill Michaels said.
“He has done everything we have asked of him over the years and has done so with a great attitude,” Michaels said. “We would not have been able to achieve the success we have over the past three years without his play and selflessness. We will truly miss him.”
KELLEY McBROOM (Mercyhurst, basketball): A redshirt sophomore, McBroom worked her way into the Lakers’ regular rotation this season. The Derry graduate appeared in 23 of the Lakers’ 26 games, averaging 9.2 minutes per game.
She’s averaging 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game, and she makes the most of her limited opportunities when the ball ends up in her hands. She’s shooting 43.2 percent (19 of 44) this season.
Mercyhurst capped its season Wednesday with a 66-62 loss to Pitt Johnstown, finishing with a 6-20 mark. The highlight of the season for the Lakers was a 73-64 win over IUP on Jan. 11.
COURTNEY BRIDGE (Pitt Johnstown, track and field): A sprinter/jumper, the Ligonier Valley graduate is showing steady improvement early in her sophomore indoor track season.
At last weekend’s Kent State Tune-Up, Bridge ran a time of 8.90 seconds in the 60-meter dash, the first time she’s gone under 9 seconds during her collegiate career.
A week earlier, at the Susquehanna University Invitational on Feb. 14, she ran a 9.06, which had stood as her personal-best time until the Kent State Tune-Up.
In the jump pits, Bridge has shown similar progress. She has competed in the long and triple jumps at just two meets this season, but she has managed to set new indoor season personal-best marks in both events.
At the Crusader Classic, hosted by Susquehanna University on Feb. 8, Bridge made the long jump finals and posted a jump of 13 feet, 10? inches, her indoor career best.
Similarly, her triple jump of 29-1? at the Youngstown State Indoor Invitational on Jan. 24, broke her personal-best mark in the event by a half-inch.
Bridge also periodically runs on the Mountain Cats’ 400 and 800-meter relay teams.