For one team, it was about making history. For the other, it was about repeating history. For both, it was a season to remember—and a season to celebrate.
The women’s basketball team celebrated its March victory over Stonehill in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The team made the Final Four for the first time in program history.
The IUP women’s basketball team rolled to its first NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championship since 1999, which brought with it a berth in the Elite
Eight for only the second time in school history. Under the guidance of head coach Tom McConnell, the Crimson Hawks also set a school record with 30 wins, and they reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, something no IUP women’s
basketball team had ever done before.
“They’re special, and it’s been my privilege to make this journey with them and to watch them grow from a good team to an Elite Eight team and a Final Four team,” McConnell said after the team’s loss to Ohio’s Ashland University in the Final Four. “I
just have nothing but love and pride for all that they’ve done, the way they play the game, and the way they love and care about one another.”
In a magical season, IUP football made its first appearance in the national semifinals since 1999. After winning the Coal Bowl (above), the team went on to finish the regular season undefeated and claim the Super Region One championship.
The IUP football team also made it to the Final Four, reaching a point in the NCAA Division II playoffs that the program had been to seven times before—but not
In head coach Paul Tortorella’s first season leading the program, the Crimson Hawks went undefeated in the regular season, won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s Western Division and league titles, and then won two NCAA Division
II playoff games to claim the Super Region One championship.
The magical season ended with a loss to West Florida in the national semifinals, giving IUP a final record of 13-1, the program’s best since 1993. In the American Football Coaches Association Top 25, the Crimson Hawks finished No. 3 in the final poll
after having been No. 1 for most of the season.
“We went on a 13-game winning streak, and that’s hard to do, no matter what league you’re in or what level of football you’re in,” Tortorella said. “So, to win three championships is pretty good. If you look at the body of work, if the worst thing we’re
worrying about is going 13-1 and losing in a national semifinal game against a really good team, then we’re in pretty good shape.”
The football and women’s basketball seasons were two of many highlights for IUP Athletics as spring began:
- The men’s golf team won its 28th team title, and Joshua Bartley won top individual honors at the PSAC championships in October.
- In women’s volleyball, IUP returned to the NCAA playoffs for the first time in seven years, won the PSAC Southwest division title, and finished with its most
wins (25) since 2005.
- The men’s cross country team placed 24th at the NCAA championships, its first showing at the event as a team since 1993.
- The men’s basketball team won its eighth PSAC West title in the past 10 years and finished with more than 20 wins for the 10th consecutive season.
- The women’s soccer team went 12-6, giving the program its most wins since 2009, and the Crimson Hawks advanced to the quarterfinals of the PSAC tournament.
As if being named the PSAC Women’s Volleyball Athlete of the Year and earning all-region and All-America honors weren’t impressive enough, senior Natalie Cignetti capped her career by winning the PSAC Fall Top Ten award, which recognizes
student-athletes who excel both in the classroom and in athletic competition. Cignetti carries a perfect 4.0 grade-point average as a natural science and pre-med major. She was also selected for the College Sports Information Directors of America
(CoSIDA) Academic All-District and All-America teams.
One of Tortorella’s most versatile players, junior Mike Pietropola, was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District and All-America teams. Pietropola, who has played on offense, defense, and special teams the past three seasons, has
a 3.75 grade point average as a health and physical education major.
In recent months, the IUP sports community lost the following luminaries:
During an IUP football game in October 2016, former head coach Chuck Klausing, right, and members of his 1966 team were recognized as the first in the football program to play under the name Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
As the head coach of the fabled 1968 IUP football team, Chuck Klausing took the program to the national stage with its invitation to the Boardwalk Bowl. But his coaching career was so much more. He was a highly successful high school
and college coach, with stops at Pitcairn and Braddock high schools and Rutgers and Army before coming to IUP in 1964. In five seasons, Klausing led IUP to a 46-11 record. He went on to serve as head coach at Carnegie Mellon and as an assistant at
West Virginia and Pittsburgh before finishing his career as head coach at Kiski School in Saltsburg. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, he died February 15 at 92.
After his graduation from Indiana State College, Larry Judge ’64 returned to campus to serve as the university’s sports information director from 1966 to 1969 and then from 1979 to 1996. He retired in 2002 after holding the title of coordinator
of special projects for athletics, but he was a steady presence on campus in the years that followed. He was an active member of the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame committee and was a recipient of the hall’s Bell Ringer Award in 2009. He died January 30.
Known for his roles in establishing Pittsburgh’s Road Runners Club, marathon, and Great Race, John Harwick ’54, M’60, D’90 was a member of the sports halls of fame of Indiana County and of Pennsylvania (Western Chapter) and was to be
inducted into the Pittsburgh Marathon hall this year. He died November 3.
Names to Know
Former IUP women’s volleyball coach Aline Scott was hired in December as head women’s coach at Youngstown State University. Scott, who left IUP in 2014, had been head coach at Hiram College.
When the Philadelphia Eagles edged the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, two members of the IUP football community won Super Bowl rings. Tom Donahoe ’69 is the Eagles’ senior director of pro personnel, and Casey Weidl M’12,
a former graduate assistant coach at IUP, is Philadelphia’s college scouting coordinator.
In NFL coaching moves, Jim Hostler ’90 was hired as wide receivers coach of the Green Bay Packers. Hostler replaces Luke Getsy, a former IUP assistant who is now the offensive coordinator for Mississippi State University
and one of four coaches on the staff with IUP ties. The others are former assistant Tim Zetts, who coaches the running backs; Chase Haslett M’15, graduate assistant; and Anthony Piroli ’08, strength
and conditioning coach. Also in Green Bay, Frank Cignetti Jr. ’89 has been hired as quarterbacks coach. And, former IUP assistant Nick Sirianni has been hired as the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator. He spent
the past five seasons as an assistant for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.
Former IUP basketball player Allen Deep ’08 is an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws, an affiliate of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Developmental League. He previously worked as an assistant at the University of Akron and for the
USA Basketball national team.
A wrestler at IUP in 1974-75, Dan Rose ’76, M’78 was inducted into the Norwin High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his success on the school’s 1971 wrestling team. Johnstown’s Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic-related organization,
recently presented its Community Service Award to Chuck Wyatt, who played football at IUP in 1993. A longtime football, basketball, and track coach at Johnstown High School, Wyatt was honored for his career working with student-athletes.