North Xtra: La Roche's new facility boosts programs

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Jim Tinkey, the athletic director at La Roche College for the past 18 years, has had a long-held desire to have a park-like setting encompass the school's athletic facilities.

He is about to see his idea come to fruition.

The catalyst is the new $2 million soccer complex that was completed this summer on the McCandless campus.

"We're a small college," Tinkey said. "Personally, I appreciate what's been done. It will add to our athletic program plus the all-purpose field will attract recruits both in soccer and lacrosse. The men's team is going into its fifth year.

"We hope to start a women's lacrosse program in 2015 or 2016."

Another affirmative evaluation comes from men's soccer coach David Day.

"I pinch myself as I walk on this surface, especially after the vagaries of playing on a grass field for too many years."

Day, 37, from Manchester, England, has coached the men's soccer team at La Roche for six years.

As the assistant dean of students for the past 10 years, he strongly believes that academics and athletics can coincide at the college level.

Miguel Lozano is the women's soccer coach who has been associated with the sport at La Roche for 20 years. At 62, this native of Madrid, Spain, still has a passion for the game.

"The turf will definitely help our play," he said. "It will also give us the opportunity to practice every day."

Miguel, who has been a one-man maintenance crew on the old grass field, watering, repairing divets along with other duties, has a different appreciation for the new turf.

"With the new field, hopefully, I'll be able to improve my golf game," he said with a laugh.

A picnic-style pavilion and restrooms are included on the site, along with team dugouts, a press box, new bleachers and a high tech scoreboard.

The players are looking forward to the new turf.

Senior Bryan Weimerskirch, Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference player of the year last season, tied a school record with 33 points with 12 goals and 9 assists. He has been playing on grass since his high school days at Springdale.

"I enjoy playing the game," he said. "Soccer has been good to me. The turf will make it different, you get a good touch on the ball on turf. We have a fast team. Hopefully, it will work to our advantage."

Nicole Ferraco, senior captain on the women's team, thinks playing on the new turf "will be awesome."

"Turf is so different than grass with its uneven and pocked surface," said Ferraco, a Penn Hills graduate. "We're very excited to start the season. Our team is feeding off the interest generated by the World Cup and the most recent match between Manchester and Milan AC played here in Pittsburgh."

The dedication of the new addition to the campus is scheduled for Sept. 6.

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