Athlete of the Month: Plymouth State's Szulc catches on
By ALEX HALL New Hampshire Union Leader
Plymouth State University receiver Jacob Szulc, left, receives congratulations after a touchdown reception earlier this season. (COURTESY/PLYMOUTH STATE)
Plymouth State University wide receiver Jacob Szulc’s 90-yard touchdown reception against UMass Dartmouth earlier this season is memorable for him for a few reasons.
The sophomore from Concord said the catch-and-run score on Sept. 23 marked his longest TD catch at any level. It is also the play on which he broke his right foot.
Szulc, whose injury wasn’t discovered until after he played three more games, is currently in a walking cast and is hoping to return to the field if the Panthers (8-1) receive an NCAA Division III playoff berth. Plymouth State can ensure a bid by securing the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference title with a win at Fitchburg State and a Western Connecticut State loss at Framingham State on Saturday.
Before the injury, no receiver in the MASCAC was having a better season than Szulc. He recorded 502 yards and 11 touchdowns on 25 receptions over seven games, and totaled 434 yards and all 11 touchdowns on 21 receptions over the Panthers’ first five games.
For his performance in those games, Szulc was selected as the September Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
Szulc was named to the MASCAC weekly honor roll three times in September and he led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns by the end of the month.
Szulc, who missed the Panthers’ last two games, and Worcester State’s Jacob Maher are currently tied for the most receiving TDs in the MASCAC.
“I think everything was working and I just happened to be in the right place for touchdown passes,” Szulc said.
Quarterback Zack Edwards did not just look for Szulc when the Panthers needed a touchdown, though. Szulc recorded at least four receptions, 82 yards and two touchdowns in four of Plymouth State’s five September games.
The only game Szulc caught fewer than four passes in was the UMass Dartmouth game, which Plymouth State won 37-7. Szulc logged a month-high 106 yards on two catches — both of which went for touchdowns — in the win.
The 90-yard TD came on the final play of the first quarter — a third-and-25 from the Panthers’ 10-yard line. After catching what he said was a perfect pass from Edwards, Szulc made his dash to the end zone. Sophomore running back David Hamilton made the final block that ensured Szulc would score, Szulc said.
Szulc said he and Edwards have a lot more chemistry with each other than they did last season. Edwards knows where Szulc is going to be on every play, Szulc said.
“We practice every day together, obviously,” Szulc said. “We just get so many reps of all the passing plays we run that we just do it so many times against all different types of defenses.
“We talk after the play. I’ll tell him how (the defense is) covering me and he’ll tell me what he sees and what he wants me to do on a route just to give us the best chance of making a play.”
If Szulc’s foot heals in time, that chemistry would come in handy if the Panthers make the Division III playoffs.
“I’m really motivated,” Szulc said about playing in the postseason. “If I can get back, that’d be awesome. Even just making the playoffs would be awesome.”
Other athletes considered for the September honor were University of New Hampshire football player Trevor Knight, Hopkinton High School boys’ soccer player Gerry Donahue, Colby-Sawyer College women’s soccer player Sam Mitchell, Simmons College field hockey player Julie Saltamartini, Keene State College field hockey player Jensyn Dandeneau and University of Southern Maine volleyball player Jess Williamson.
Knight, a junior quarterback from Amherst, recorded a 60.8 completion percentage, 1,177 passing yards, 104 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns over a 3-1 September for the Wildcats.
Donahue, a senior, registered 15 goals and two assists over a 7-1 September campaign for the Hawks. Mitchell, a sophomore goalkeeper from Chester, allowed five goals, made 36 saves and logged two shutouts over a 6-1 start to the season for the Chargers.
Saltamartini, a senior from East Hampstead, tallied nine goals and two assists over nine September games for Simmons. Dandeneau, a sophomore from Berlin, logged eight goals and two assists over nine games for the Owls in September.
Williamson, a senior from Goffstown, recorded 260 kills and 143 digs over a 12-4 September campaign for Southern Maine.
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Previous 2017 winners: January, Natalie Giraldi, Bedford (swimming); February, Devin Gilligan, Amherst (basketball); March, Joey Glynn, Portsmouth (basketball); April, Rob Hart, Londonderry (lacrosse); May, Brennen Oxford, Durham (baseball); June, Cody Morissette, Exeter (baseball); July, Mike Martel, New Ipswich (golf); August, Chelsea Sedlar, Merrimack (golf).
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To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter “Athlete of the Month” in the subject line.
Athlete of the Month recipients are honored at the annual Leaders: A Celebration of Sports Champions event held in February.