New Kensington student-athlete, coach receive top honors

Michael Chaloupka, Mark Duffield recognized by USCAA and PSUAC
Side-by-side photos of soccer coach and player

Mark Duffield, head coach of the Penn State New Kensington's men's soccer team pictured left, and Michael "Mac" Chaloupka, a second-year soccer player at the campus. Duffield was named the 2023 PSUAC Coach of the Year, and Chaloupka was named the USCAA national student-athlete of the year for soccer. 

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — After taking the Penn State New Kensington men’s soccer team to its first Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) championship game, two members of the team were recognized with top honors nationally and within the conference. 

Michael “Mac” Chaloupka, a second-year student at the New Kensington campus, was named the 2023 Division II Soccer Student-Athlete of the Year by the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). Mark Duffield, head coach of the team, was named the PSUAC Coach of the Year for a second time. 

“Student-athlete of the year is a huge, unexpected honor,” said Chaloupka, who hails from Lubbock, Texas. “Being the oldest of six in the family, I have always had to work hard and find a balance between playing soccer, school, serving in the community and helping at home. For me, this award is an amazing accomplishment of all the countless hours of hard work in the classroom and on the field throughout the years. Every day I try to be someone my siblings can look up to, and receiving this award is an honor that I hope my siblings can look up to and tell their friends that that was their brother.” 

Duffield, who has been the team’s head coach since 2018, applauded Chaloupka’s commitment to being a true student-athlete who values his time on and off the field. 

“Firstly, Mac has moved out of his comfort zone, leaving Texas for Pennsylvania,” said Duffield. “At 18 or 19 years old, that is huge, and he has embraced the campus. He works hard on the field, and even more so in the class by achieving a GPA of over 3.9 while also working on campus and being involved in multiple campus groups. He is a true role model.” 

Chaloupka added, “All the extra hours, early mornings and late nights that we as athletes put in to stay on top of our sport, but also take care of our schoolwork and maintain good grades, often goes unnoticed. Being a student-athlete takes a lot of commitment, time and dedication, but at the end of the day, all the memories you gain from it are all worth it, and you continue playing and being involved in an activity you love.” 

In addition to the national recognition by the USCAA, Chaloupka was also recently named the PSUAC John Fritz Sportsmanship Award winner for soccer. The award is given to one student-athlete on each sports team that best displays good sportsmanship and demonstrates ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior while participating in athletic events and as a member of their team. The honorees also exemplify the Penn State University values of integrity, responsibility, excellence, respect, discovery and community. 

“Being a student-athlete at Penn State New Kensington is being part of a family with a common love,” said Chaloupka, who has played soccer as early as he can remember. “It is being part of a special group of people that encourage, push, laugh and take care of each other. My favorite thing about being an athlete here is all the people I meet and the opportunities it has presented me.” 

Chaloupka chose to attend the New Kensington campus for the small-campus environment and the team’s coach, Duffield. 

“Coach Mark has a unique way to make each person he comes into contact with feel valued and important,” explained Chaloupka. “Being so far from home, Coach and the people at Penn State New Kensington helped make me feel right at home.” 

Duffield can relate to being far from home, as he first came to the United States in 2007 for coaching. He is originally from Chichester, West Sussex, which is located on the south coast of England. Since becoming head coach in 2018, Duffield has grown the soccer team and led it to some of its biggest successes in the team’s history, including taking the team to its first USCAA national championship tournament in 2021 and PSUAC championship this year. His commitment to the team has garnered him back-to-back PSUAC Coach of the Year accolades. 

“I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this award other than Coach Mark,” said Chaloupka. “On the field, he is very demanding of us as players and sees our potential as a team way before any of us players ever do. Off the field, he is like a friend. He has always checked in on me since my first week at Penn State New Kensington, and as a team, he makes us grow by helping us learn from our mistakes and challenging us to constantly do better in the classroom and in the community.”  

Duffield has always made it a point to support his players during his coaching tenure, and says that the team’s growth is happening as the local area is also seeing revitalization.  

“I think the growth with the soccer team has mirrored the growth of both our campus and the city of New Kensington,” said Duffield. “There are a lot of business coming into the town giving students experiences and a lot more to do. We also have our Digital Foundry at New Kensington and The Corner innovation hub that also creates opportunities for students.” 

Although Duffield says he would trade his Coach of the Year awards for a win in this fall’s PSUAC championship game, he says the team is moving in the right direction and they’re already working on their goals for next season, which includes a trip to England during the upcoming spring break. 

“I can't wait to show the lads my home country!,” exclaims Duffield. “After that, it’s training during the spring season to prepare for fall and looking to continue to build the program. We don't just recruit athletes; we look for true student-athletes and as a coach, it makes me very proud to see the tremendous work our players do off the field.” 

Chaloupka is also looking forward to the spring break travel with the team. In the future, Chaloupka plans to continue exploring academic programs of turfgrass science and agriculture business with the hopes of one day working at a stadium field, with a turfgrass management company or owning his own turfgrass farm. No matter what, he says he’ll always be a Penn Stater like his great-grandfather. 

“Being a Nittany Lion means exploring different ways to learn, grow and help within a community in unique ways,” said Chaloupka. “It means family!”