Point Park Volleyball Prepares For NAIA Opening Round


The Point Park University volleyball team won the KIAC Tournament and has advanced to the NAIA Opening Round for the second time in program history. Photo courtesy Zachary Weiss

PITTSBURGH – The NAIA released on Monday afternoon the pairings for the 2014 NAIA Volleyball National Championship Opening Round, and the Point Park University volleyball team learned it will play at NAIA No. 15 Georgetown (Ky.) College on Nov. 22.

Point Park (27-15) will play at Georgetown (28-10) on Nov. 22 at 7:30 pm ET as one of 12 matches in the NAIA Volleyball National Championship Opening Round that will be played that day at campus sites around the country. The 12 winners of the single-elimination opening round will advance to 2014 NAIA National Championship final site presented by J&L Enterprises in Sioux City, Iowa., starting Dec. 2.

The NAIA Volleyball National Championship is a 36-team tournament. The top 11 teams along with final-site host Briar Cliff (Iowa) get a bye to the final site in Sioux City. The remaining 24 teams play in NAIA Opening Round matches Nov. 22 for the right to advance to the final stage with the higher seed serving as the campus host of each match.

Point Park earned an automatic qualification for the NAIA national tournament by virtue of its KIAC Tournament championship at home Nov. 14-15. The Pioneers bested a field of 11 teams in the Student Center Gym to claim the KIAC title, their second conference title in team history and the first in the KIAC.

Point Park is in the NAIA national tournament for the second team in program history. The Pioneers were American Mideast Conference Tournament champions in 2011, and Point Park lost at Indiana Tech, 3-1, in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round that year.

The Point Park-Georgetown match Nov. 22 will be a rematch of when the Pioneers beat the Tigers, 3-2, as part of a quad-match at Indiana Wesleyan Oct. 4. Point Park trailed that match, 2-1, but a comeback win of 29-27 in the fourth set propelled the Pioneers to win the fifth set in dramatic fashion, 15-13.

Georgetown was ranked No. 14 at the time of the previous meeting. After the win, Point Park moved into the ‘others receiving votes’ section of the NAIA Top 25 Poll and stayed there for a number of weeks.

“Georgetown was very good when we last played them,” Point Park outside hitter Shiloh Simonson said. “We won in five sets but it was very difficult and an emotional win for coach Bruno. If we all come playing with heart like we did this weekend at the conference tournament, I know we can come out with a win.”

Georgetown is no stranger to the NAIA national tournament. The Tigers are making their 17th appearance in the NAIA tourney, which is second-most among this year’s 36 qualifiers and behind only perennial, national contender Columbia (Mo.).

Georgetown defeated Lourdes (Ohio), 3-1, in an NAIA National Championship Opening Round game last year to advance to the final site in Sioux City, Iowa. The Tigers then went 2-1 in pool play to make it to the final 12 teams in the tournament. But Georgetown lost the next match to fall short of the final eight.

Check the Point Park athletics website for more information as it becomes available throughout the week including live match coverage details.

Follow the Pioneers on Twitter @PointParkSports and @pointparkvb. Follow the 2014 NAIA Volleyball National Championship on Twitter with Hashtag #NAIAVolleyball.

My take: This is the deepest Point Park volleyball team in program history and that gives them what I feel is a very good chance of beating Georgetown College. The last time these two teams played it was an emotional match and the Pioneers were without two key players of whom both are back and played leading roles in the team’s KIAC Tournament title.

Just a couple weeks ago Point Park hit a low with a loss against Shippensburg. It ended its regular season losing five of seven matches and one of the wins was via a forfeit. The Pioneers were seeded second in the KIAC Tournament, but a change was definitely needed. It would have been easy to just give up and pack it in for next season, however coach Mike Bruno has established what he calls a culture of trust that encourages them to play without fear.

They accomplished that winning the KIAC Tournament in its home gym in front of a filled to capacity crowd. Singing the White Stripes song Seven Nation Army, the students made a difference throughout the tournament. The Pioneers now are confident that they can surprise some people and honestly why can’t they?

Georgetown will be a tougher out now since the two teams have played and both will be plenty motivated. Still, the opportunity is there and with Point Park healthy once again their fight and determination could very well take this match.