Point Park Sports: Zac Weiss Tries His Hand At The Games He Covers


Co-editor Zachary Weiss learns a defensive stance with Point Park freshman libero Tabea Dalliard. Photo courtesy Neal Brown

A day I waited for since I became a beat reporter for the Point Park student newspaper in the fall of 2011 had finally come less than three days ago.

For years, many in the Point Park University athletic department wanted to put my limited sports skill set to the test.

These talks intensified in the athletic offices while I was doing an interview for the Point Park alumni magazine and to show his level of seriousness, volleyball coach Mike Bruno went into the softball office and got softball coach Michelle Coultas to give me a softball helmet for protection. I quickly modeled the helmet

Co-editor Zachary Weiss models the softball helmet with volleyball coach Mike Bruno. Photo courtesy Zachary Weiss

Bruno and assistant coach Neal Brown both nodded approvingly and told me to be ready the next day when I would be trying to dig kill attempts from the team. While these arrangements were being made soccer coach Jeroen Walstra came in to ask if I wanted to be a goalie for the men’s soccer team earlier in the day. I quickly decided to accept and we agreed to make it happen.

You are probably thinking I am crazy for accepting this and there is probably some truth to that statement, however I did this for a variety of reasons. First it is not something the average journalist would do. Secondly, I have a respect for how difficult sports are in general but I wanted to fully appreciate it. I am spoiled rotten by covering countless events a year and each athlete or student-athlete I see makes what they do look so effortless. Because of this, it is easy to lose track of how difficult sports are. Third, this allows me to continue to build relationships with the student-athletes. I want them to know that I am a trusted source and for years they have at times seemingly run through walls to help me, I figured this small sacrifice of personal pride is the least I can do, I mean Snapchat videos only last 24 hours, and people won’t scroll all the way down to see an Instagram video of me making a fool of myself so what’s the worst that can happen?

The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and made the walk down from Point Park University to Highmark Stadium for men’s soccer practice. When I arrived I went to the far sideline where I was greeted by Walstra and assistant coach Edward Child. I observed the remainder of practice and mentally prepared myself for what was about to happen. Towards the tail end of practice the women’s soccer team came out to stretch and I knew that they were about to witness some of the least athleticism they’ve seen all season.

The time came and Walstra told me to get in goal. I borrowed goalkeeper Zak Borzovoy’s gloves [which were at least twice the size of my hand] and was told I was to save the first ball, I would save one of the next two balls and then the team all fire on goal at the same point. Now when Pittsburgh journalist Dejan Kovacevic did something similar at Highmark Stadium, he faced a shot but 28 at the same time? For what it’s worth his column of his experience in goal at Highmark Stadium also was a reason why I did this.

I set a personal goal of saving two and decided to go sans helmet so I could keep as much mobility as I could. The first shot was a clean catch and save, which I was pleased with. I was able to save one of the next two getting my fingers on a shot to my left. Then I heard Walstra laugh and scream “go”. I wish I could say I stood tall but that would be a lie. I kind of ducked and took one off the stomach for save three. Finally unscathed I looked up and laughed at what had just transpired. I had passed my test and Gabriel Colombo, a senior who plays both defender and midfielder recorded the whole thing on my phone.

I ended up staying on the pitch for women’s soccer practice as coach Maggie Kuhn had asked earlier if I wanted to be a side referee for an intrasquad scrimmage. Knowing I was already going to be there I quickly said yes. I quickly prepared for the 50 minute scrimmage when I reminded Kuhn that we had to do the coin toss. Let me pause this article to let you know that this team is very particular with it’s coin toss. I felt like I was playing 20 questions until I could finally flip the coin. Okay side note over.

I got a quarter out of my wallet and after the procedure flipped the coin toss. Okay maybe flipped isn’t the right word because it did not flip. It was easily the world’s worst coin toss and the other side that lost the toss complained until they felt that the wrong side was chosen following the coin toss. Having dodged a bullet the coaches and I shared a laugh and got ready to start the scrimmage.

The final score of the scrimmage was 3-2 in favor of the starters. I had no problems as the side referee, there was one borderline off-sides call the entire match. I had no issues keeping up with the team because I have been a ball boy on several occasions and for anyone who has not seen me in this role, I take a side all to myself and sprint for 90 minutes, so being a side ref for 50 minutes was no big deal.

Following this I walked back to campus and into the athletic office where I was greeted by Bruno, who clearly had watched the video I put on Instagram of myself in goal.

“Great job Zac,” Bruno said.

I had a feeling volleyball would be the big test and after a class, I got ready for volleyball practice.

At the end of practice Bruno huddled the team up and asked if I was ready. Brown got his iPhone 6 ready and I got my helmet on.

Freshman libero Tabea Dalliard gave me a quick crash course on what to do and I watched a YouTube video which also helped but the moment the first ball came my way, I completely blanked out. The first ball was hit by outside hitter Shiloh Simonson and I got a piece of it and made sideways contact. From a technical standpoint I needed to put more weight on my foot and use less of my shoulders but considering the circumstances, I was happy with it. Then outside hitter Kristi Chenarides took a turn. Her hit was harder than Shiloh’s and went a bit higher than I had expected it to. I made great contact on it, even though it was more self defense and not the right part of my arm. Still it would have been an okay dig to the right side hitter, so it wasn’t terrible.

Then in a clear copycat attempt from earlier in the morning 13 volleyballs came flying at me all at once. One of them which looked like it was hit by middle hitter Cristiane Chaves made contact with my helmet while another from defensive specialist Kelsey Veydt connected with the the lower side of my helmet and lifted and moved it. After this, a volleyball that was hit also deflected off of Brown’s finger which unfortunately ended his slow motion recording prematurely.

After it was over, we all shared a laugh and I prepared for women’s basketball photo day, which I was in charge of running. It was a success in case you were wondering.

So many thanks are involved mostly to Brown, Bruno, Kuhn and Walstra for idea, encouragement and ultimate execution in what we called the #ZacWeissOlympics.

Doing this helps me remember how hard it is for an athlete to do all of this. I ran for 50 minutes and took a couple of hits off a helmet. Each day, players are practicing in the early hours of the morning, working out in the afternoon sometimes taking six hour bus rides to Kentucky and playing in games and matches. It was a good reminder of how hard this is to do.

Would I do this again? Absolutely. Bring it on, I’m always ready for a good challenge.