Point Park University Has Successful Fall Sports Season


The Point Park women’s soccer team started the season 2-7 however finished with a 10-8 regular season record. Photo courtesy Zachary Weiss

Point Park University Athletics has had a successful fall sports season which puts them in great position to win the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup for a second time.

The Commissioner’s Cup is awarded to the best overall school in the KIAC based on regular season play with the regular season champion earning the maximum 12 points in a sport.

Overall, Point Park placed first in men’s soccer and second in both women’s soccer and volleyball.

Monday I wrote about the Point Park volleyball so in this article I will focus on men’s and women’s soccer in addition to cross country.

Men’s soccer: I will be completely honest, I sit writing this portion of the Point Park fall recap very disappointed. The men had a 15-3 overall record losing only one game to an NAIA opponent yet still missed out on making the NAIA National Championship Opening Round by two spots. Yes this has some bias attached to it but Point Park was absolutely robbed of a spot. Point Park beat NAIA #1 Rio Grande 2-1 earning a spot in the NAIA Top 25 poll and peaking at 20th where it stayed at the end of the regular season. The Pioneers defeated Asbury 1-0 in the KIAC semifinals to earn another game against Rio Grande.

Point Park felt it had a lot to prove in the game as it felt its ranking needed to be better. The Pioneers ended up losing 3-2 to Rio Grande which made Point Park fall from 20th to 23rd in the NAIA Top 25 Poll and sealing its face. To me this is an insult. Point Park has built a great men’s soccer program led by coach Jeroen Walstra and it defeated #19 Northwestern Ohio and receiving votes St. Catherine [Ky.].

Senior Lucas Silva was named KIAC Offensive Player of the Year scoring a program record 26 and a total of 58 points. Silva had eight game winning goals which was a conference best and was second in the KIAC in points per game with 3.22. Also joining Silva with KIAC All-Conference honors are senior captain Jonty Loukes, sophomore defender Paul Carr and freshman defender Josh Williams. Additionally Walstra was named KIAC Coach of the Year.

It is a disappointing end to their season and disappointing for the senior class, which certainly deserved better. The Pioneers played exciting football, and hopefully they will be plenty motivated to continue this success.

Women’s soccer: A 2-7 start was not ideal for the Point Park women’s soccer team, however the competition it faced during that time helped them make a run and come together as a team. The first game the Pioneers played was against #6 Spring Arbor [Mich.] and was a 3-0 loss. Other losses included defeats against 20th ranked Siena Heights [Mich.], receiving votes Mount Vernon Nazarene [Oh. and was in the NAIA Top 25 for most of the season] and KIAC opponent Rio Grande.

It would have been extremely easy to pack it in, the Pioneers were struggling to score goals at home in fact more balls ended up in the river surrounding Highmark Stadium than those that found the back of the net. Sept. 24 ended up being the turning point of the season.

A 1-0 victory was the start of a shutout streak that lasted 327:12 of game action and started a five game winning streak which brought the team back to a .500 record. Highlights included an Erin Gilmartin goal in double overtime to win at Waynesburg and a 2-1 victory on senior day against KIAC opponent Asbury.

Point Park finished strong winning three of its past four games to secure a 10-8 regular season record and earned the second seed in the KIAC Tournament where it met Asbury in the semifinals. The game was held at Asbury because the bylaw for hosting are based on rotational sites in alphabetical results. Both men’s and women’s soccer semifinals and finals were played at Asbury therefore despite being the higher seed, Point Park essentially played a road game. While this may seem unfair, the rule was in place and thus the Pioneers made the bus ride to Wilmore, Ky. Point Park was looking to exact revenge after losing the KIAC finals to Asbury in 2013 but fell short.

Point Park had two players earned KIAC All-Conference Team honors with freshman Audra Lewis [10 goals and 23 points] and defender Paige Manning being recognized. Frankly there were several other players who I feel had a shot as well.

The loss was a heartbreaking one for the team’s 12 seniors who have made this program what it is today. The future however is very bright and while there will be some holes to fill with the departure of so many seniors, but depth wise this is the deepest team Point Park had which bodes well for the future. This season was a difficult test for the Pioneers and as far as I am concerned, they aced it.

Cross country: Four runners qualified for the NAIA National Meet in Lawrence, Kansas. Freshman Eric Torres will join women’s runners sophomore Ashley Czerniewski-Hagan, freshman Katie Guarnaccia and sophomore Kelsey Wilkins in Kansas after the four earned their spots at the KIAC Tournament Meet.

The meet was held at Point Park for the first time. Katy Falkenburg of Asbury finished first in the women’s meet with Guarnaccia and Wilkins tying for second with 5K times of 19:24 each. Czerniewski-Hagan finished sixth with a time of 20:04. Both Guarnaccia and Wilkins each were named KIAC Women’s Runner of the Week twice during the season.

All three of the Point Park runners that finished in the top six also were named to the KIAC All-Conference First Team. Guarnaccia was also named KIAC Newcomer of the Year. Asbury won the KIAC Women’s Cross Country Championship.

On the men’s cross country side, the race was between Torres and Rio Grande sophomore Dallas Guy. Torres led the early portion of the 8K, however Guy came on and won with a time of 27:05, 13 seconds ahead of Torres. Rio Grande had three runners finish in the top four and six in the top 10. Sophomore Heath Hougas was the second Point Park runner to finish placing 16th with a time of 28:59.

Torres was named KIAC Player of the Week five times and Hougas once. Torres was named KIAC Newcomer of the Year and to the KIAC All-Conference First Team.

Last year at the NAIA National Meet Hanka Jiraskova and Connor Mulvaney qualified for Point Park. The fact that four runners qualified is a great sign, and the future looks really bright as all four qualifiers are underclassmen and there is plenty of depth that will back up Torres on the men’s side and fill slots 3-5 on the women’s side.