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Women’s soccer wins first KIAC title on late penalty kick

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Photos courtesy of Liz Berie.
Senior forward Leeza Tokarski tries to get possession of the ball during Saturday’s championship game against West Virginia Tech at Highmark Stadium.

The women’s soccer team celebrates after senior midfielder Louise Delaney scores on a penalty kick to give Point Park
a 1-0 lead in Saturday’s championship game against West Virginia Tech at Highmark Stadium.

 

For the first time in program history, the Point Park women’s soccer team can call themselves “Conference Champions.”

Point Park won its first Kentucky Intercolle­giate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Championship when the Pioneers defeated the West Virginia Uni­versity Tech Golden Bears Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.

It was the third time in four years the Pioneers made an appearance in the conference champion­ship game and the first time they hosted the game.

In 2012, Point Park lost to cross-town rival Car­low University 1-0 in the championship. In 2013, the Asbury University Eagles defeated Point Park 2-1.

Last year, Point Park lost again to Asbury, this time in the semifinal match.

Asbury entered the 2015 tournament as the number one seed and defeated Point Park 1-0 in the regular season. Point Park, the number two seed, de­feated Rio Grande 3-1 in the semifinals to advance to the tournament championship.

West Virginia Tech, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, defeated Point Park in the regular season fina­le 1-0 and upset Asbury in the semifinals to reach the conference tournament championship.

After Point Park defeated Rio Grande in the semifinal, senior forward Beth Millican said Point Park didn’t give West Virginia Tech their best shot in the regular season.

“I don’t think we played our game when we played them a couple of weeks ago,” Millican said. “We had a couple of injuries; a lot of people had bad days. I think it’s important to go into this with a clear head, a fresh slate, and just show them who we are and what we can do.”

Sophomore midfielder Anna Wyss rushes to get the ball
against West Virginia Tech during Saturday’s championship
game at Highmark Stadium.

Fourth-year head coach Maggie Kuhn knew the regular season finale rematch was a tough test, but said West Virginia Tech didn’t get the full Point Park Women’s Soccer experience in the reg­ular season meeting.

“I actually think our game against them orig­inally was one of the worst games that I had seen us play,” Kuhn said. “In my opinion, they didn’t even get a chance to see the real Point Park Women’s Soccer team play. We really didn’t change much. We still wanted to go in and play our game, which they did today.”

The teams remained scoreless at the half where shots were few and far between. Point Park only had two shots on goal in the half opposed to Tech’s three.

Point Park crated more scoring opportunities in the second half with seven shots, but only one was on goal. West Virginia Tech did not have a shot on goal in the second half.

In the 78th minute, West Virginia Tech’s Alex Blumer created contact on Point Park’s Noel Har­tle in the box. The referees blew the play dead and awarded Point Park a penalty kick.

Senior Louise Delaney stepped up to take the penalty kick.

“We’ve been practicing penalties all week,” Millican said. “The last four or five days, we’ve had them every day. Louise has been so consistent. We believed in her. We knew we had it, we knew it was good.”

With a trip to nationals and the first confer­ence championship on the line, Delaney began her approach.

Sophomore goalkeeper Martha Reyna leaned slightly to her right. Delaney’s kick went to Reyna’s left.

The ball found its way into the back corner of the pink net and gave Point Park a 1-0 lead with 12:23 left.

Every one of Delaney’s teammates on the field mobbed the senior midfielder out of Headley Down, England, including Point Park goalie Erica Roney.

The healthy crowd of 300-plus Point Park sup­porters erupted into a loud cheer as West Virginia Tech players stood in stunned silence on the field.

“It’s amazing,” Delaney said after the game. “Coming back from injury and actually being able to contribute to the team today felt great. I’ve been waiting five years for this.”

After shaking hands with the referees, Kuhn was chased down with the Gatorade cooler full of ice water.

“I’m really proud,” Kuhn said. “It’s really surreal right now. I don’t think that it’s hit me yet.”

11 seniors on the Point Park squad can now say, after losing in the game twice, they accomplished their goal of winning a conference championship.

“Us seniors have been working for this and the newcomers have been working for this for so long,” senior Alyson Joyce said. “I’m just ecstatic right now. I just don’t have words. I’m just really excited. We’ve wanted it for so long and it’s just an amazing feel­ing. We worked so hard in the summers and in the springs. To win it is such an amazing feeling. It feels so good.”

Before the semifinal match against Rio Grande, the KIAC announced its All-KIAC Teams and individual awards.

Senior forward Leeza Tokarski, senior midfield­ers Joyce and Erin Gilmartin and senior defenders Jill Evilsizer and Jasmine Meichle were named to the All-KIAC Second Team.

Senior goalkeeper Erica Roney, junior defender Paige Manning and Millican received All-KIAC First Team honors.

Millican also received KIAC Comeback Player of the Year after coming back from multiple surgeries to lead the team with 13 goals.

Millican and the rest of the Point Park women’s soccer family are now champions.

“It’s just mad,” Millican said. “To finally win it, at home, in front of all these fans is awesome. It’s wicked.”

“Every player on our team is just brilliant,” Me­ichle said. “We’ve all come together this year. We’re just like a family.”

Up next for Point Park is the National Associa­tion of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament beginning Nov. 21.

Kuhn said Point Park’s difficult non-confer­ence schedule early in the year, which featured four then-NAIA top 25 ranked teams, has prepared her team for a run at a national title.

“It definitely battle tests you for these types of games,” Kuhn said. “Whatever we face in the Nation­al Tournament won’t be anything we haven’t seen before. We just have to prepare. That’s what this next week is going to be – preparation. We’ll see what we can do.”

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