Last year, this year: Episode 1 – Croup’s Corner

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

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Last year, Point Park was named the top athletic department in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC). This year, they look to reclaim their title – and it all begins with the fall sports season.

We begin this week by previewing men’s and women’s soccer teams. Next week, we take a look at the volleyball and cross country teams.

Last year, the men’s soccer team finished 15-3 overall, 4-0 KIAC. They dropped the KIAC Tournament Championship 3-2 to Rio Grande (Oh.), ranked number one in the country at the time.

Point Park missed out on a atlarge bid to their third straight trip to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Tournament. Point Park did upset Rio Grande earlier in the season when the Red Storm were ranked 7th in the country.

The Pioneers lost a key forward to graduation in Lucas Silva, who was named to the 2014 NAIA All-American 3rd Team, the first All-American in team history. Silva set the single season scoring record with 26 goals on the year.

After a strong end to the 2014 campaign, Rio Grande is the preseason favorite to win the KIAC in 2015. Rio Grande received five of the seven first-place votes in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, with Point Park receiving the other two. The Red Storm also enter the year ranked 5th in the NAIA Top 25 poll. Point Park was mentioned in the “others receiving votes” section at No. 29 overall.

Point Park has yet to lose a KIAC regular season game (12-0) since joining the conference in 2012. A veteran team with a balanced recruiting class, the Pioneers should look to seniors Lucas Godinho and Max Flick to make up for the loss of Silva. Godinho and Flick finished second and third respectively on the squad in scoring last year.

Point Park returns nine of its 11 starters under ninth year head coach Jeroen Walstra.

On the women’s side like the men’s, Rio Grande received seven of the possible nine first place votes in the preseason poll. Point Park received the other two, but was chosen third overall in the poll. Rio Grande won the KIAC Tournament and advanced to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round last season.

The Pioneer’s non-conference schedule goes through three top- 25 teams including No. 8 Spring Arbor (Mich.).

The Pioneers tied a team record last year with 10 wins en route to a 10-9 record, 5-1 KIAC. Their 11 seniors had their careers end with four straight playoff appearances for the program.

Entering year four under head coach Maggie Kuhn, Point Park looks to fill the void of the graduated seniors, including midfielder Megan Kuntz, who was second on the team in scoring with four goals and two assists.

They will turn to sophomore Audra Lewis to have a repeat of her freshman season in which she led the team in scoring with ten goals and five assists.

Lewis and then-sophomore defender Paige Manning were both named to the KIAC All-Conference Team.

The theme for both teams this year is to get past the preseason favorite Rio Grande. Nobody wins on paper. This is why they play the games.

Cheer on the Pioneers across the Monongahela River in Station Square at the scenic Highmark Stadium. It’s free, so why not?

The men return home Sept. 10 in a non-conference match with Martygrove (Mich.) at 2 p.m. The women home for a non-conference match with Malone (Ohio) September 3 at 7 p.m.