Saving a soccer season – Croup’s Corner

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

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We saw two combined goals from two soccer teams at Highmark Stadium Saturday, and the second of the two may have saved a season.

For now.

Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams hosted Ohio Christian University (OCU) in a River States Conference (RSC) doubleheader. If you like defense, you would have loved your afternoon at Highmark Stadium Saturday.

The women were in a position to move into a tie for first place in the conference with Asbury if they defeated OCU, but a Trailblazer victory would propel them into second place in the conference.

The two teams went into halftime locked in a defensive battle that resulted in a scoreless tie. OCU had five shots to Point Park’s four in the first half.

The offense kicked it up 11 notches in the second half, with the two teams totaling 20 shots. Point Park held a 12-8 shot advantage, but only managed one past OCU goalkeeper Mekayla Deffenbaugh who made six second-half saves.

Rebecca Cohen, Point Park’s freshman net minder, has been stellar for the Pioneers this season as one of four goalies used in net in 13 games. Her goals allowed average sits at .520 beside her .897 save percentage.

She allowed only one goal in five games before facing OCU. After a scoreless first half, Cohen allowed her second goal of the season in the 59th minute on a penalty kick that gave the Trailblazers a 1-0 lead.

In the 82nd minute, Cohen moved outside the penalty box to play a loose ball. She couldn’t scoop up the ball because she was outside the box, so she went to play the ball with her foot.

Defender Abby Magliocca had her back to the rest of the field and faced her goalie as OCU’s Rachel Bingaman darted down the field and applied pressure to Cohen.

Bingaman swiftly moved in and picked Cohen’s pocket and moved around her and Magliocca to slide the ball into the net to increase the Trailblazer’s lead to 2-0.

It was a rare mistake from Cohen, one that you bet she wants back.

In the 89th minute as time winded down, Izzy Hunter went top shelf on a free kick for her fourth goal of the season, cutting the deficit in half. It wasn’t enough, as Point Park dropped the contest 2-1.

The Pioneers RSC record dropped to 3-2, falling to fourth in the RSC standings with a tough weekend road trip to West Virginia Tech and Rio Grande (Ohio) on deck.

Offense was hard to come by in the men’s game that followed, with another scoreless first half.

Point Park dominated the box score in the first half, outshooting OCU 13-2, forcing OCU goalie Roberto Varela to make six saves.

Varela didn’t add another save to his stat line during the second half, but he did allow one goal in the 53rd minute that decided the contest.

Alan Ramos took a cross pass from Roberto Whitley off the head and at the top shelf of the same net that held Hunter’s goal earlier in the afternoon.

Ramos drew a red card just before the one-hour mark that forced the Pioneers to play a man down for the rest of the game.

During the second half, OCU turned the offensive tables, outshooting Point Park 13-3. Point Park goalie Manuel Pajzer came up with eight big saves on the afternoon, all in the second half.

The freshman goalie from Germany has kept Point Park competitive in games all season long and did just the same Saturday, recording his second straight shutout en route to a 1-0 victory.

Point Park entered the game with a 1-3 conference record and was on the verge of being on the outside looking in of the RSC playoff picture.

The win moves Point Park into a tie for the sixth-and-final playoff spot, saving the team’s playoff hopes for now.

This weekend, the Pioneers travel to West Virginia Tech and Rio Grande. Both teams are undefeated in conference play and have lost one game each this season. WVU Tech entered last week as the No. 13-ranked team in the country.

Rio Grande, the defending national champion, held a No. 2-overall ranking at the start of last week. The two teams played each other last Thursday in Beckley, W.Va. and had to settle for a 1-1 double overtime draw.

It was most likely a preview of the River States Conference Tournament Championship.

Both teams the Pioneers are matched up against this weekend are destined for the National Tournament