Volleyball season ends in NAIA tournament

Photo by Sam Robinson/ Point Park Athletics
Senior middle hitter, Nikki Inquartano, The Pioneers won the match against West Virginia Wesleyan on November 8, 3-1.

Written By Dara Collins, Staff Writer

The Pioneers traveled to Livonia, Mich. to face off against the Madonna University Crusaders in the opening round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Tournament on Nov. 19.

Advancing past the opening round is a feat Point Park volleyball has yet to accomplish, but team remained determined to break that trend.

“The mindset going into the match was that each person on the team was going to leave everything they had to offer on the court,” sophomore libero Morgan Dangelo said. “We were going to go out on Madonna’s home court and play our brand of volleyball.”

The Crusaders took an early lead over the Pioneers, winning the first set 30-28, but the Crusaders’ victory did not come without a fight.

“One of the best things about the game was the comeback we had,” sophomore Ashley Taylor said. “We were down 21-9, and we came back and only lost by two points, making the score 30-28. Madonna had no idea we had such a fight in us. They definitely underestimated us.”

Madonna claimed another victory after the second set ended 25-12. As the Crusaders led 2-0, the Pioneers kicked their game into high gear.

Point Park held on to their national tournament spot a little longer by winning set three 25-22. However, Madonna clinched set four with a 25-17 victory, ending the Pioneers’ season.

“I think it was the best match-up we’ve had out of all our appearances at nationals,” head coach Mike Bruno said. “Statistically, they beat us. They’re a good team.”

Taylor led the defense with 12 digs, as well as the offense with 12 kills. Kirsten Burkes recorded seven kills. Setter Emily Meng matched Burkes’ seven kills and contributed 27 assists and seven digs. Senior Shiloh Simonson and freshman Julia Menosky picked up eight digs each.

The Point Park senior class has contributed to their attendance at the national tournament for three consecutive years. Collectively, the group contributed to the team on and off the court.

“I have to say the things I’ll miss the most are looking at Meng in the middle of a game and telling her to set me the ball, looking up to Shiloh as a hitter, looking at Inky to make me laugh no matter how I feel, going to Mads for giving me the best advice always, or having Burkes be our team mom always looking out for us,” Taylor said.

Other teammates agree the bond stretched beyond the court.

“We were just one big family and that really brought us closer together as a team, and you could even see it in the way we play,” Dangelo said. “We trusted each other and wanted to work hard for the teammate beside us. The memories that we all created together, whether it was at school or on the road, are the ones I’m going to cherish forever.”

The Pioneers finished their season with a 15-1 River States Conference (RSC) record and 20-15 overall record. The team started the season 1-10.

“I’m proud of how they turned it around in conference play to get that bid to nationals,” Bruno said.

Despite a slow start to the season, Point Park reigned in conference play. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were eliminated after the first round of the conference tournament and the national tournament.

“Even though the outcome isn’t what we wanted, we still played our hearts out,” Dangelo said.