Volleyball secures national tournament bid

Photo by Sam Robinson/Point Park Athletics
Sophomore middle hitter, Ashley Taylor, and freshman setter, Julia Menosky, celebrate with the team after scoring against Sienna Heights Sept. 2. Point Park’s volleyball team recently secured an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. For coverage, turn to page 8.

Written By Dara Collins

The old cliché states “the third time’s the charm,” and Point Park has a chance to prove this statement true.

For the third year in a row, the Pioneers are national tournament bound. They finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the River States Conference after a weekend of victorious matchups.

The Pioneers traveled to WVU Tech on Oct. 25 to face off against the Golden Bears.

Point Park took set one 25-17, but WVU Tech battled back to take set two 25-23. The Gold Bears’ resistance did not last long, as the Pioneers won sets three and four 27-25 and 25-20.

“We went in and out of focus a lot just because it was the first time in a while we played a conference match on their home court, but I’m proud of how we got our focus back to get the win,” middle hitter Nikki Inquartano said.

This focus becomes extremely important as games extend to extra points, as four of the Pioneers’ last five games included sets with scores over 25.

“We really take a second to look at each other and take a breath to calm down when we go into extra points,” Inquartano said.

Shiloh Simonson led the Pioneer defense with 19 digs followed by Ashley Taylor, Emily Meng and Morgan Dangelo with 14 each. Taylor held the team-high of 17 kills and Madeline Poirier chipped in 14 of her own. Meng recorded 51 assists. Eight service aces contributed to the team’s victory.

As the Pioneers inched one game closer to the national tournament bid and regular-season title, they prepared for their upcoming tri-match against Indiana University (IU) East and Ohio Christian University on Oct. 29.

“We’ll just be preparing like we always do in practice focusing on our weaknesses and try to stay as calm as possible, yet completely focused,” Inquartano said. “Everyone is getting really excited, but I think it’s important to focus on each game one at a time.”

The Pioneers began their day with a match against IU East.

Point Park won the first set 25-15. IU East got the upper hand in set two, winning 27-25. After the Pioneers regained focus, the 25-23 and 25-21 victories of sets three and four earned the team their automatic bid to the national tournament.

“We played pretty well during the IU East game,” defensive specialist Juliana Ross said. “After we had won, it was a great feeling through our bodies. The demanding preseason and practices we went through were worth the feeling we had when we got the last point for the match.”

“All of us were so worn out from all of the stuff we have been doing to prepare for these last few games, but the moment we won, it was a great feeling,” Taylor said.

Meng’s 37 assists spread the attacks across the net. Simonson on the outside and Taylor on the right side led the offense with 13 kills each. Simonson also picked up 13 digs, and Dangelo followed with nine.

After obtaining the bid, the Pioneers remained focused on the main goal since the beginning of the season: win.

“We knew going into the Ohio Christian game that we had accomplished only part of our goal,” Ross said. “Our goal was to go in and completely win out for the weekend.”

The short-term goal became reality as the Pioneers swept the Trailblazers 25-21, 25-21 and 25-20.

The Pioneers’ middle hitters proved effective as Inquartano recorded 10 kills and Kirsten Burkes trailed with nine. Meng dished out 28 assists to go along with 10 digs. Dangelo and Simonson chipped in 11 digs each.

The Pioneers clinched the automatic bid to the national tournament with a 15-1 final RSC record and 19-13 overall record.

“Having the best record in our conference is the best feeling ever,” Ross said. “It shows our opponents that even though we didn’t have a great start, we were still a team in the conference that was willing to grind out every point of every set of every game during regular season.”

Point Park concludes the regular season with a home match against non-conference West Virginia Wesleyan on Nov. 8 in the Student Center gym at 7 p.m.

“We’re still here,” Ross said. “We’re still working. We’re still going to grind out every point of every set of every match that will take us to Iowa.”