Volleyball wins final home game

Written By Dara Collins, Staff Writer

The Pioneers finished out the regular season with a final hoorah on their home court and entered the Rivers States Conference (RSC) Tournament as the No. 1 seed.

The Student Center opened its doors to the team, families and friends one last time to face off against non-conference opponent West Virginia Wesleyan on Nov. 8.

“Since it’s not conference, I guess it really didn’t matter, but it did matter to our whole team because it’s the last time our seniors are going to play in our gym,” sophomore psychology major Ashley Taylor said.

The Pioneers came out strong and took sets one and two 25-17 and 25-20. As Point Park prepared for the sweep, the Bobcats responded with a third set victory 25-18. However, their victory was short-lived as the Pioneers won set four 25-18.

With an improved season record of 20-13, head coach Mike Bruno also claimed his 400th career victory.

“I thought we almost played a complete match,” Bruno said. “We got a little comfortable at times but our relentlessness on the floor defense was probably better than it’s been in a while. They’re playing high-level ball at the right time of the season. I think this was a good dress rehearsal going in to the conference tournament.”

Taylor controlled the net with 16 kills and six blocks followed by Madeline Poirier with 10 kills. Libero Morgan Dangelo ran the defense with a team-high of 19 digs. Emily Meng came next in line with 14 digs and 41 assists. 11 aces contributed to the Pioneer victory with four coming from Shiloh Simonson.

The highly anticipated RSC Tournament began Nov. 11. The Pioneers faced tournament host and No. 4 seed Cincinnati Christian University in the quarterfinals.

An exhausting five-set match ensued. The Eagles claimed set one 25-20, but the Pioneers battled back to win set two 25-21 and tie the match 1-1. Another exchange of wins followed as CCU took set three 25-21, and Point Park held on to win set four 26-24. Unfortunately, the Eagles came out of the fifth set victorious with the 15-12 upset over the top-seeded Pioneers.

“CCU played the best game they did all season long,” Meng said. “I’m not here to take anything away from them, but if they look back on their season, I’m sure this game is the one they would be proudest of. They left everything on the court. Our side, however, really gave away so many crucial points.”

Meng’s 55 assists spread across the net. Simonson, an outside hitter, recorded 19 kills followed by right side hitter Taylor with 17. Middle hitters Nikki Inquartano and Kirsten Burkes collected 13 kills and eight kills, respectively. Taylor and Dangelo led the Pioneer defense with 15 digs each.

Despite the disheartening loss and elimination from the tournament, Point Park did not walk away empty-handed.

The Pioneers received a plethora of recognition. The team collected an award for achieving the best record in the RSC. The RSC also named Bruno Coach of the Year and Simonson Conference Player of the Year, two major awards. Simonson was also named to the All-Conference First Team alongside Meng, and Taylor earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team. Freshman Courtney List claimed the Champion of Character Award.

“It was such an honor for me to receive the Champion of Character Award,” List said. “I feel grateful that my teammates and coaches thought that I deserved it, and I’m thankful for them pushing me to be the best I can be on and off the court.”

The Pioneers now look ahead to the NAIA national tournament, which begins Nov. 19.

“We’re looking to put some different things in to our offense as we approach the post-season,” Bruno said. “I think we have the ability to spread the ball really well. We’re not going to change things too much. We’re just going to continue working on fundamentals and our team systems.”

“I’m sure it will be a tough week of practice, but in the end, I’m sure it will pay off,” Meng said. “Making it past opening rounds is something PPU has yet to do, and I think it’s possible for us to do it.”