Women’s soccer aims for RSC three-peat

Written By Allison Schubert, Copy Editor

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At the beginning of the 2016 women’s soccer season, head coach Maggie Kuhn never imagined that just one year later she would be aiming to lead her team to its third straight year as River States Conference (RSC) champions, but that is the exact position she finds herself in now.

Last year, her team was led in net by freshman Rebecca Cohen. Now a sophomore, Cohen’s hope is to help Kuhn and the women’s soccer team three-peat as conference champions.

“I think we’re going to go farther than we did last year,” Cohen said. “We look really good and I’m just impressed by how far we’ve come in just a week and a half together. I could definitely see another conference championship in our future, and hopefully past the first round of the [NAIA Tournament] this year.”

The Pioneers got off to a slow start last year as they looked to defend its first conference title. Point Park opened its tough non-conference schedule with a 1-5-2 record.

However, once conference play began, the team did not just start winning – they kept winning. Point Park finished with an overall record of 10-7-2 and 6-2 record in RSC play, good for a No. 2 seed in the RSC Tournament.

Point Park went on to defeat Ohio Christian, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, to clinch its second title in program history.

The glory was short-lived, however, when Point Park lost to No. 4 Lindsey Wilson 3-0 in the opening round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championship.

This year, the team aims to defend its title for another consecutive season. They look to become the fifth Point Park athletic program to advance to three straight national tournament appearances.

The Pioneers competed in two scrimmages before classes started, one at La Roche College and one at Highmark Stadium against Wheeling Jesuit University. Although Point Park was only able to pick up one win, they still proved valuable to Kuhn, now in her sixth year as head coach.

“[Scrimmages] allow us to see different players in different positions,” Kuhn said. “Do we want to win? Yeah, we want to win, but I was happy to be able to put players in different positions and see how they react against a quality [opponent]. I think scrimmages show us a lot.”

After winning back-to-back conference tournament championships, Kuhn still has not let up on the training routine during the off season. Some players claim the workout regimen has become more difficult with each championship.

“Our training sessions are always hard and always competitive,” sophomore midfielder Gabby Widman said. “The work over the summer that we’ve done – you can see tremendous change in fitness, physicality, and all that stuff just coming in for the first two weeks of preseason.”

Winning back-to-back conference championships comes with some drawbacks.

“[Our biggest challenge] could be that target on our back,” Cohen said. “We’re the team to beat now. It just depends on how we react to it, but I think the girls got it.”

With the scrimmages behind them, the two-time defending RSC champions look to get their first win of the season on Sept. 1 at Spring Arbor University, the runner-up in last year’s NAIA National Championship.

The Pioneers, picked as the favorite in the 2017 RSC Coaches’ Poll, open conference play on Sept. 28 at Asbury in a rematch of the 2016 RSC Semifinals.

“I’m excited,” Kuhn said. “We have a lot of incoming players who I think are going to be able to contribute. We will be young again, but I think that’s exciting.”