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Women’s soccer falls to No. 1 Spring Arbor in home opener

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Women’s soccer falls to No. 1 Spring Arbor in home opener

Senior Shayla Gebhardt heads the ball during Point Park’s home opening loss to defending NAIA champions Spring Arbor University Saturday.

Senior Shayla Gebhardt heads the ball during Point Park’s home opening loss to defending NAIA champions Spring Arbor University Saturday.

Photo by Robert Berger

Senior Shayla Gebhardt heads the ball during Point Park’s home opening loss to defending NAIA champions Spring Arbor University Saturday.

Photo by Robert Berger

Photo by Robert Berger

Senior Shayla Gebhardt heads the ball during Point Park’s home opening loss to defending NAIA champions Spring Arbor University Saturday.

Written By Allison Schubert, Co-Sports Editor

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Point Park women’s soccer team wasted no time getting into its season, hosting its home opener against No. 1-ranked Spring Arbor University on Saturday.

This was the Pioneers’ fifth time competing against the non-conference opponent since 2014, but the first time the Cougars had not shut the Pioneers out.

“This just gives us a taste to what it is going to be like going forward into our season,” junior midfielder Nikki Polens said. “Nothing is going to come easy, so these tough battles now are only going to help us become stronger.”

Spring Arbor struck early in the third minute of the game off a corner kick from Lexi Ponstein, but the Pioneers would hold the Cougers to a one goal lead until the 21st minute.

Ponstein kicked another one past junior goalkeeper Ashtyn Webb off a pass from teammate Morgan Marshall just 49 seconds before National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) 2017 Player of the Year Bethany Balcer struck again for the Cougars.

“Defending against Bethany Balcer is no easy job at all,” junior Gabby Widman said. “The key word when defending against her is ‘compete.’ We had to compete for every ball, compete for position and compete to win.”

Balcer, who was also NAIA Player of the Year in 2015, and Marshall each scored one more goal a piece in the first half, sending Point Park to the locker room down 5-0.

The Pioneers struck first in the second half when junior Chloe Bowser scored on a penalty kick attempt in the 46th minute.

Bowser’s goal was the only goal in the second half until Balcer completed her hat trick in the 80th minute. Kaley Buck scored the last remaining goal in the 81st minute, and the Cougars finished the game with a 7-1 victory over the Pioneers.

Spring Arbor out-shot Point Park 28-7 throughout the game. Webb made 11 saves, eight of which came in the second half.

“I have to stay in every game mentally and not let my negative thoughts get the best of me,” Webb said. “I believe we have a chance to win the conference this season and that is what I am striving for.”

Point Park ended last season with an 8-8-2 record and a 5-3-1 record in River States Conference play.

The Pioneers also welcomed ten new faces to the team, including eight freshmen and two transfer students.

“Honestly, I am so excited,” Polens said. “Not only do we have great skill and personality returning this season, but our freshman and transfer students are more than I can ask for as teammates. The 2018-19 season is going to be one to remember.”

Point Park is back in action at Highmark Stadium on Friday against Lourdes University at 7 p.m. after traveling to Siena Heights University (Mich.) on Tuesday. Conference play will start up for the Pioneers Sept. 20 at Brescia University.

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