Women’s soccer struggles to record win in first games

Written By Austin Alkire, Co-Sports Editor

Photo by Robert Berger
Nikki Polens, now a senior, attacks the ball in a game versus Lourdes University last season.

The women’s soccer team began their season losing their first two games on the road against Spring Arbor University and Lourdes University, respectively. The Pioneers were shutout by both opposing teams at the start of their season.

The Pioneers and new head coach Bethanie Moreschi first traveled to Michigan to play Spring Arbor University. The host Cougars came into the season ranked No. 4  in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Spring Arbor has not been ranked outside of the top four to start a season since 2015 when they were ranked No. 8.

Despite the Cougars’ ranking, Point Park was not caught up in the numbers, according to senior captain Chloe Bowser.

“We were aware of their ranking, but going in we wanted to focus more on our game and how we play,” Bowser said . “We knew we would have to work hard and smart but we wanted to make them adjust to our style and give them some good competition.”

The Pioneers held Spring Arbor to one goal until Alicia Hall gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead. That lead quickly grew again when Kaley Buck scored her second goal of the game three minutes later to close the half.

This began the change in momentum, and in the second half, Spring Arbor proceeded to bury five more goals.

Point Park went into Michigan shorthanded. Nagging quad pulls and health insurance issues kept six players off the sheet for Point Park. Moreschi planned to use the situation to give starting chances to typical subs.

“Our approach for the game was to utilize the players that were available and give everyone an opportunity to show us what they could do against a high level team,” Moreschi said. “We really wanted the focus to be on our shape and being able to modify our system based off the team we have in front of us. With that approach we should be able to plug and place certain players into positions, where they might not usually play, but still be successful.”

On top of an incomplete lineup, the team’s fitness was not where it needed to be, according to junior Bailey Boyd.

“I believe since our fitness is not where it should be yet that we need to work on our mental game more and making better decisions on and off the ball when fatigued to help minimize mistakes,” Boyd said.

With the Pioneers being outshot 31-1, Point Park found it hard to respond when the Cougars scored.

“After we got scored on the first couple of times, I think we lost our confidence and we didn’t bounce back,” Bowser said.

The young team proceeded to visit Lourdes University in Ohio to play the Gray Wolves. The game was scoreless until the 74th minute when Lourdes’ Erin Caldwell one touched the ball to the right of senior goalkeeper Ashtyn Webb, who stopped 11 of 12 shots in total.

Sophomore Tia Horew launched a header in an attempt to tie the game with under six minutes left, however Lourdes’ goalkeeper Kerstyn Williams had other plans, stopping the scoring chance and effectively sealing the game for the Gray Wolves.

While the Pioneers improved their shot output against Lourdes, Moreschi still felt like her team needed to work on their urgency.

“We played really well and have improved every game thus far but we need to have a high tempo and keep control over the game for 90 minutes,” Moreschi said.

Despite the two losses, the team was able to keep bonding.

“Having our new coaching staff, she’s been great for us,” senior Nikki Polens said. “The team has been happy and we are also playing together better. Preparing to play a highly ranked national team, we knew the challenge ahead of us. We focused on our defensive shape but also our urge to forward and wide when we win the ball back.”

The women’s soccer team continues their season on Sunday against Lawrence Tech in Michigan. The last time the Pioneers were in Michigan, they learned a valuable lesson.

“The game against Spring Arbor was our first real challenge that we faced, and I think it showed that we are capable of competing at the level Spring Arbor typically plays at, and that there is a lot of potential for growth and improvement throughout the season,” Bowser said. “Not everyone is used to playing with each other yet. We’re a young team.”