Women’s soccer blanked in Michigan season opener

Written By Allison Schubert, Copy Editor

The women’s soccer team opened regular season play last Friday at the Cougar Classic in Michigan, but failed to get on the scoreboard in each of the team’s first two games.

Point Park opened the weekend against the host-school, No. 2 Spring Arbor University on Friday.

With last year’s starting goalkeeper Rebecca Cohen redshirting this season as she recovers from ACL surgery, sophomore Ashtyn Webb was head coach Maggie Kuhn’s pick to start in net against Spring Arbor.

“[Webb’s] play in net definitely provided our team in front of her with confidence when we needed it the most,” Kuhn said. “I can’t say enough about her play this weekend. When you have a keeper playing the way that Ashtyn did and keeping the score line low, we have to rely on our attack to produce. We did not execute on the chances we created.”

Despite Webb’s efforts, the Pioneers found themselves down after junior Bethany Balcer scored in the 18th minute off a corner kick. Balcer would score again before the half, sending Point Park to the locker room down 2-0.

“Coach always says that 2-0 is always a risky lead because then we’re just one goal away from changing the pace of the game,” sophomore midfielder Nikki Polens said. “That was our intention going back out.  If we could just score one goal, we could change the pace of the game. It would change our intensity.”

Balcer solidified the Spring Arbor victory by completing her fourth career hat trick in the 62nd minute.

As a freshman, Balcer was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Soccer National Player of the Year in 2015. She also claimed the NAIA National Championship Most Valuable Player title that same year. The hat trick she scored against Point Park over the weekend allowed her to break the career goal scoring record for Spring Arbor.

“We focused on our defense and we tried to man mark [Balcer],” Webb said. “She’s just an outstanding player so it is difficult. I think we contained her pretty well.”

Spring Arbor has appeared in each of the last two NAIA National Championships, winning the title two years ago and falling in the title game last year.

The Pioneers played their second game of the Cougar Classic on Saturday against Mount Vernon Nazarene University. The Cougars tallied goals in the 17th, 47th and 65th minutes, giving Point Park its second 3-0 loss of the weekend.

“We still have some growing to do as a team,” Polens said. “But that’s just a part of the process.”

The Pioneers are no strangers to starting off the year in a deficit. They started last season with a 2-5-2 record. The team’s record did not start to improve until they began conference play last season.

“All in all, even though I hate starting a season 0-2, there were lots of lessons learned this weekend,” Kuhn said. “We just have to get back on track this week in training.”

The Pioneers play next on Monday, Sept.11 at Madonna University and will host Pikeville College on  Friday, Sept. 16 at Highmark Stadium for their home opener.