Croup’s Corner – Proud Pioneer after the first “last” of year

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

I knew my senior year was going to be full of “lasts” before it began, but I don’t think I was ready for my first big last moment on Saturday.

The soccer season officially came to an end Saturday as the men’s and women’s teams fell in the River States Conference (RSC) quarterfinal matchups.

The women hosted Ohio Christian in a rematch of last year’s RSC Championship in front of their home fans under the lights at Highmark Stadium.

The 8 p.m. start time was the latest on the schedule this season for Point Park due to four high school championship games that preceded the RSC playoff game. Two of those games went into overtime, so Point Park’s game didn’t get underway until close to 8:40 p.m., which was by far the latest start time for a game that I have covered in my four years.

110 minutes of soccer later, there was no score. We haven’t seen a similar game played by Point Park since 2013. The last time the Pioneers were scoreless through two overtime periods was during the 2013 conference semifinals at Carlow. Point Park won 5-3 in a shootout.

Everyone in the press box and in the stands waited anxiously for that first penalty kick to try and decide the game. The teams huddled and slowly made their way out to midfield with the game’s two goalies waiting by the net.

Only those two goalies stayed in front of the net for the start of the shootout, with Point Park’s sophomore goalkeeper Ashtyn Webb lining the ball up to take the first kick.

Webb had the game of her career, making 10 saves throughout the 110 minutes, some acrobatic, some easy and some daring, but all kept Point Park in the game. Why not let her take the first shot?

She scored.

It seemed like the first step towards what would be a magical ending to Point Park’s grueling battle with Ohio Christian, which bested the Pioneers 3-2 during the regular season. Instead, Point Park was on the wrong side of the decisive shootout, dropping the game 4-2 on penalty kicks.

The amount of heart and fight shown by Point Park Saturday was remarkable. No, the Pioneers won’t three-peat as conference champions, but they let the rest of the conference know that they’re not going away anytime soon.

There are few words to describe the pain felt by a season-ending loss. Even though Point Park didn’t win, I was so incredibly proud to be a Pioneer on Saturday.

As I prepared to sign off from the broadcast on the Point Park Sports Network, it hit me. That was my last time covering a soccer game for Point Park.

The soccer teams hold a special place in my Point Park journey. When I was a freshman, I got a text from an upperclassman asking if I was available to run a camera for the broadcast. The game was starting in 20 minutes.

I ran to Highmark Stadium from my Thayer Hall dorm room hoping to arrive on time and to make a decent impression. The next thing I knew, I was broadcasting games regularly, interviewing players on the field after games and putting together highlight packages of games.

One of my fondest memories came during my sophomore year.

Point Park had an amazing run during the regular season that eventually led to another RSC Championship appearance.

The Pioneers went back and forth in a scoreless game against West Virginia Tech that November afternoon and won on a penalty kick towards the end of regulation.

I was on the field shooting video of the entire game and was with the team as it celebrated the program’s first conference title on the field. I captured the post-game huddles, the coach’s water cooler bath and several interviews with gleaming players afterwards.

It was the only championship I got to cover firsthand during my four years at the school and I’ll never forget that afternoon.

I’ll never forget the press box memories, the walks to Highmark Stadium with way too much equipment or the mistakes that I made on the air that ultimately made me better in the end.

The soccer teams here really gave me my first shot in broadcasting. When I signed off at the end of the game Saturday well past 11 p.m., a flood of all those memories had rushed through my mind.

The end was not ideal, but the journey was amazing. I’m glad that my last game I had the privilege of covering at Highmark Stadium was one where the players showed the heart, fight and passion that it takes to wear a Point Park uniform.

That tradition is something that will never have a “last” moment.