Key assets return to women’s basketball team to mix with deep roster, new recruits

Written By Allison Schubert, Copy Editor

Women’s basketball head coach Tony Grenek is going into this year looking for an improvement from last season, the first time his team missed the playoffs since his arrival at Point Park in 2011.

Ten players from that team return to this season’s 18-player roster in hopes of making it to the playoffs this year.

Leading the returners are two full-time starters, seniors Maryssa Agurs and Baylee Buleca. Agurs averaged 11 points per game last year and Buleca led the team in rebounds.

“This year, you can expect a lot of grinding out,” Buleca said. “We have a pretty deep team this year, so if one person is down a little bit, we have somebody else to back them up. We have a lot of girls that are willing to put in the hard work this year.”

Also joining the returners this year is 6-foot forward Sam Weir, who started just five games at the beginning of last season before breaking her foot and missing out on the rest of the season.

Weir was an all-conference player her freshman year in 2013-14 and helped lead the Pioneers to an appearance in the national tournament. She played only five games her sophomore year before a season-ending knee injury. She then transferred out of the program, but returned last year.

“It’s obviously huge that Sam Weir is back with us, who has been injury-prone the past few seasons,” Grenek said. “She makes a huge difference. Teams have to focus on her, which opens everything up.”

Senior captain Shaniya Rivers, junior Kaitlyn Smith and sophomore Tyra James are also among those coming back for a chance at the River States Conference (RSC) playoffs.

Despite a list of six seniors this season, Rivers was chosen by Grenek as sole captain of the team.

“Shaniya knows her role,” Grenek said. “She wants to win. She doesn’t care about her stats. She doesn’t care about her playing time. She can play positions one through five on the floor, even though she’s only 5-foot-4. She does whatever is asked of her and nobody works harder than Shaniya. She is, without question, a deserved captain.”

Last year, Ja’Nia McPhatter, Carly Forse and Celina DiPietro all played their last games in a Point Park uniform. McPhatter and Forse both topped 1,000 career point last season and DiPietro was the sole player to start in all 30 games.

With another season also comes a new round of fresh faces, and this season the Pioneers welcomed two transfers and six freshmen.

The Pioneers added speed and height to their roster in transfers Nikki Corcoran, a guard from Pitt-Johnstown, and 6-foot-3 forward Carly Lutz from Slippery Rock University.

“We have a lot of new faces, but I think where we are a step above a lot of teams in our section in how versatile we are,” Smith said. “We have quick guards, a lot of really strong posts – it allows us to play a different style of game. I’m just really excited to see where we can take this season.”

Point Park kicked off its season on the road at the Lawrence Tech Tipoff Classic in Detroit. The Pioneers came home with a 1-1 record to start their season, dropping their first game to Lawrence Tech 73-50, but topping the University of Michigan-Dearborn 72-56.

The Pioneers have just eleven home games this season, but this year “home” is a little different than normal.

For the past 20 years, the women’s basketball team called the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) South campus in West Mifflin its home – a 30-40-minute commute from Point Park. This season, the women will play their home games just five minutes from campus at CCAC Allegheny on the North Side.

The Pioneers played their home opener, and CCAC Allegheny debut, on Sunday afternoon against Georgetown College.

The Pioneers trailed 36-33 at the half, but outscored the Tigers 23-12 in the third quarter to put them ahead 56-48.

The Tigers were able to make a comeback, but the Pioneers held them off and took the victory 72-68.

“Our senior season, our goal is to not lose at home, so it feels really good to get this first win under our belt,” Buleca said.

The game was one of fouls and free throws; the Tigers had 36 team fouls, the Pioneers finished with 25. 28 of Point Park’s total points came from the charity stripe.

Freshman guard Michelle Burns and Buleca led the team with 12 points each. Buleca again led the Pioneers in rebounds with 22, just six shy of a team’s single-game record.

“I think the biggest key to win is to just play our game,” Smith said. “We, as many teams do, have a tendency to either play down to the level of our competition or to get caught up in the game that the opposing team wants us to play. If we play the game that we are capable of playing, our style of play, the way that we practice every single day, no one can beat us. We could be unstoppable.”

In this season’s RSC Preseason Poll, Point Park is picked 8th out of the 13 total teams and next-to-last in the RSC East Division Poll, which is where the Pioneers finished the season last year.

The Pioneers play next on the road Wednesday evening at Penn State-Greater Allegheny and do not return home until their first conference game against Rio Grande Nov. 29.