Women’s Volleyball features talent from all-around the globe

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

The Pioneers have been racking up wins and have been running the River States Conference (RSC). The Pioneers are the number one team in the conference, holding a perfect winning percentage so far in conference play.

The Pioneers won their first 14 conference games, making them 21-5. One of their wins came from a victory over RSC rival IU Kokomo.

“It was the 5th set and everybody was thinking that we were about to lose the game,” sophomore Giulia Follador said. “We got back seven points in a row. That adrenaline that I had in that game, it was fire.”

Follador added that the team wanted to show what they had to offer.

“We were ready mentally, physically, and we knew that it needed to be done,” Follador said. “We wanted to make a statement in the conference and not only in the conference but also in national rankings. We wanted to see the results of our effort.”

This is Point Park’s best start in River States Conference play since 2016, when the team won their first 8 conference games, starting with a 13-1 record through 14 games.

Point Park’s winning can be attributed to the coaches, players, and fan support. The Pioneers defeated Rio Grande and WVU Tech, sweeping both teams 3-0. The Pioneers have won 13 straight sets.

The 1st place Pioneers rosters players not only from the Pennsylvania area but also players from all over the world and country. Junior Kassandra Tejeda transferred to Point Park this season from Antelope Valley, which is in Los Angeles, California, where she grew up. Tejeda credits the success to the team’s competitiveness.

“Everyone knows that we’re the team to beat and everyone wants to beat us because we’ve gone this far and have been undefeated,” Tejeda said. “I would say there is pressure, but we don’t let it influence the way that we play. We just play our game and we know that we can work hard and do everything we can to get what we want.”

Tejeda moved to Point Park in the summer this year. One of the difficulties Tejeda underwent was adjusting to the high pace play of the RSC.

“I definitely had to work harder than I normally would just to catch up and to get to where I want it to be to make sure that I get my blocks closed or make sure that I get back so that way I can actually be an option to hit,” Tejeda said. “I’m still working on it too. It’s a never-ending process of just wanting to get to where I want to be and just really having to work hard to get there.”

Tejeda has been a part of the success of the Pioneers. She leads the team sets played and has tallied 94 kills so far throughout the season.

Volleyball is one thing Tejeda adjusted to, but moving across the country had some difficulties. She lived in the desert portion of Califonia and so the weather felt a bit more humid. She also said that there were cultural differences in Pittsburgh. She said that her teammates helped her adjust to living on the East Coast.

“They’ve definitely helped me adjust quite a bit,” Tejeda said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have adjusted as well as I have, so I definitely appreciate them for taking me in and making this feel like a home for me.”

Tejeda added that her family gives her a support system that gives her the motivation and drive to play the sport and succeed.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would be where I am and I don’t think I would have believed in myself to be to get this far in my volleyball career,” Tejeda said. “I am very grateful for my family for making the sacrifices that they did to get me here.”

Melissa Schroeder also plays a big role on the team. She is tied with Tejeda for the most sets played with 94 and she mustered 166 kills so far on the season. She is 3rd on the team with a. 306 kill percentage.

“We hold ourselves to a high standard, and we want to show everybody what we are able to do and so far, we have been showing everybody how well we’re working as a team,” Schroeder said. “We just can’t wait to start the playoffs and we’re excited for that.”

Schroeder is from Frankfurt, Germany, and played her first two seasons at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado. Schroeder said that making the move to Point Park was one of the best decisions she made. She said that she enjoys playing for head coach Bridget Bielich and assistant coach Destiny Tucker.

“When talking with coach B, I felt this family environment and her competitiveness,” Schroeder said. “I felt like this is a very good fit for me, because I’m far away from home. I’m an international student too, so that was important that it feels like home and to have a good support system.”

Schroeder loves the competitiveness and grit of the volleyball team. She said she enjoys seeing their ambition and how they set goals.

The Pioneers have their eyes set on finishing with an undefeated conference record. Schroeder said she’s happy she gets to win with her team but also gets the chance to focus on school.

“It was like a dream for me that came through because here in the United States, I can play volleyball and study at the same time, and at home, I would have to choose between only volleyball or only school,” Schroeder said. “I had to choose school because education is important. I just love that we have the opportunity here to travel and see so many beautiful places and have the school supporting us in volleyball and having a good balance.”

Schroeder added that her teammates have been a huge help in her moving to Pittsburgh and she loves that she has teammates with the common interest of playing volleyball.”

“I can always reach out to them,” Schroeder said. “They’re always helping me and they’re reaching out to me asking how I’m doing and it’s very nice to have an even closer family.

Despite having a family atmosphere at Point Park, she too said that her family is her biggest supporter. She added that they will stay up to watch the games online until 2 A.M. because of the time difference.

“Without them supporting me, I don’t think I would have ever made it this far, with general studying here in the United States, while also being emotionally calm without their support,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said she’s excited to play in the playoffs on her home court and she said she loves having coaches that help her on and off the court.

“They have an open door policy,” Schroeder said. “Sometimes when you don’t feel and when you’re homesick or just in general, there’s a lot of things on your mind that you can go talk to them, and they always give you good advice and try to help you out as much as possible.”

Sophomore Giulia Follador also made the trip from Europe to the United States. Follador is from Turin, Italy and she made quite the impact so far, notching 214 kills so far, which is 3rd on the team, while also maintaining 2.4 kills per set, which is the 2nd best on the team.

“I feel that the team cohesion that we have right now is playing a big role,” Follador said. “We’ve been practicing really hard and our coach has been really good and makes us practice hard.”

Follador added that the team is the target team to beat, but she said that it gives them the incentive to play even harder, proving that they’re the best.

Last season, Follador played at Xavier University, in Louisiana. Although the weather is a lot colder in Pittsburgh, Follador said that the people of Pittsburgh have all been welcoming and friendly.

“I love the city,” Follador said. “It’s such a small city vibe, and everybody’s been so great. The university also felt like a family. Every single sport is very, very close to each other. Everybody supports each other.”

Follador said that there was a culture shock when she moved to the United States, but she is now used to living in the states. Her teammates, coaches, and professors have been a huge help since making the move.

“Everybody has been so helpful with the transportation or also from very basic things like finding a pair of shoes that I need for a game or whatever it is necessary,” Follador said. “They have always been there for me, so I’m thankful for that.”

Adjusting to the city was not an issue for her, but Follador does miss her family and that is the one thing she misses the most.

“My family has been great,” Follador said. “If it wasn’t for them, I would probably never be here. Their support financially, mentally it’s just always been there and it’s the thing that actually made me get through the days and I can’t wait to go back home just to see them.”

Follador’s family will also stay up into the wee-hours in the morning to watch her play in her volleyball games.

Overall, the Pioneers feature players from all over the world and their talent has been on full display. The team looks to make a playoff push, and win the RSC. Follador said she wants her teammates to know that she has their backs and Schroeder said that the coaches want them to be motivated and they want them to stay in the driver’s seat.

“It only goes up from here in any way,” Tejeda said. “We’ve worked so hard to get to where we are, we’re only going to work harder to get farther because we’ve made it this far. For me personally, I will continue to work hard and I just want to be the best that I possibly can for the remainder of the season.”