Conner Kelly talks about his time playing soccer for Point Park


Photo by Submitted by Conner Kelly

Conner Kelly runs down the field in the rain at Highmark Stadium.

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Pioneers senior defenseman Conner Kelly laced up the spikes and hit the soccer field for the first time for the Pioneers in 2019. Kelly tallied 3 goals, 8 assists, and 14 points during his time with Point Park.

The decision to go to Point Park was not a tough one. Kelly went to Beaver Area High School, a school that recently found success in the WPIAL, making the WPIAL finals this year. When Kelly was there, the team was a mainstay in the playoffs.

Beaver Area is a local school outside of Pittsburgh, which is not too far from Point Park. Kelly decided to attend Point Park as the school offered Kelly the major he wanted which is Broadcast Production and Media Management.

“I chose to go here for my major and to be able to play soccer at a competitive level,” Kelly said. “Being close to home helps as well, not too close, not too far, plus I love the city. “

Kelly got to play under the lights with the city in the distance at Highmark Stadium. Nevertheless, he didn’t get to do so his first year since he was redshirted in his first season.

“My first coach at Point Park, Jeroen Walstra, he redshirted me my freshman year which sucked, but it motivated me to get bigger, to get better,” Kelly said. “He rewarded my hard work in my redshirt freshman season trusting me to start and he was someone I wanted to play for, to prove him right and earn his trust.”

Kelly took no time to make an impact as he started in 7 games in the first season he played. Adjusting to the college level, however, had its ups and downs.

“I was in a good class of kids in Beaver in terms of skill level, which helped with the transition, but it was still pretty steep with the diversity of Point Park,” Kelly said. “Kids from all across the planet were on the team, and it was intimidating. Definitely took a little time.”

Nonetheless, Kelly overcame the competition and helped hold down the Pioneers’ defense on the winningest soccer team in Point Park history. Point Park finished 15-3, along with a 7-2 conference record, and shut out 7 opponents along the way.

“My defining moment was being a starter in 2019 my first year playing while being on the winningest team in Point Park history at 15-3 and just being able to make history for Point Park, it’s special,” Kelly said.

In his sophomore year in 2020, Kelly notched the first goal of his career. Nonetheless, Kelly said that since the goal was a tap-in, he wasn’t too excited. He focuses more on the defensive side of the game.

The 2020 season was a success for the Pioneers as they made it all the way to the River States Conference (RSC) semifinals.

Kelly had his best season during his junior year. Not only did he anchor down the defense, but Kelly also found the score column, scoring 2 goals. He tallied 3 assists, and 7 points in 16 games played. He started in 13 of those games.

“That was the best part, knowing that it’s not a fluke that you are out there, and that you are truly contributing to the team,” Kelly said. “It is a very proud feeling and gives you a great deal of confidence which helps everywhere.”

In his last season, the Pioneers finished 6-9-1, missing the playoffs. However, soccer holds a special place in his heart and he is thankful for his teammates.

“A lot of them always made sure I was getting the work in and encouraged me to be better, and just by being good friends, it’s nice being able to play alongside people you truly enjoy,” Kelly said. “Same with Coaches, it was nice to have a relationship and to play for someone who cared about you.”

His teammates played a role in his success at Point Park, but he’s most grateful for his family as they have helped him throughout the years.

“I realized once I got to college how important they are, and it’s a staple of mine to stay close to my family,” Kelly said. “I am lucky to have such great people in my life who support me all the time. Beyond immediate family too, a family name kind of thing, broad-reaching. But I have always had a close bond with everyone in my family since I was little. I’m blessed with a great family tree.”

Kelly earned opportunities off the field at Point Park too. He is the vice president of the Sports Communication Club and he is also an Athletic Department Apprentice.

“I am planning on staying here and working in my major at my current job at Creatives Drink,” Kelly said. “I will keep playing just for the love of being able to play, and hopefully, build something nice here in five years’ time. I love it here.”