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Match Preview

Point Park (35-5) vs. Holy Names (16-9), NAIA Unaffiliated Group Championship

Nov. 12, 2011, 4 pm (ET), Student Center Gym (330 Blvd. of the Allies)

ON AIR: WPPJ-AM (670) online at www.wppjradio.com


PITTSBURGH -- Point Park University and Holy Names (Calif.) University volleyball teams will square off on Sat., Nov. 12 (4 p.m. ET) in the Unaffiliated Group Championship Match for the right to move on to the NAIA national tournament.

The match will be broadcast live on internet radio by the Point Park student station WPPJ-AM 670. To listen to the play by play action, visit www.wppjradio.com

Both teams have won their respective conferences, with each team hailing from a league that falls short of the required six schools to have an automatic bid to the NAIA tourney.

But no matter, the teams will just have to hurdle one more postseason round in order to reach the national stage. For Point Park, it is the second time in three years that it is within one match of the NAIAs. The Pioneers were within a few points of getting there in 2009 when they lost in the AMC Tournament Finals.

Point Park is 35-5 and won the American Mideast Conference Tournament on its home floor Nov. 8. Holy Names, located in Oakland, Calif., is 16-9 and won the California Pacific Conference with a perfect league record of 10-0.

In taking a look at the matchup, Point Park has the edge with more wins, more matches played and a higher winning percentage. Although Holy Names comes in at 16-9, the Hawks are battled tested.

The Hawks are located in an NAIA volleyball hotbed in the state of California. And although the Cal Pac is not the premier NAIA volleyball conference in the state of California as that would be the Golden State Athletic Conference, Holy Names plays many of those teams in its non-conference schedule.

The Hawks went 6-9 in out-of-conference play and six of those losses were to teams that are currently ranked in the NAIA Top 25, including twice to No. 1 Concordia (Calif.). Holy Names also lost to #6 Azusa Pacific, #9 Rocky Mountain, #10 Vanguard and Cal State-San Marcos, which is receiving votes. The Hawks lost to Point Loma Nazarene, a perennial NAIA Top 10 team that is making the transition to NCAA DII and is unranked because of it.

Point Park comes in with some impressive credentials of its own. Although the Pioneers are among the NAIA leaders in wins and winning percentage, they have not been able to break out of the others receiving votes area of the NAIA Top 25 Poll. They have been rated in that section all year long.

Regardless of being shortchanged in that area, the Pioneers have an opportunity to reach the national stage on their home court Saturday. They come in with impressive statistics both in the team and invidual categories.

The Pioneers are third in the country in blocks per set, ninth in total kills and 10th in hitting percentage. Individually, Point Park players who are among the national leaders are outside hitter Lindsey Oberacker with 526 kills, setter Tayler Pugliese with 1,477 assists and and Nicole Wurstle with 158 total blocks.

Add to that right side hitter Brittany Lhota with here 354 kills and .370 hitting percentage and a back row filled with three-year starters Alyssa Hall, Margaret Gillooly and Amanda Ardinger, and it is a formula for success. The Pioneers are also deep in the middle and outside with front row players Rachel Stedina, Brigette Jones and Chelsea Katkich.

Holy Names' top player is Samantha Miller, a senior outside hitter who has 239 kills (3.14 per set) and 252 digs on the year. Ashley Nickell (OH) has 190 kills, and Rachel Vartanian (MH) has 187 kills and 45 blocks. Kathleen Marusich has 168 kills and a team-high 55 blocks.

The Hawks have two players who have picked up a lot of assists. Junior Mariah Christensen has 519 assists, and freshman Miranda Rodriguez has 256. Libero Kayla Coleman is a senior with a team-high 352 digs.

In the head-coaching matchup, Point Park's Mike Bruno is 168-97 in this his seventh year at Point Park. Holy Names coach Dwight Combs is 56-51 in this his 4th year at the school. Bruno's overall career record in 12 years is 284-155.