Point Park Men's Soccer 2011 Season Preview: Pioneers look to make next step
Sept. 1, 2011
PITTSBURGH -- Point Park Univeristy made one of the biggest turnarounds in all of NAIA men's soccer last year, and the Pioneers will try to continue that momentum in 2011. Point Park was 8-9 last year, which was one year after going 1-15-1 in 2009.
While the 8-9 record represented the most wins for Point Park in a dozen years, the Pioneers still fell short of the American Mideast Conference playoffs. This year, with several veterans, 10 of 11 starters returning and some talented newcomers, the Pioneers will look to take the next step and breakthrough in the conference.
Although Point Park was 2-6 in the AMC last year, it was not too far off from being a lot better record-wise. The Pioneers lost four conference games by a single goal, and three of those came in overtime. After starting out 2-2 AMC, Point Park lost its final four conference games. In tough fashion, the Pioneers lost 1-0 at Roberts Wesleyan, 3-2 (2 OT), to Mt. Vernon Nazarene and, 1-0 (OT), to the No. 3 team in the nation, Notre Dame (OH).
With nearly every starter returning -- albeit without its top scorer from 2010 -- Point Park will try to turn those close loses into victories this year. The Pioneers have six seniors who will look to end their careers on a high note.
Fifth year coach Jeroen Walstra has at his disposal several talented returners. Junior midfielder Alex Sala was first team All-AMC last year. The native of Austria is a playmaker for the Pioneers, and will be key in setting up his teammates up front.
Senior Goalkeeper Zeke O'Donnell, a native of Butler, Pa., is back for his third year as a starter, and he was voted All-AMC second team last year with a 1.72 goals-against average. Another strong part of the defense are its returning starters at center back -- Shane Lucas and Andres Escobar -- a pair of All-AMC honorable mention picks. Lucas is from West Homestead while Escobar is from Colombia.
Francis Tabi, from Ghanan, is the top returning scorer with six goals and 17 points in 2010. Joining him up front is fellow returner Matt Annecchiarico, a native of Canada who had four goals and 10 points last year.
The returning starters also include Anthony Russo (D), Matt Dziak (D), Brett Gwosden (D/M), Miguel Alvarez (M) and Phil Malle (D/M). Point Park's defense figures to be solid once again, and the key will be to find someone to replace the scoring of Manuel Schneckenreither up front.
Schneckenreither was an All-AMC second teamer last year and the AMC Freshmen of the Year with 11 goals and 24 points. But he did not return from his native Austria this year, so the Pioneers must look elsewhere for that offensive production.
Left to pick up the scoring slack will be a host of players including Tabi, Annecchiarico and Sala. Being relied on to join the scoring mix will be freshmen Lucas Silva (F), Wendelin Hobel (M/F) and Nick Rembowski (M). Silva is from Brazil, Hobel is from Austria and Rebowski is from North Carolina.