Point Park draws No. 2 Rio Grande in NAIA National Championship Opening Round
Nov. 18, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Point Park University men's soccer team has drawn No. 2 University of Rio Grande (Ohio) in the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Opening Round. The 32-team, national tournament bracket was unveiled on NAIA.org with the National Championship Selection Show on Monday afternoon.
The unranked Pioneers (12-6-1, 4-0-0 KIAC), champions of the Unaffiliated KIAC/GCAC Tournament, will visit No. 2-ranked Rio Grande (15-2-2, 7-0-2 Mid South Conf.) on Saturday, Nov. 23 in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. Kickoff is 1 p.m. in Rio Grande, Ohio.
The Point Park-Rio Grande winner will advance to the NAIA National Championship final site Dec. 2-7 in Montgomery, Ala., where the final 16 teams will play it off to determine a national champion. The round of 16 opponent would be No. 12 Embry Riddle (Fla.) (13-3-0) or unranked George Gwinnett (15-4).
Rio Grande is no stranger to the national tournament with its 13th NAIA appearance all-time, which is second most among this year's national qualifiers. The Red Storm spent much of this year ranked No. 1 in the NAIA, and they jumped up four spots to No. 2 in the final Top 25 Poll released Sunday after they won the Mid South Conference Tournament championship.
Point Park is in the national tournament for the second year in a row and the second time in school history. The Pioneers are one of 19 teams in this year's 32-team field that was also in the tournament in 2012. Point Park, winners of back-to-back conference championships, enter the national tournament with victories in nine of their last 10 games.
Point Park has once again drawn a top team in the national tournament. Point Park lost in the first round last year to then-No. 1 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), 7-2. Point Park will be looking for a different result this year, and also a different result from when it played at Rio Grande earlier this year.
The Pioneers lost at Rio Grande, 6-0, on Sept. 29 of this season when Rio Grande was ranked No. 3. The Red Storm scored three goals in each half and got their top-ranked scoring offense going in the win. Rio Grande leads the country with 74 total goals and ranks second in the NAIA with 3.89 goals per game.
Rio Grande forward Luiz Filho leads the country with 27 goals, and he had three in the victory over Point Park Sept. 29. Luiz Delgado Rodriguez has 14 goals on the year with two coming versus Point Park.
Point Park is not too far behind offensively ranking seventh in the NAIA in total goals with 66 and eighth nationally with 3.47 goals per game. The Pioneers have balanced out the scoring with seven different players having at least six goals on the year. Defensively, Point Park has given up 27 goals in 19 games whereas Rio Grande has just 13 goals against in the same amount of games.
"It is a familiar opponent given that we've played them this year and have played them in the past," said Point Park head coach Jeroen Walstra. "We know what they are going to do, we know the kind of team they have and the attack they have. They are a very good team, and they are in the national tournament every year. But the game will start at 0-0, we will be up to the challenge. We've been practicing the last two weeks preparing to play them."
Point Park has been off since Nov. 9 when it beat Asbury (Ky.), 2-1, in the KIAC/GCAC Tournament Finals. The NAIA tends to keep teams as close to home as possible in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round, and given that the KIAC does not have any ranked teams, the KIAC/GCAC champion was sure to draw a highly ranked team. That indicated a likely matchup with Rio Grande or possibly last year's opponent Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), currently No. 4 in the nation.
Check back later in the week for coverage of the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Opening Round. Rio Grande will likely have Live Video on its iHigh.com channel as well as Live Stats via Dakstats, the official stat provider of the NAIA. Click below for links to follow the men's soccer national tournament.