Pioneers end year at No. 26 overall, miss NAIA at-large bid by four spots
Nov. 11, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. ET
The Pioneers end the year at 30-10 and miss an at-large bid to NAIAs at No. 26 overall. Photo by Evan Skowvron.
PITTSBURGH -- Following its runner-up finish at the KIAC Volleyball Tournament on Saturday (Nov. 10), Point Park University held out hopes of an at-large bid to the NAIA national tournament.
But the Pioneers (30-10, 9-1 KIAC), ranked No. 24 in last week's NAIA Top 25 Poll, dropped back two spots to No. 26 overall and in the 'others receiving votes' section of the Final NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Top 25 Poll released by the national office on Sunday (Nov. 11).
When it was all said and done, the Pioneers' slip in the rankings, a few upsets in conference tournaments and one league taking up half of the eight at-large bids had Point Park on the outside looking in for the NAIA national tournament. The Pioneers missed out by four spots.
The No. 26 ranking is the highest ranking the Pioneers have ever had to end a season. Point Park got its first-ever national ranking two weeks ago and got as high as No. 24 last week. The Pioneers had a chance to lock up an automatic bid to nationals if they won the KIAC Tournament, but they narrowly lost, 3-2, to No. 12 IU East (43-3) in the KIAC Finals.
Point Park made the NAIA national tournament for the first time last year as the American Mideast Conference champions. The Pioneers, who lost in the NAIA Opening Round a year ago, joined the KIAC this year because the AMC disbanded.
For a group of nine Point Park seniors, the missing out of the national bid ends their illustrious careers. That group, which elevated the Pioneers' program to the national stage, had an overall record of 127-34 (.788), won one conference championship (2011), finished conference runner-up twice (2009 & 2012) and made the program's only trip to the NAIA national tournament (2011).
The Pioneers' two conference runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2012 were by five-point losses in the fifth set of the conference finals both times. Essentially, the Pioneers were 10 points away from having three NAIA appearances by automatic bid the last four years.
The NAIA national office released the Final Top 25 Poll at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. The final rankings are used to determine the NAIA national qualifiers, which were announced shortly after. The eight at-large bids were given to the eight highest-ranked teams in the final poll that didn't otherwise have an automatic bid locked up.
NAIA No. 22 Vanguard (Calif.) (17-14, 7-7 GSAC) ended up with the final at-large invitation out of the Golden State Athletic Conference. The GSAC, regarded as the best conference in NAIA volleyball including No. 1 Concordia (Calif.), used up four of the eight at-larges -- No. 4 Biola (Calif.), No. 6 The Master's (Calif.), No. 11 Westmont (Calif.) and No. 22 Vanguard (Calif.).
The GSAC league has several very good teams battling for one automatic bid, which was given to GSAC Tournament champ Concordia. Other things that hurt the Pioneers' chances were No. 13 Georgetown (Ky.) and No. 17 Grand View (Iowa) being upset in their conference tournament finals to teams that would not have made it otherwise. Georgetown was upset by Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in the Mid-South Finals while Grand View lost to No. 23 Viterbo in the Mid-Central Conf. Finals.
Point Park's NAIA resume included a 2-4 record vs. the NAIA Top 25 and 2-1 versus teams that were receiving votes. Point Park was 8-3 versus NCAA Division II teams.
Key wins for the Pioneers were a 3-2 win over then-No. 5 Lee (Tenn.) on Oct. 26, and a 3-1 win over then-No. 22 Concordia (Mich.) on Aug. 26. Of Point Park's 10 losses, four came versus the NAIA Top 25 and one each from the NCAA DII and DIII Top 25s.
The 36 NAIA national qualifiers went to the 23 conference tournament champions, four conference runners-up from leagues that had 12+ teams, eight at-large bids and host berth Morningside (Iowa).
The NAIA national tournament begins with the NAIA Opening Round Nov. 17. The final site will include the NAIA Volleyball National Championship at Sioux City, Iowa, from Nov. 26-Dec. 1.
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