Women's Team Making a National Mark in Basketball and Academics
Pioneer Kristen Veseleny (number 11) on the court.
The Pioneers, who are coming off their most successful season ever at 23-7 last year, were ranked No. 21 in the Final NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll of the 2011-12 season. In addition to that recognition for on-the-court play, Point Park was ranked No. 20 in the country in academics with a team grade-point average of 3.51.
That well-balanced approach is a testament to the program, which broke through to the national stage for the first time last winter with its first-ever trip to the NAIA Division II national tournament. Not only are the Pioneers achieving never-before-seen heights on the court, they are also taking care of business with their school work.
"We want to be known as the premier women's basketball program in the City of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area," said second-year head coach Tony Grenek, whose first season was the magical 2011-12 campaign. "Not only do we want to be a national presence with our play, we also want to be highly ranked in team GPA.
"We did a great job in both areas last year with making the national tournament, and being ranked on and off the court. But there's still room for improvement. We won't be satisfied until we are No. 1 in both categories."
That lofty goal is something that while although seemingly unattainable, it was accomplished this past year by Northwestern (Iowa) College. Northwestern won the NAIA Division II national championship for the third year in a row and also had the best team GPA in the nation a 3.65.
Grenek does not see any reason why the Pioneers can't accomplish that same feat, especially with a roster of great young ladies who represent the school so well.
Grenek was hired as head women's basketball coach in March of 2011. He took over Sam Kosanovich, who stepped down after five years to be the director of Point Park's on-campus Student Center full-time. A women's basketball program that had some down years got on solid footing under Kosanovich, and Grenek's first team was the beneficiary.
The Pioneers have had a winning record the last three seasons, and before that, the program didn't experience a winning season for 15 years.
"I came into a very good situation," said Grenek. "It was a ready-made team with a lot of veterans. Coach Kosanovich built a nice program, and we are very happy to be continuing the improvement of the team."
The 2011-2 season was the best one ever in the history of Point Park women's basketball. The Pioneers set a school record for most wins in a season at 23-7 and won the conference tournament for the first time. The conference championship earned Point Park its first-ever NAIA Division II national tournament invitation. The Pioneers gained entry in the national tournament with a thrilling, 60-48, win over rival Daemen (N.Y.) in the conference finals.
Another first for the Pioneers was cracking the NAIA national rankings for the first time. Point Park spent the last month of the season ranked in the NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll including a No. 21 designation in the final rankings.
Although Point Park lost in the first round of the national tournament to No. 10-ranked Corban (Ore.), 60-58, it put on a good showing by taking a top-10 team to the brink of elimination. Senior center Joncelyn Peterkin had a strong game with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and point guard April Austin had 16 points and went over 1,000 points for her career.
The national tournament experience showed the Pioneers they can compete on the national stage, and they are currently in the midst of the 2012-13 season trying to reach the same destination.
In the Spotlight
Back this year as a returning starter is Austin, an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American who scored 1,013 career points in her first three years on campus. Another returning starter is senior guard Emily Schartner, an NCAA Division I transfer who was the Newcomer of the Year in the conference last year.
The Pioneers had to replace three senior starters from last year's team including Peterkin, a 6-2 center who signed a pro basketball contract in Latvia after graduation. Other senior leaders for the Pioneers were Kristen Beatty and Kristen Veseleny. Katresa Savisky, last year's sixth man, is a returning player this season.
"Reaching the national tournament last year impacted our program in a very positive way," said Grenek. "All our returners want to go back, and they are so hungry to get back there. They are really taking pride in the program, and it's a great feeling as a coach to have that be the case."
For more news about Pioneer athletics, visit www.pointpark.edu/athletics
Text and photo by Kevin Taylor, director of athletic communications
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University