No. 22 Point Park University opens 2013 season Aug. 23-24 at UMD Early Bird
Aug. 22, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Watch head coach Mike Bruno's preseason interview on our YouTube Channel.
PITTSBURGH -- The Point Park University volleyball team, which is ranked No. 22 in the NAIA Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll (Aug. 20), is set to begin the 2013 season at the Early Bird Tournament Aug. 23-24 hosted by the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
The Pioneers, under the direction of ninth-year head coach Mike Bruno, have a few returning starters from last year but are also experiencing a great deal of roster turnover. The Pioneers graduated nine seniors (seven letter winners) who were a combined 127-34 (.788) the last four years.
But returning starters and senior captains Nicole Wurstle (RH) and Chelsea Katkich (OH) along with a recruiting class deep with transfers, the Pioneers are hoping to pick up where they left off the last few years.
Point Park was 30-10 overall and 9-1 KIAC last year. The Pioneers reached the KIAC Tournament Finals, where they lost to IU East, 3-2. Although they finished one match short of a return trip to the NAIA national tournament in 2012, the Pioneers broke into the NAIA Top 25 rankings for the first time ever, reaching as high as No. 24 late in the year.
Now ranked No. 22 in the 2013 preseason, the Pioneers have the task of coming together with a roster that has a lot of new faces but also plenty of talent and athleticism.
"We had a good couple of weeks in the gym, and we are looking forward to opening up at Michigan-Dearborn," said coach Bruno. "We may have lost some height that we've had the last few years, but we are very athletic, and I don't think we are going to skip a beat in terms of the direction of the program."
The following is a Season Outlook & Position Breakdown for the Pioneers. Watch head coach Mike Bruno's 2013 Preseason Interview on the athletics YouTube Channel for commentary on the team and personnel.
Season Outlook & Position Breakdown
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Katkich is the top returning kill producer, and she was third on the Pioneers last year with a career-high 296 kills. The 6-0 Katkich is a former all-state player at West Allegheny High School, and she has been a starter virtually her whole career.
The Pioneers have 2 of 6 starters returning with the other returning starter being senior right-side hitter Nicole Wurstle, who was All-KIAC First Team last year. The Valley City, Ohio, native is 6-foot-1 and has also been a starter her whole career. She posted 293 kills, 115 blocks and an impressive hitting percentage of .441 to lead the team.
Point Park has a new setter with sophomore Cara Bradley, from Fleetwood, Pa., taking over the reigns of the offense. The 5-10 Bradley was a two-time all-state player at Brandywine Heights (Pa.) High School, where she set for the PIAA Class AA state championship team as a senior in 2011. She got in nine matches as a freshman with 101 total assists last year.
At middle hitter, the Pioneers will look to a couple of junior college transfers in sophomore Cristiane Chaves, a 6-3 native of Brazil who was at Indian Hills (Iowa) CC, and junior Roxanne Grundmeier, a 5-10 native of Schaller, Iowa, who was at Des Moines Area CC. Chaves totaled 230 kills and 122 blocks as a freshmen at Indian Hills CC. Grundmeier is a two-time NJCAA all-region player at DMACC.
Another outside hitter besides Katkich is freshman Shiloh Simonson, a Peters Township High School grad who won the other starting outside hitter spot in preseason camp. The 5-9 Simonson was an all-state player for Peters Twp., and coach Bruno feels he has one of the top 2013 graduates from the WPIAL with that addition due to her six-rotation ability.
Defensively, the Pioneers lost their entire back row to graduation. Amanda Ardinger, Margaret Gillooly and Alyssa Hall were a trio that started all four years. But the defense has been re-stocked and will be in the hands mainly of a couple of transfers and three sophomores, who will be battling for time.
Junior-college transfer Olivia Fisher, a Janesville, Iowa, native, won the libero job, and she is a former NJCAA all-region player at Des Moines Area CC like Grundmeier. She had 393 kills and 517 digs in her best year at DMACC.
Fellow incoming transfer Paige Baker is a sophomore who played at NCAA Division II Seton Hill as a freshman. The 5-7 Baker is listed as an outside hitter, but she will be mainly utilized in the back row as a defensive specialist. A native of Kittanning, Pa., she was a four-time all-state player at Elderton High School.
The remainder of the back row has been a competition of sophomore defensive specialists Kelsey Veydt (Cecil, Pa./Canon-McMillan HS) and Dana Fitzgerald (Beaver, Pa./Beaver HS) as well as sophomore outside hitter Isabella Vavrek (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell HS).
Like Baker, Vavrek is on the depth chart at outside hitter behind Katkich and Simonson but will also be in the mix on defense. Vavrek was an all-state player at Hopewell HS while Veydt and Fitzgerald were both WPIAL all-section players in high school.
Adding depth at middle- and right-side hitter is redshirt freshman Nikki Inquartano, who is 6-1 and a Shaler Area High School product. More depth at the net comes in the form of freshman middle hitter Katie Baynum, a 6-footer from York, Pa., and freshman outside hitter Harley Skibicki, a 5-10 native of Butler, Pa.
The backup setter is Barbara Andrade, a sophomore from Brazil who spent her freshman season at Lake Land (IL) College on the junior-college level. Andrade totaled 523 total assists as the setter for Lake Land last year.
Chief among the graduated players lost for the Pioneers is former team captain Lindsey Oberacker. She was a two-time NAIA Honorable Mention All-American and two-time Capital One (R) First Team Academic All-American who put up 1,855 kills, 1,060 digs and 333 blocks as a four-year starter.
A big reason why the Pioneers ranked No. 2 in the NAIA in total blocks last year with 375.50 was because of 6-3 middle hitter Livia Caluori, who was an NAIA Third Team All-American in her only year at Point Park in 2012. The native of Switzerland had 342 kills and 159 total blocks last year.
The third starter that Point Park must replace is honorable mention all-region setter Tayler Pugliese, who was 21st in the NAIA in total assists last year with 1,319. Pugliese was the starter for the last two years and was on the All-KIAC First Team along with Oberacker, Caluori and Wurstle.
Follow the Pioneers all season long online at www.PointPark.edu/Athletics. Follow @PointParkSports and @PointParkVB on Twitter for updates.