PITTSBURGH — Point Park University is just outside the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll released by the national office on Tuesday. The Pioneers are just five votes shy of being nationally ranked and are in the ‘others receiving votes’ section at No. 28 overall.
Point Park is the second team listed in the ‘others receiving votes’ section with a total of 41 votes. Tied for the No. 25 spot with 46 votes are College of Idaho and St. Francis (Ind.).
Point Park fell back from where it was at the end of last year when it was ranked No. 21 in the Final NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll with a 23-7 record and an appearance in the national tournament.
“It’s nice to see that we received some recognition nationally in the rankings,” said Point Park’s second-year head coach Tony Grenek. “However, I felt that we belonged in the Top 25 preseason poll, but obviously, we need to continue to prove ourselves. Hopefully, we will be up for the challenge.”
The Pioneers fell out of the preseason rankings in part because three teams broke into the poll after not being ranked in the final poll last year. No. 22 Taylor (Ind.) (18-13 in ’11-12), No. 23 Saint Mary (Neb.) (22-11) and T-No. 25 St. Francis (Ind.) (19-13) all broke into the Top 25. Each team is coming off a worse record than Point Park and only one of those teams — Saint Mary (Neb.) — made the national tournament with a first-round exit like Point Park.
Also new to the preseason rankings are No. 6 St. Xavier (Ill.) and No. 13 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), two schools that dropped down from NAIA Division I to NAIA Division II.
Point Park has two of five starters returning from last’s year’s team that set a school record for wins, won the American Mideast Conference title and reached the national tournament for the first time ever. But what may have hurt Point Park in the eyes of the Top 25 voters is that their players do not have impressive individual statistics.
Point Park had just one double-digit scorer last year — point guard April Austin (10.8 ppg). And with Austin back as the Pioneers’ top player, they thus have just one returning player who averaged more than 10 points per game. The next top scorers returning are fellow starting guard Emily Schartner (8.6 ppg) and sixth man Katresa Savisky (7.7 ppg), a forward.
But Point Park was able to make its offense stand up last year with a defense that ranked second in NAIA Division II in points allowed at 51.6 ppg. Playing coach Grenek’s hard-nosed defense, the Pioneers set their foundation for success. With 9 of 14 letter winners returning, the Pioneers should be able to produce much of the same defense they did a year ago.
Offensively, Grenek feels the Pioneers are capable of having a couple of the returners join Austin as double-digit scorers as they begin their second year in the program.
Joining Point Park as a team in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that is receiving votes in the preseason poll is defending KIAC champion IU Southeast. The Grenadiers made the national tournament last year and also lost in the first round.
Point Park begins the 2012-13 season Nov. 6 at Wilberforce (6 p.m.). The Pioneers have two preseason scrimmages — Oct. 24 at Pitt-Johnstown (6 p.m.) and Nov. 2 at St. Vincent (7 p.m.). Point Park’s home opener is Nov. 8 vs. Salem International (7 p.m.).