If you would have told Point Park women's basketball coach Tony Grenek his team would be undefeated heading into the new year, he would not have believed you.
But the Pioneers boast a 12-0 record as the No. 21-ranked team in NAIA Division II, tied for the highest ranking in school history. Point Park is one of only three remaining undefeated teams in NAIA Division II, joining No. 1 Saint Francis (Ind.) and No. 2 Northwestern (Iowa).
The team has continued the best start in school history by adjusting to any style of play an opponent might throw at them.
"We can play fast if we want. We can play big if we want," Grenek said. "That's a credit to our team and their focus and also a credit to our depth."
Grenek quickly found out how much depth he had as a result of multiple injuries.
Junior all-conference forward Ja'Nia McPhatter, the team's leading scorer and rebounder from last season, has yet to take the floor due to a foot injury. Freshman guard Celina DiPietro, a member of last year's state champion Bishop Canevin team, started the first eight games but could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
These losses are in addition to seniors Katresa Savisky and Teresa Davis missing time earlier this year. When key players went down, it gave a talented freshman class the opportunity to shine.
"They're used to winning and they come from winning programs," Grenek said. "Even though they are freshmen, they play like experienced players because they've been in many big games at their high schools where they came from."
The biggest freshman player in height and performance has been 6-foot center Sam Weir.
Weir leads the Pioneers with 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. She is also second in the country with 3.5 blocks per game.
"The sky's the limit. The kid is a super talent," Grenek said. "You're probably going to be looking at an All-American here in the near future."
Weir transferred to Point Park from Seton Hill, where she did not appear in any games last season. She found a new sense of focus upon joining the Pioneers.
"I feel like I've been working a lot harder than I ever have," Weir said. "I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to do down low. With so many injuries, it's imperative that I and the rest of the team step up."
The post presence of Weir, along with a strong overall frontcourt, has allowed Point Park to dominate inside. The Pioneers rank second in the country with 18.4 offensive rebounds per game, a big reason the winning streak has continued even on poor shooting nights.
"When you're open, we want you to shoot the ball because there's a very good chance with our post players we're going to get the offensive rebound," Grenek said. "That's been huge for us this year."
The Pioneers won, 65-57, Dec. 19 against Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio), but they do not play again until Jan. 4 when they take on Indiana University Southeast. Grenek sees the break as a good opportunity to get away from basketball before the toughest stretch of the season.
"I'm a big believer in needing those days off over the holidays for the kids to get focused and reenergized," Grenek said. "I don't think we'll have any problems being focused when we come back. I think this layoff is going to do us good, maybe not so much physically, but mentally."
"It's important we come back even stronger than before," Weir said. "We need to make sure we keep improving. Once we improve on a couple little things, we're going to be unstoppable."