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Dziak glad he stuck around at Point Park

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 7:21 p.m.
Point Park Athletics
Point Park's Matt Dziak (14) defends against Luiz Filho (9) of Rio Grande, the leading scorer in the NAIA, during the Pioneers' 2-1 loss in a first-round game of the NAIA Tournament on Nov. 9.

With the outcome of a recent men's soccer game securely in favor of Point Park University, Matt Dziak's teammates offered the senior defender a chance to notch his second career goal on a penalty kick attempt.

Dziak refused.

“They said, ‘Why don't you take it?' ” Point Park coach Jeroen Walstra recalled. “The players gave him the opportunity to score a goal for a game we knew we were going to win, but he just politely declined and wanted someone else to get it. That's the kind of guy he is. He never wants to be in the center of attention.”

It's too late for that.

Dziak, who attended East Allegheny, came away from his senior season at NAIA Point Park as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

“He's extremely modest,” Walstra said. “He wasn't even at the awards ceremony. He just doesn't want the attention. It's his personality.”

It was difficult not to notice Dziak just the same. Walstra said the player's work ethic is second to none.

“He works his butt off,” the coach said. “He's in the gym all the time. He's very fit and has good technique.”

Walstra said Dziak would give himself up to stop a shot.

“He was never injured,” Walstra said. “Or if he was, he wouldn't show it. He's a very, very tough kid who always seemed to be positioned very well. He's a smart player.”

Walstra, who completed his sixth season as men's coach at Point Park, was named the KIAC Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 12-7-1 record and a spot in the NAIA Tournament. He previously coached the Pioneers women's team and continues as an assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League Pro Division.

Dziak, a central defender, is one of three Point Park players named to the KIAC all-conference team, joining sophomore center midfielder Jonty Loukes and junior forward Ousman Jaiteh.

“After my first year at Point Park, I started to gain more confidence,” Dziak said. “I felt more at home. I got closer to the other players. I wasn't as nervous. By my senior year, I had experienced a lot and overcame anything that may have been an obstacle to me before.”

Dziak, along with best friend, senior Brett Gwosden, from Serra Catholic, went to Point Park to play soccer on a recommendation from his former Penns Forest traveling team coach Lucky Russel.

“If not for him,” Dziak said of Russel, “I probably wouldn't have gone here. I've played for him for a lot of different teams through the years.”

While he's done well on the field, Dziak was turning his attention to the future.

“I'm retiring from soccer,” he said. “Once I graduate, I'm going to try to attend the police academy and maybe get into local law enforcement.”

Dziak wasn't always comfortable with his college choice. He said he didn't adapt well to Point Park's city setting in Pittsburgh.

“When I got here, I was miserable,” he said. “But I stuck with it. I'm glad I did. Once I got to know where I was in the downtown areas, I loved the scene. I love doing things like getting pizza at 3 o'clock in the morning. The school has grown so much just since I've been here. You can see them trying to build a campus environment. Honestly, I wouldn't have wanted to go anywhere else.”

Dziak was part of an infusion of players to come into Walstra's program and reform Point Park into a conference competitor.

The Pioneers went from a 1-15-1 record in 2009, when they competed in the defunct American Mideast Conference, to a team that has won 35 games over the past three seasons while transitioning into the KIAC.

“The fact that we've begun to play at the Riverhounds (Highmark) stadium will help us in the future,” Walstra said. “It was great that guys like Matt was willing to sit through the process of us growing. It wasn't easy, but it has clearly helped us. As a result, we've been able to draw a lot of players from other countries, as well as attracting other quality players from America.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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