The Slippery Rock men’s soccer team ended their season on Monday after being denied a spot in the NCAA Division II tournament following a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against Mercyhurst University in the PSAC Championship Game on Sunday.
Mercyhurst took the top seed in the PSACs, followed by West Chester University, Gannon University, Millersville University, California University, and Slippery Rock.
In his third season at SRU, head coach Michael Bonelli led the team into the PSAC playofs for the first time since their 2009 title-winning season under Matt Thompson.
The Green and White’s road to the championship began in the quarterfinal matchup against Gannon last Thursday.
The Rock defeated Gannon 2-1 for the second time this season, this time in double overtime.
Sophomore midfielder Josh Brake found the net first at the 76th minute mark of the game with a header assisted by junior defender Joshua Gray.
Gannon tied the game a few minutes later, pushing the match into overtime.
With just 39 seconds left in play, freshman midfielder Ryan Lutke tallied the game-winning goal for SRU, sending them to back to Erie to face West Chester last Saturday.
Slippery Rock advanced to the title game with a 1-0 win over the Golden Rams thanks to a goal from sophomore forward Stephen Donnelly in the final minutes of the game.
The win gave seniors Clayton Master, Drew Donoghue, Blake McChesney, and Michael Ramirez one final shot at the PSAC title.
“These four seniors have given their lives to Rock soccer,” Bonelli said. “They will all be missed [next season], but not forgotten. They have helped develop our team culture into what it is today.”
The championship game took place at Mercyhurst University at noon on Sunday.
Although the Green and White held the momentum for most of the first half, neither team was able to find the net.
Mercyhurst was awarded a penalty kick in the 67th minute of the game.
Master made a diving save to deny the Lakers the goal and keep the game scoreless.
With six minutes remaining in the game, Ryan Lund scored the game-winning goal for Mercyhurst.
Despite the pressure building of the time clock winding down, Bonelli felt the team held together very well.
“Our team did a great job of keeping our composure and working hard until the final whistle,” Bonelli said.
The Lakers’ Nate Stern received a red card in the 87th minute of the game, but SRU was still unable to get past Merychurst’s Diego Gustin.
The loss dropped the Green and White to an 11-4-6 record this season.
This season’s record tied for the 2nd highest winning percentage since 1982, tied for first in least losses in a season since 1982 at the Rock, and set the school record for most ties in a season.
The season officially concluded Monday night when Slippery Rock was denied a bid to the NCAA Division II tournament.
Bonelli strongly felt that the team was robbed of this opportunity.
“The 2012 Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team earned the right to compete in this year’s national tournament,” Bonelli stated. “I believe the committee made a huge mistake. This decision is inexcusable and a disgrace, but we, as a program, will take the positives and learn from it.”
The NCAA decision will push the Rock to work hard in the weight room and take advantage of every hour on the field that is allowed, Bonelli said.
“Not being picked for the national tournament will sting for a few weeks,” Bonelli admitted, “but it will be great motivation for our program throughout the winter and spring.”
Slippery Rock will look to make another championship run in 2013.