Rock sets sights on improvement
Brian Hepfinger, Rocket Contributor
August 29, 2013
Filed under Sports
The Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team is ready to make another run at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship title after falling short last season.
The Green and White have been picked to finish fifth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Head coach Michael Bonelli said that the rankings do not mean too much to himself or his team.
“We don’t put too much stock in the rankings,” Bonelli said. “The PSAC is a great conference and we’re going for a championship this season.”
As a coach, Bonelli stands firm with his goals and expectations for the team.
“The goals are very high,” Bonelli said. “We want to win the PSAC. The table’s set for us to do that, but we have a lot of hard work to put in.”
The Rock lost four games last season with an overall record of 11-4-6. Their season ended with a loss in the PSAC championship game.
The 2013 roster includes 19 returning players from last season and nine new players. Seven of last year’s top eight scorers for the men are back for another season.
SRU’s leading scorer, junior forward Stephen Donnelly, had six goals and two assists last season.
Bonelli said that the team’s chemistry is coming together nicely with the help of the veteran players.
“We have such a strong culture that the new players are acclimated right away,” Bonelli said.
The team’s mentoring system has also proven to be beneficial towards improving the team’s chemistry, Bonelli said.
“There are peer mentors on the team that reach out to the new players right away after they commit so that they come into preseason camp knowing and feeling comfortable with the team,” Bonelli said.
Senior defender Josh Gray will be leading the way on the back line once again this season. Gray is confident in himself and his team for this upcoming season.
“As captain I am looking to lead our team to a PSAC title,” Gray said. “I know our team is one of the best at the Division-II level, and we are looking great in pre-season. “
Bonelli said that while the team lost to Wright State 1-0 and tied Robert Morris 2-2 in the preseason, he was impressed with the team’s performance.
Rock midfielders will face the most competition for time this season. Starters at midfielder include juniors Anthony Jack and Brandon Chiu, sophomore Ryan Lutke and senior Mike Roopchandsingh. There are eight other players competing for the position.
Senior forward Michael Ramirez said that the team is ready to play well and that they expect to be one of the top teams in the conference. Ramirez scored four goals and had two assists last season.
“We are a very tightly knit team and that’s what makes us, I think, one of the best teams in the PSAC,” Ramirez said.
The team will start the season on the road for their first three games. They face Lake Erie College on September 5 for their first game and return home Septermber 17 to face West Virginia Wesleyan.