Following the NCAA violation by West Chester University, the Slippery Rock men’s soccer team moved up to the second-seed in PSAC rankings and earned a bye into the semi-finals.
West Chester was forced to forfeit their final two conference games due to a player violation. SRU was originally ranked fourth and scheduled to play in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Junior forward Dom Francis feels the added rest will help the team.
“We were all looking forward to the quarterfinal game, but now the rest will help us prepare,” Francis said.
Head coach Michael Bonelli said that his team is not concerned with rankings and seeding.
“It gives us a couple of more days to prepare, but we’re going to play whoever they give us; we’re not concerned with the seeding,” Bonelli said.
Francis earned the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Athlete of the Week because of his late-game heroics in SRU’s game against Millersville University last week.
Francis is second on the team with five goals, four assists, and 29 shots-on-goal this season.
“It’s a great honor to be PSAC Athlete of the Week,” Francis said. “It shows that my hard work in practice is paying off for myself and for my team.”
In last week’s game against Millersville University, Francis scored the game-winning goal with eight seconds left.
Bonelli said that Francis is having a great season and is a big time player.
“Dom is a great attacking player. He’s very good in one-on-one situations,” Bonelli said. “He’s on another level this season. It was a big time play from a big time player.”
The Rock’s last game of the regular season ended in a tie with Shippensburg University 1-1 in double overtime Saturday. The first goal of the game came from Shippensburg junior forward Derrick Roy. He scored off of a penalty kick with 28 seconds left in the first half of the game. It was Roy’s 11th goal of the season. SRU sophomore midfielder Ryan Lutke tied the game up in the 77th minute off of an assist from junior defender Declan Brennan.
SRU senior goalkeeper Joe Agerskow made his first start since the beginning of the season and made 11 saves. Shippensburg senior goalkeeper Clay Sale made seven saves. Shippensburg had 29 shots-on-goal, while SRU had 19.
The one point scored earned the Green and White a home playoff game.
The Rock ends the regular season ranked number 24 in Division II. They finished the season with a record of 12-3-2 overall and a PSAC conference record of 7-3-1. They were 5-3 at home and 7-0-2 away.
SRU was ranked eighth at one point in the season, but slipped out of the rankings last week. With their win over Millersville and the tie at Shippensburg they moved back into the rankings. SRU is one of three PSAC teams and four Atlantic Region teams ranked in the top-25.
Bonelli thinks that his team was a top-25 team all season.
“Throughout the regular season we were a top-25 team in the nation,” Bonelli said. “We embrace it for a little while and enjoy it, but then we focus on the next game.”
The Green and White’s first playoff game will be at Mercyhurst against Millersville in the semifinals at 2 p.m. today.
Bonelli said that his team does take into account their game against Millersville last week, but that it doesn’t matter who they play.
“It’s obviously a higher-level game; we’re one of only two teams to qualify for the PSAC semifinals three of the last four years,” Bonelli said. “Our goal is to win the PSAC over whoever they put in front of us, but of course we put some stock in the game against Millersville last week.”
Mercyhurst has the first seed in the playoffs and will host West Chester for a semifinal game at 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner of each game will square off for the PSAC title at 1 p.m. on Saturday.