The Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team has rightfully earned the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Region in the NCAA Division II Tournament after winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship game last Saturday.
SRU defeated Mercyhurst University in the championship game 3-2 in double overtime. This was the seventh PSAC title in team history, and the first one since 2009. This was head coach Michael Bonelli’s first title.
“It was a monumental moment for our program,” Bonelli said. “We were the better team, we outworked them, and found a way to score the goal.”
SRU junior forward Stephen Donnelly won tournament MVP. He scored two goals, one of them being the game-winner against Mercyhurst. Rock junior midfielder Brandon Chiu had the assist to Donnelly with 5:16 left to play in the game.
“It was great work from Chiu,” Donnelly said. “He won the ball, kicked it right to me, and I hit it in. It was an amazing feeling.”
“The game winning goal was one of the craziest moments of my life,” Chiu said. “I will never forget it, and being able to celebrate it with my teammates is unbelievable.”
SRU junior forward Dom Francis scored the first goal of the game in the 11th minute off of an assist from sophomore forward Peter Boylan. Mercyhurt freshman midfielder Joseph Korb tied the game in the 15th minute off of a free kick.
The Green and White took the lead in the 34th minute when Donnelly scored off of a free kick to give them a 2-1 lead.
Mercyhurst freshman forward Jack Watson responded, tying the game 2-2 off of an assist from junior midfielder Fernando Martinez 2:23 into the period.
Neither team scored during the rest of regulation play or during the first overtime. Chiu stole the ball in the second overtime in Mercyhurst’s zone, passed to Donnelly, and Donnelly sealed the championship for SRU.
“I still can’t believe we did it,” Donnelly said. “It’s a feeling I’ll never forget, and to score the winning goal in double overtime was unreal.”
Bonelli was proud of his team and his two players.
“It’s only fitting that Brandon and Stephen got the game-winning assist and goal,” Bonelli said. “They were a part of my first recruiting class.”
Four athletes received All-Conference honors, announced by the league office on Thursday.
Joshua Gray earned first-team recognition. Declan Brennan, Donnelly, and Francis all earned second-team nods. All four players come from overseas with Gray and Francis coming from England and Donnelly and Brennan coming from Ireland.
SRU will host Millersville University in the second round of the tournament on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. The two teams have played each other twice in the last two weeks, and the Rock has won both games.
“They’re going to be out for revenge,” Donnelly said. “We’ve got to prepare right, and make sure we can make it three in a row.”
Chiu agreed with Donnelly that Millersville will be looking for revenge Saturday.
“The games we played against them have been so close, and both teams are tough competitors, so I’m sure they’ll be looking for some redemption,” Chiu said.
Bonelli had high praise for Millersville, but said that his team is not overlooking them.
“I think Millersville is excited they made it into the tournament, and I think that they deserved to make it,” Bonelli said. “They were very close games, and we’re not taking anyone lightly.”
SRU will host the Sweet 16 and potentially host the Elite 8 next weekend if they can get past Millersville and then the winner of Mercyhurst and Notre Dame.