The Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team opens its season Thursday night on the road at Malone University.
Rock men’s soccer is coming off of a year where the team went 14-6 in the regular season and eventually won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship, however after graduations and a coaching change, the 2016 version of the team is looking a lot different from last year.
Taking over the program starting this year is new head coach Steve Small. Small was brought in because he has almost a full decade of experience coaching in the PSAC from his time as an assistant at Millersville University and he knows how to build up a program.
Small thinks this team’s strengths are depth and experience.
“There’s a great returning group,” Small said. “We have a lot of depth on the team this year that I could pretty much put any of those guys on the field and we’d have no issues and we’d be able to go out and compete in every game. We have four seniors this year that we’re going to rely on for leadership and guidance.”
Returning to lead the offense are seniors Mike Pcholinsky and Josh Allman and sophomore Justin Minda. Pcholinsky is the team’s leading scorer returning from last year when he had three goals and two assists, Allman and Minda both finished 2015 with two goals and one assist.
Defensively, The Rock will look to returners junior Patrick Sullivan and sophomores Devin Hoffman and Kenton Keeslar. Keeslar and Hoffman are the only returning players who started in all 20 games last year.
In goal, it is a battle for playing time between juniors Steven Rerick and Jonathan Sharp. Rerick started 10 games last year, going 8-2 with four shutouts and a 0.866 save percentage. Sharp started in one game, giving up two goals and taking the loss.
Small has yet to name a starting goalie, but he is confident that either Rerick or Sharp to be able to win games.
“Right now it’s an open competition,” Small said. “We’ll see who ends up taking the job one day one. I think their camaraderie that they’ve built up between the two of them is absolutely fantastic. The chemistry’s there, they’re supporting each other. You can have goaltenders who are that way and are that hungry to succeed individually but are also happy when the other one does well. You can’t really teach that, that’s something that they just want to do.”
The Green and White open the season on the road at Malone University on Thursday, with their home opener at James Egli Field scheduled for September fourth against Lake Erie College. PSAC play starts on September tenth against Shippensburg University and the team takes one coach Small’s old school, Millersville, September 17th at Millersville.