Coming off of a conference championship the year before and behind a first-year head coach, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team fell short of expectations in 2016. The team finished with a 5-9-2 overall record and a 4-5-2 record in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
Rock head coach Steve Small was in his first year as a head coach after spending a number of years as an assistant at Millersville University and said that the experience was not unlike what he was expecting.
“I enjoyed myself. The team’s been fantastic, I had a good staff under me, the athletic department has been very supportive across the board, top to bottom and the school’s been very supportive,” Small said. “[Being the head coach] was different with how much responsibility goes into everything. I knew how much went into it, but I didn’t realize to the extent of everything. The most different part is just being in the office everyday and hot having to go to another job and just being able to focus on this day in and day out.”
Senior Josh Allman thought that with a new head coach the seniors on the teams had more responsibility in terms of leadership this year.
“I think that with there being a new head coach it was more of a group effort,” Allman said. “Me being a senior and also a captain I feel like we were in it together with him. It was interesting, I gave me a different point of view of things.”
The biggest weakness of The Rock this year was the offense. SRU was ranked second to last in the PSAC in goals per game, scoring just over one goal per game. The leading scorer for the Rock was senior Jacob Theil, who scored four goals and eight total points. Also contributing were sophomores Justin Midna (two goals, three assists, seven points) and George Oakley (four assists, four points) and senior captain Mike Pcholinsky (three assists, three points).
The biggest standout for the Green and White was defender Patrick Sullivan, who was named to the second team All-PSAC roster following the season. Sullivan started in 15 of 16 games and has been a stalwart on The Rock’s defense since transferring to SRU prior to the 2015 season, starting in 32 of 33 career games.
“He was our rock in the back, playing centerback all year. He was our rock in the back, leader, captain and did a phenomenal job back there with just his presence and leadership skills and the guys really responded well when he said things,” Small said. “He led by example. He put in the effort day in and day out. Even there were some days where his knees were struggling a bit he still stepped up and did a fantastic job and put the effort in.”
Also having good years for SRU was the goalkeeping tandem of juniors Jonathan Sharp and Steven Rerick. Sharp and Rerick split time in goal all year, with Rerick starting seven games and Sharp starting eight. Rerick made 39 saves with a 1.49 goals against average and a .780 save percentage and Sharp made 30 saves with a 1.33 goals against average and a .750 save percentage.
Small said that he thought the healthy competition between them all year helped each of them to become better players.
“Their work ethics and the way they pushed each other all year was fantastic. I had no problem putting either one in the game,” Small said. “I think all the goalkeepers across the board did a fantastic job and pushed each other and developed very well. I think we have a very good group of goalkeepers.”
Allman said that despite not having as successful a season as they wanted the team stuck together and played hard through to the very end. In what will be the last home game for Allman in his career, he scored the game winning goal against the University Lock Haven on senior day.
“Even though on our record it doesn’t show, I think we did all the little things right and I just don’t think they all came together,” Allman said. “[Senior day] had to have been one of the most amazing games just atmosphere-wise and attitude because so easily we could have went and played and laughed it off. I think the reason it was so special was because we were just playing foe each other and I don’t think I’ve ever had that feeling before.
Now in the offseason, Small and his staff will focus on bringing in new recruits, both freshmen and transfers, and continuing to develop the players all ready here in preparation to one day make another run at the PSAC Championship.