The Slippery Rock University women’s soccer team completed its 2016 season in fifth place with an overall record of 10-8-1 (.533) and 10-5-1 (.656) in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Rock, now with twenty-one consecutive winning seasons, was also able to qualify for the PSAC playoffs for its seventh consecutive season. However, they were unable to make it past the first round against East Stroudsburg, losing 5-0. East Stroudsburg ended up winning the PSAC championship (its third straight) beating Kutztown University with a final score of 2-1.
Slippery Rock head coach Jessica Griggs, following her second season leading The Rock, now boasts a 23-12-2 (.592) overall record in her Green and White career (34-23-3 as a head coach overall). Overall, Coach Griggs believes that her team played well throughout the season, but there are definite improvements that can be made for the Spring and going into the Fall season next year, she said. Defensively, Griggs said they had a very solid year, led by seniors Lynn Neef and Sam Thornton and also by junior Haley Burkholder. Griggs said she expects Burkholder to be not only a team captain next year, but also the driving force behind their defense. Griggs also said she expects sophomore Emily Aldridge to step up big time for The Rock in the Spring and for her junior season. Griggs said that Aldridge, although she has not had a lot of minutes playing so far, has a great knowledge of the game and expects her to contribute to the team’s defensive success going forth.
“I think one of the things we need to work on for the Spring, defensively, is putting the ball on the ground more and playing a more possession style defense that I try to get the girls to play,” Griggs said.
Thornton, this season, led a defense that allowed, on average, 1.42 goals per game. Thornton said that the support that the defense had for each other throughout the past two seasons really stood out to her.
“We were always there to help pick each other up,” Thornton said. “Communication between the defense was good but I definitely feel that we could have done better with it.”
Rock sophomore Kylie Downs is coming off her first full season as the goaltender for the Green and White, replacing sophomore Charlotte Elrod, The Rock’s goaltender in 2015, who was out for most of the season with a knee injury. Downs came off a season where she played in seventeen games and averaged 4.59 saves per game, which was good for ninth out of all PSAC goalies. She also had .294 shutouts per game average, which was good for sixth out of all PSAC goalies. Griggs said that early on, there were a couple of things here and there that Downs needed help with, but once she was able to solve those issues and become more comfortable playing, she did a very good job for her team.
Griggs expect there to be a big competition for goaltender next season between Downs, Elrod, freshman Emily Proctor, and another unnamed goalie she is bringing into the program in the fall.
Offensively, Slippery Rock was led this season by their senior captain Dara Demich, fellow senior Andrea Felix, juniors Maddy Tletski and Tess Keeley, sophomore Brooke Testa, and freshman Tyler Spence. Together, the six women combined for a total of eighteen goals and twelve assists.
Demich, Keeley, and Thornton were all named honorees to the second team all-conference, while Tletski was named as a third team all-conference honoree. Leaving The Rock, Thornton said that she has learned so much over the course of the past four years playing at Slippery Rock.
“I grew up with all brothers, so being able to play here at Slippery Rock has allowed me to have four different groups of sisters,” Thornton said. “These past two years with Jessie (Coach Griggs) have been extra special because she was able to calm me down and would tell me to ‘just relax’, which would help me play better. She has taught me so much, not just in soccer, but also in life as well.”