Two years removed from a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference crown, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team opened its season Thursday in North Canton, Ohio with a non-conference matchup against Walsh University. It was the first-ever meeting between the Rock and the Cavaliers, and Walsh notched the victory with a goal in the 87th minute of the contest.
Walsh head coach Andy Hoggarth, who resigned at Slippery Rock after leading the Green and White to a PSAC tournament title in 2015, opposed his successor, Steve Small. His team projected to finish eighth out of 12 teams in the PSAC preseason poll, Small looked to start his second season at the Rock off on the right foot and improve on a 2016 campaign where his team finished 5-9-2.
Early in the game, SRU had a pair of chances, but could not capitalize on them. In the 12th minute, junior defender Devin Hoffman registered a shot on goal that ended up in the hands of Cavalier goalkeeper Tom Jackson. With that shot on goal, Hoffman, who made 15 starts for the Green and White last season, matched his 2016 total. Fourteen minutes later, Tyler McCarthy, a senior transfer from California University (Pa.) sent one toward the goal but wasn’t able to get the ball past Jackson.
Exiting halftime with the game still scoreless, Slippery Rock failed to put a goal on the scoreboard with two more chances in the second half. Kyle Boyer, one of six SRU players who started at least ten games last season, and Luke Picchi, a sophomore transfer, both got a shot on goal that was ultimately saved by the Walsh goalie.
Slippery Rock had eight corner kicks, seven more than Walsh, but were not able to make good use of them. Though SRU goalkeeper Jonathan Sharp recorded six saves in 90 minutes played, it was the one he could not keep out of the net that gave the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead late in the 87th minute. Assisted by J.P. Alexis, Walsh’s junior defenseman Nathan Kett tallied the game’s lone goal with less than three minutes remaining. Walsh extended their streak of shutouts to three with the 1-0 win, as they blanked their final two opponents last year.
Slippery Rock continues their non-conference road-trip in Plainville, Ohio at Lake Erie College on Sunday, seeking their first win of the 2017 season.