The Slippery Rock men’s soccer team concluded their 2017-2018 season on Saturday with a crushing 1-0 loss to Shippensburg University in double OT. The Rock lost five of their final seven matches to finish the season with a record of 5-10-3 (.361).
The Rock began the season on the road for three of the first four matches concluding with a match against no. 2 ranked Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Terriers ended up defeating the Rock in a closely contested 1-0 match but to coach Steve Small it was the experience that will make the difference in the years to come.
“Probably say the experience,” Small answered when asked about the biggest take away from this season, “getting to go up and play Simon Fraser up in Vancouver, it is something different and something many of the guys have never done before in terms of having to fly to a game and all the prep work that had to go into it.”
Following the return to the United States, The Rock hosted Ashland University before beginning Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play against Lock Haven University. The Rock started off conference play with a four-match winless streak before defeating the University of Pitt-Johnstown and Bloomsburg University in early October. Later in October, the Rock hosted #22 Millersville University in a match which brought coach Small against the team he was an assistant coach of for eight years; the match ended in a disappointing 4-0 defeat. The Rock finished conference play on a three-match losing streak after defeating California University of Pennsylvania in mid-October. The Rock finished PSAC play with a 3-6-2 (.364).
Senior midfielder Tyler McCarthy paced The Rock with twelve points all on six goals while junior midfielder George Oakley finished with ten points on one goal and eight assists. Sophomore forward Luke Picchi chipped in with four points on two goals while freshmen forwards Sean Tinney and Hayden Seifert contributed one goal and four assists and one goal and two assists respectively. Twelve players for the Rock contributed with at least two points this season. Coach Small was particularly proud of how the whole team contributed rather than just one player.
“I can’t really pick out one player in particular, several guys stepped up in various parts of the season and helped carry us and did a great job for us,” Small said when asked players who really stood out this season, “Which is what we look for, we’re not looking for one player to really carry the load. We are looking for everyone to do their part and if everyone does their part, we’ll be successful.”
This year’s senior class was particularly influential with senior goalkeeper becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the PSAC. Sharp, a big reason why the Rock posted such strong defensive numbers, posted 1.74 GAA (goals against average) with a .685 save percentage. Sharp, McCarthy, defender Kyle Boyer and defender Patrick Sullivan led the team with strong leadership on and off the pitch.
“It’s going to be really tough, I mean we had five really great seniors this year, they were all fantastic seniors in their own ways and fantastic players in their own ways,” Small said when
asked about replacing veteran leadership next season, “You know, it’s going be tough to replace them because they were so experienced, but we have a good core group coming back that we can build around.”
Small, while saying it is too early to have expectations for next year, is excited for this season’s recruiting class with two strong acquisitions to help next season’s veteran team in their quest for a PSAC title.
“So far it’s going fantastic, we’ve got several commitments already and we’ve got a few others that could be potential commitments wrapped up here in the next few weeks,” Small said when asked about the recruiting cycle and bringing in new players, “So far it’s going really well but were still looking for more to bring in and make the program better.”