On Saturday afternoon, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team hosted Cedarville University, its third non-conference guest of the season. The SRU defense stood pat although the visitors controlled possession for much of the contest, shutting the Yellow Jackets out for its second victory of the season.
In the fourth minute, the Yellow Jackets recorded the contest’s first shot, a weak bouncer that was scooped up by junior goalkeeper Matt Hunsberger.
Seven minutes later, two of The Rock’s forwards connected for the game’s solitary goal. Playing the ball from the corner into the box, freshman Alexander Vilchek found junior Luke Picchi, who inserted it into the net’s bottom corner.
“After we scored, we hadn’t changed anything [gameplan-wise]. We were still trying to hit a counterattack, playing to our forward,” SRU interim head coach Kevin Wilhelm said. “They were leaving a lot of space behind their outside backs and we were trying to get into that space.”
The team had a pair of opportunities to extend its lead in the late stages of the first period, as midfielders Anthony Werth and Dan Schearer each managed a shot, missing the goalmouth.
The Green and White headed into the intermission with the advantage and, save for a rocketed shot that dribbled wide left in the 18th minute, the opposition had difficulty getting the ball toward the goal.
Again, in the second half, Slippery Rock missed out on a couple of opportunities to lengthen the gap on the scoreboard. In the 65th minute, freshman midfielder Omar Bangura fired the ball wide of the goal. Almost five minutes after, George Oakley did the same.
Not until the game’s final 15 minutes did the Yellow Jackets make a push to even the score. The most dangerous of the team’s four chances came in the 86thminute when Derek Braak’s shot was punched over the crossbar. It was the last of four saves for the keeper, who recorded his second clean sheet of the campaign.
“We did what was necessary to get the win. The one time we executed to what we were trying to do for our tactical gameplan, we got the goal. We had six or seven other chances in the game to do the exact same thing, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” Wilhelm said. “We did concede possession around the midfield area, but we knew that was going to happen. We did what we needed to get the result. It wasn’t exactly how I pictured it happening but a win is a win.”
The team gets almost an entire week before its next game, in which it will open Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play. Going forward, Wilhelm stresses the team’s overall health as an important factor in success. In the 25th minute, freshman centerback Ameer Caprini came up lame after a collision and had to exit the game. The loss of Caprini would be the second at the position already.
“It’s just, when you’re this young, and you’re playing against much older competition […] you take your lumps. And we really have,” Wilhelm said. “I just hope we can recover enough physically over the next five days to put together another good performance against Lock Haven on Friday.”
Game by game, Wilhelm says, the team’s youth is improving and picking up confidence and knowledge. This is crucial to the process that the coach has pointed to since his hiring.
“As we’re getting deeper into the season […] there’s a handful, six, seven guys, that are coming off the bench as true freshmen and are getting minutes now because they’ve matured quite a bit over the past six weeks,” Wilhelm said. “Honestly, we’re not really focusing on the wins and the losses with this young group, we’re focusing on the process. And we’ve found that, when we do things the right way, those are the games we get the win, get the draw.”