On Saturday afternoon, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team welcomed reigning conference champion East Stroudsburg onto James Egli Field for a PSAC matchup. Riding off of the recent momentum at home, the Green and White animated the crowd with a goal early, but two second-half scores helped the Warriors make their 290-mile trip home with a win.
Slippery Rock enjoyed a frantic pace in the game’s first half. Senior midfielder George Oakley, the team’s leader in shots entering the day, added another to his total by throwing one wide in the 2nd minute. A little over five minutes later, senior defender Kenton Keeslar dribbled the ball from the back third deep into ESU grass and struck the game’s first tally, the fourth goal of his career.
The next offensive for The Rock came in the 25th minute, when junior forward Luke Picchi’s shot was batted away by ESU goalkeeper Will Boerema, leading to a corner kick. The shot off of the set piece, and the one after the subsequent corner kick, both failed to connect.
After a pair of East Stroudsburg chances were unable to produce, SRU went into the interval with a one-nil advantage. However, the second period would see a different story than the success The Rock saw in the first 45 minutes, as the trend in possession pointed the Warriors’ way.
“It was at the pace we wanted it to be in the first half,” SRU interim head coach Kevin Wilhelm said. “The problem with the second half was that they pressed us and we even knew it was coming. We couldn’t deal with it. We didn’t have players that could just put their foot on the ball and knock the ball behind them because the space was back behind them.”
Five minutes out of the half, East Stroudsburg’s Erik Cardoso headed in a score off of a corner kick. Slippery Rock’s Hayden Seifert made an effort at responding in the 52nd minute, but was denied by Boerema.
Until the final few minutes of the game, neither team could find a way to go ahead. SRU freshman forward Alexander Vilchek came close to finding the net in the 83rd minute, but his rocket of a shot was smacked away.
“We were very poor today,” Wilhelm said afterward. “We couldn’t complete passes. Our touch on the ball was terrible. We had two or three chances in the first half where all we had to do was connect a proper pass and we could have killed the game off […] and we couldn’t do it.”
On the other end of the pitch a minute later, East Stroudsburg’s Jo Panuccio connected on a penalty kick to give his team the victory.
“For whatever reason today we were just very poor with play of the ball and everything else,” Wilhelm said. “You have those days sometimes where it’s not just one or two guys having a bad game, but a multitude of the group having a bad game. And that’s kind of what happened today.”
The loss drops Slippery Rock’s mark to 3-5-2 (1-2-1 in league play) while ESU climbs in the standings with their third PSAC win of the season. Wilhelm looks at a win in Wednesday’s home meeting with Pitt-Johnstown as being vital to his team’s playoff chances.
“We need to get a result. Plain and simple,” he said. “We went from 1-0 to 2-1 back in this game. If we get three points in this game and three points on Wednesday, we’re near the top end of the conference. Now that we’ve lost this game, we have to get a result on Wednesday.”