A University of Pitt-Johnstown penalty kick to level the game late in the second half would have deflated the Slippery Rock women’s soccer team only a few days prior.
This time, The Rock attack surged and within five minutes, senior forward Brooke Testa found the back of the net to pull the Green and White ahead for a 2-1 victory over conference foe Pitt-Johnstown to end a two-game losing streak and four-game winless streak.
“I feel as though we just lost our defensive pressure and offensive edge over the past few games and I saw them get back to what they had been doing so well today,” Coach Jessica Griggs said.
An extremely tough portion of the Green and White’s schedule, packed within two weeks, saw The Rock drop two matches by a combined three goals after two consecutive draws. With the offense sputtering, the defense was forced to shoulder a workload unsustainable by even their lofty standards.
“I said a lot of things over the past few days,” Griggs said, excluding a few words that may not have been well received in print. Message received.
After a combined 13 shots with six on goal over the past two games, The Rock attack exploded for 15 shots with eight on frame against UPJ. Eight shots on goal marked the third highest total of the season and the most since September 8th against Mansfield University.
For the first time since the Mansfield game, The Rock scored more than a single goal in a victory. The only previous victory with more than one goal for the Green and White.
Freshman midfielder Megan Sikora became the fifth freshman to score for The Rock this season in the 29th minute by pouncing on a loose ball in the Cats’ box. Sikora struck the ball into the back of the net, her shot somehow found its way through a mass of bodies to break the game open.
A familiar face made her impact on the game when Testa scored the game-winner, the 13th goal of her Rock career, in the 80th minute. Junior forward Tyler Spence threaded a pass through a crowd of teammates and defenders which Testa’s outstretched foot found and guided past the Cats’ goalkeeper to put The Rock ahead for good.
An injury to freshman goalkeeper Emma Yoder, whose shutout streak to begin her career continues at 356:03 and 26 saves, forced senior goalkeeper Kylie Downs into the game in the 67th minute.
A handball in the box gave the Cats a penalty shot which ended the Rock defense’s chance of achieving an eight shutout this season. Allowing only three shots on goal, junior center back Madison Johnson marshaled the Green and White with impeccable awareness and positioning in snuffing out Cats attackers’ runs.
“I think we have to give credit to all the players who played in the back with [Johnson]. She does not just stand out on her own, while she does stand out, the backline just has a good composure about them. Obviously, with either keeper, it works out well. In general, our backline just has good composure and a really good understanding of each other’s positioning,” Griggs said.
One of the best defensive teams in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), the Green and White have not been as consistent on the offensive end this season. An eight shot, two-goal effort following two subpar showings gives hope the true breakout may be coming.
The real strength of this squad lies in their ability to bounce back from difficult showings this season. “They work hard, they work for each other and they continue to do that,” Griggs said. “That resilience was good.”
Coming away with the 2-1 victory, The Rock stay at eighth in the PSAC with a 7-3-2 record while being 5-3-2 in the PSAC. The Cats’ stumble knocks them to 11th in the conference with a 4-7 record while being 4-6 in the PSAC.
Saturday afternoon’s contest with Bloomsburg University on the road will mark the end of a busy stretch of soccer for The Rock. A week off will conclude with a road match against new PSAC leaders Millersville University on Friday, October 12th at 3:30 PM.