Rock men fall short on Senior Day

Published by Brendan Howe, Author: Brendan Howe - Rocket Contributor, Date: October 30, 2018
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At Mihalik-Thompson early Saturday evening, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team’s 2018 campaign came to a bittersweet close with a clash against Shippensburg. While the Raiders arrived having already secured a seed in the PSAC playoffs, the Rock’s chances for the tournament were thin. Despite outshooting the opposition, the team was unable to cross the finish line with a victory, bowing to the visitors by the score of 2-0.

Seniors Devin Hoffman, Kenton Keeslar, Justin Minda, and George Oakley were recognized for their contributions in the pregame. As freshmen, the quartet combined for 61 starts in SRU’s 2015 PSAC Championship-winning season, and Oakley scored the lone goal in the PSAC Tournament semifinal to push his team to the league’s title contest.

“They were all great leaders. Coming in here so late, being hired in July, you need a couple players on the squad that are familiar with the program,” explained an appreciative Kevin Wilhelm. “[They] understand the best days of the program and the worst days of the program. They helped me a tremendous amount with their leadership, to be able to push the program forward and put us in better shape than we were in August.”

Describing his emotions after the loss, Keeslar said, “We wanted to come out and play for each other one more time. At the same time, we treated it like another game, where we wanted to come out with our brothers and play. And that’s what we did. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side, but I wouldn’t trade the last four years for anything, really.”

“I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet. I don’t think I fully understand the impact that this will have on me,” Hoffman said. “But I do know that these last four years have been very special to me and that I won’t forget everything this program has done for me. It being my last game will probably be very tough eventually.”

At the game’s half-hour mark, The Rock led in the shots category and junior Matt Hunsberger had been tested twice. Both Keeslar and freshman striker Alex Vilchek, the team’s points leader, had chances that were turned away by Shippensburg’s Garret Watson.

In the 31st minute, the Raiders’ Owen Iacobelli received a crosser from the right corner and deposited it behind Hunsberger. If not for sophomore midfielder Cory Olix’ shot floating over the crossbar in five minutes later, the score would have been knotted up as the teams headed into the break.

The next 30 minutes out of halftime were, for the most part, uneventful, only seeing Shippensburg notch two shots. It took the Green and White until early in the 75thminute to get a chance, a proceeding that saw both Hayden Seifert and Hector Buchter boot shots at Watson, who saved the first before watching the next sail high.

Oakley received a yellow card in the 76th minute and then directed what would turn out as his last shot on goal in a green and white kit.

Of being red-carded and walking off for the final time in the 81st minute, the veteran midfielder said, “It’s part of the game. I got a nice ovation, which was quite nice, everyone clapping. I was upset, but it’s part of the game. That’s what happens.”

Anthony Werth, Dan Schearer, and Vilchek all had opportunities to balance the scoreboard before Iacobelli sealed the game by firing a free kick into the net’s upper right corner two minutes before the final whistle.

With the disappointing loss, the team finished its schedule with a 6-10-2 record, but Wilhelm looks forward to continuing to improve while moving along the process he has stressed all season long.

“Once you get the process rolling that I believe in, it’s a matter of continuing the process and you’ll find that you keep getting better and better and better. So, that foundation has been laid now,” said Wilhelm. “Hopefully, with the foundation being laid, we’re able to bring in the type of players that we need and continue to move it forward.”

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