Streaks are meant to be broken. And, after a 2-1 victory at a cold and eerily quiet James Egli Field, the visitors’ celebratory shouts certainly let the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team (4-5-2, 1-2-0 in PSAC) know it.
The Green and White hosted the University of Pitt-Johnstown (2-7-1, 1-3-1) for a Wednesday afternoon matchup, having defeated the Mountain Cats 17 consecutive times, a string dating back to 1996. The wins had been decisive for the Rock, who had outscored UPJ 62-7 in that 23-year stretch.
Half an hour into the game, this theme appeared to hold true. UPJ struggled to hold on to the ball on the attacking end and failed to register a shot until the 28th minute.
Meanwhile, SRU’s Alejandro Fernandez, a freshman midfielder, buried his fourth goal of his rookie season, in the 11th minute. Overall, the hosts notched six shots before their senior goalie, Matt Hunsberger, was even forced to make a save.
In the half’s final 15 minutes, eight different Slippery Rock players shot at UPJ keeper Johnathan Reboton. None would connect, however, and the squads would walk off the pitch for halftime with the score stuck at 1-0.
In the second period, the Mountain Cat offense rose from the dead. Within seven minutes, Evan Ulrich knotted the game up. By the 66th minute, Adan Cabrera-Perez slipped another past Hunsberger for what would turn out to be the game-winning marker.
Both Anthony Werth and Abdallah Bangura had chances in the 70th and 71st minutes, respectively, but both were denied by Reboton. A rash of UPJ shots followed, but Hunsberger kept hope alive for his team.
The Rock would get three shots on goal in the contest’s final ten minutes, including an opportunity of a corner kick in the 88th minute, but UPJ would head back home with their first in-conference victory of the season and second in the PSAC since 2013.
The Rock was unable to take advantage of several chances throughout the game, holding the edge in shots (26-13) and shots on goal (16-6.)
“We got complacent, and that tends to happen when we have so much of the ball,” SRU head coach Kevin Wilhelm said. “You still rely on particular players to do things for you, so when the group kind of lets down, you expect the back four to be defensively responsible and your goalkeeper to come up with a big save here and there.”
“I think the boys should feel extreme disappointment,” Wilhelm added. “But that’s the way the game is. It’s harsh. It’s about getting wins now, otherwise we’re starting to look up at everybody. And that’s not where we want to be.”