The Rock opened their PSAC schedule against California (Pa.) last Wednesday with a 3-1 victory. The game started out slow for Slippery Rock, but the team stuck to what they felt would work, which lead them to score three unanswered goals.
The game started out with The Vulcan’s Evan Blunkosky beating Rock goalkeeper Hossam Aly for the first goal of the game. It was Blunkosky’s first goal of the season, and ended up being the last time California (Pa.) scored all game.
“I think the response was exactly what was called for, but I don’t think it was much different than what had occurred prior to the goal,” head coach Kevin Wilhelm said.
Before California (Pa.) scored, The Rock had multiple opportunities. They had two shots and two corner kicks in the early going but were unable to convert. The Vulcans took advantage of that to give themselves a lead.
“We felt that Cal was on a little bit of high, because they had played their first conference game against UPJ and they crushed them 5-0,” Wilhelm said. “We wanted to make sure the first 10 or 15 minutes of the game we really stamped our authority on not only ball possession, but physically being able to compete and making sure they understood that they were Cal and we’re Slippery Rock, and you need to know your place when you come here.”
Those first 15 minutes didn’t exactly go to plan, but in the 16th minute Arturo Pla Hernandis was able to jump start the Green and White’s offense. Pla Hernandis scored off of an assist from Anthony Gagliardi II and knotted the game up at one.
“Once we got that first goal and got it to 1-1, realistically, and statistics probably say the same thing, there was no one that was going to get that second goal if it wasn’t us,” Wilhelm said.
It only took 11 minutes for Slippery Rock to get on the board again. Mo Kanani scored his third goal of the season to give The Rock a lead that they wouldn’t surrender. In that first half, Slippery Rock outshot the Vulcans 10-2. After the counter attacking goal was scored by The Vulcans, they didn’t put another shot on goal until the 66th minute of play.
“We expected to have the majority of the ball and be able to break them down, and eventually that’s what we did,” Wilhelm said.
The second half was also controlled by Slippery Rock, and they received an insurance goal from Alex Plimmer in the 79th minute. California (Pa.) did have some more attacking opportunities in the second half, but they were all shut down by Aly, who ended the game with three saves.
The Rock is now set to face No. 17 Gannon University at home on Wednesday. The game will be a major test for Slippery Rock, as Gannon is always nationally ranked and is a tough matchup. This year will be no different.
Getting that first conference win was crucial for The Rock, because now they’ll face a string of very good teams and getting those three points will help when it comes time to decide who will make it to the PSAC tournament.
“The only three private schools in the entire PSAC are in the PSAC west, so every point is vital,” Wilhelm said. “We’re stuck with private schools, Cal, and UPJ and its jaded because [those private schools] run on a completely different budget and set rules. We’re apples and [the private schools] are oranges, and the only other apple we get to play is Cal.”
Gannon is one of the best of these private schools. This season they’ve been proving that as they sit at 7-1(1-0), but through the first eight games, The Rock is second in conference standings behind them.
“Playing against Gannon is simple, they’re always nationally ranked, but we need to make it as difficult as possible for them, we want to be able to execute on our set pieces and get goal scoring opportunities,” Wilhelm said. “We want to say if you guys are that good and have that much money, then beat us between the boxes.”