The Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team was defeated 4-0 by No. 2 Mercyhurst University at home on Saturday.
Before kick-off on Saturday, seniors on the team including Hossam Aly, Harry Griffin, Samuel Hillman, Derek Hoffman, Nathan Kortyna, Ramses Minaya, Alex Plimmer, and Deon Waldmeier were recognized for their contributions to the team and congratulated on their upcoming graduation.
Slippery Rock allowed two goals in each half of the game, while only returning offensively with two shots on goal, both from Arturo Pla Hernandis. The teams played a full 90 minutes before Slippery Rock was defeated by the Mercyhurst Lakers 17-0-1.
The loss of the game on Saturday finished the season for the men’s soccer team at Slippery Rock University, leaving them with a regular season record of 5-10-2. The outcome was undesired for a team that strives to compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs each year, and Coach Kevin Wilhelm recognizes the positives and the negatives stepping into the off-season.
Some coaches may view eight seniors leaving the team as a huge loss, but Wilhelm seems optimistic about the future. With notable performances by underclassmen and the open positions available next fall, Wilhelm labels the “youth movement” as a positive aspect.
Compared to years past, first-year players got a significant amount of playing time this season, which can only be beneficial moving forward. According to Wilhelm, getting to experience game-type situations first-hand allows players to develop an understanding of the physicality, speed, technical ability, and determination demanded in competition.
“Even if you’re failing when you’re out there, it improves the development process,” said Wilhelm. “There’s nothing better than having that experience to really push along the process.”
The more experience a player has, the easier it is for the process to develop. This may explain why Wilhelm seemed disheartened to mention the dilemma that often occurs: deciding if it would be in a player’s best interest to continue their academic career for another semester of soccer.
Ultimately, it is the player’s decision, but as a coach, Wilhelm has an ethical obligation to “instruct people the right way.” He tries to guide his players to make the right call since many players receive no athletic aid to attend school at The Rock.
According to Wilhelm, the men’s soccer team does not have the same luxury as other programs that receive generous athletic aid. While other coaches may be able to ethically suggest that a player takes on a minor and plays another season, that is not always possible for men’s soccer players at SRU due to financial restrictions.
“You have to make sure everybody makes the correct decisions for the correct reasons,” he said.
While evaluating adversities faced this season, Wilhelm finds it necessary to go to the root of the issues and try to resolve them from there. He says the ultimate goal for the season was to get back to the PSAC playoffs but admitted that the competition with private schools in the conference makes it difficult.
“Why were there so many injuries? Why were there a couple inconsistent performances?” Wilhelm asked. “What do we have to do to strengthen [the team] to be able to match those big-budget teams?”
Muscular-type injuries were a challenge this season, and Wilhelm says the team could avoid injuries if their practice facility was held to the same, high quality standard as Egli Field.
The men’s team shares its practice facility with the women’s and men’s club soccer teams at SRU. Wilhelm argues that allowing the men’s team to have a private facility would eliminate scheduling conflicts between the teams using the field. He said a private facility would help the team tremendously: improving his players’ overall health and morale. The conditions of the practice facility now aren’t sustainable long term, said Wilhelm, and having a facility of their own would show the university prioritizes the team.