Rock athletics known for success

Published by adviser, Author: Brian Hepfinger - Sports Editor, Date: March 5, 2015

Slippery Rock University’s sports teams have always had success at every level, but since 2000, SRU has had multiple big events and has won some huge games.

“Things have really come together here with many sports,” SRU Director of Athletics Paul Lueken said. “We’re having a great year. All of our teams, with the exception of one, have qualified for postseason play.”

The first important game of the 2000s was when the women’s basketball team made it to the Elite 8 in March.

The first big event of the last two decades was when SRU opened its new baseball stadium, Jack Critchfield Park in 2002, the first game occuring on April 12. 

This event had 1,256 fans, which was the second largest crowd to attend an NCAA Division II regular-season baseball game at the time.

“That’s a jewel, and that facility is a big part of what’s happened here over the last 10 years,” Lueken said.

Football has had a very historic history at the Rock. The old stadium, NKT Stadium, was renamed Mihalik-Thompson Stadium at the end of the 2011 season.

“I think the thing that has had the biggest impact on our program overall has been the upgrades at the stadium with the turf and lights,” Director of Athletics Paul Lueken said. “That’s given us so many more opportunities to do things with our athletic program. Not just football, but for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and track and field.”

Most recently, SRU has found extreme success in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division. 

The Rock won the PSAC Championship last season over Bloomsburg on Nov. 15, 2014. 

Before that, the team ventured to the University of Michigan to play in the “Big House Battle” against Mercyhurst University on Oct. 18, 2014.

“The football championship was huge,” Lueken said. “We needed to get that done. The trip to the Big House was good too. The only downer of that trip was that we lost, but overall, it was a great experience and a great alumni event.”

The men’s basketball team has always had a winning attitude, but during the seven seasons that head coach Kevin Reynolds has been at the helm, SRU has risen to new heights. 

In March of 2011 and 2013, SRU qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament. 

The team’s first playoff win since 1978 also happened during the 2011 season. 

Currently, the Rock lost in the second round of the PSAC Tournament to Gannon on Tuesday, March 3. 

However, the team is waiting to hear on Sunday whether or not they will be in the NCAA Division II Tournament once again.

Arguably the most successful teams in Rock sports, the men’s and women’s track and field teams, have always competed for the top spots in the PSAC. 

Their best season was from 2007-2008 when both teams won the PSAC Dixon Cup. 

Both teams also won all four meets at the PSAC Championships that season as well.

Lueken believes that the track and field teams have been the most consistent over the past few decades because of the number of conference finishes, championships and the athletes who have gone onto national competition.

Lueken said his favorite moment, since he’s been the Director of Athletics, was when SRU won the Dixon Cup in 2008.

“That proved that we were one of the best overall athletic programs in the PSAC,” Lueken said. “That’s what we were really striving to get to.”

Lueken said that SRU athletics is still striving to improve and get better each year and each season.”We wanna continue to move all of our programs forward,” Lueken said. “We want to keep moving everybody forward in general. It’s a pretty fun place to be right now.”


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