The Slippery Rock University women’s soccer team concluded their 2017 season with a loss against the East Stroudsburg University Warriors in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) playoffs.
Although the women were able to get out to an early 1-0 lead off of a goal from junior Brooke Testa, the Warriors would ultimately score two goals, one in the first half and the other in the second, and would lose with a final score of 2-1. The playoff loss to East Stroudsburg marks the third year in a row that The Rock has been knocked out of the playoffs by the Warriors. East Stroudsburg would ultimately win their fourth straight PSAC title in a 1-0 win over West Chester University on Saturday afternoon. Slippery Rock finishes their season with an overall record of 10-6-2 and 10-4-2 in the PSAC. This season marks the 22nd consecutive winning season for The Rock, with the 1995 season being their last losing season. Slippery Rock head coach Jessica Griggs said that the winning streak, which is currently seventh all-time for Division II, is not something she usually thinks about.
“I know it’s out there so I’m just proud of the girls for continuing the tradition,” said Griggs, whose coming off her third season leading The Rock.
Griggs said that although her team’s defense was “strong” the entire season, giving up no more than two goals per game, that there were areas where she felt like it could have been better.
“We gave up a lot of goals on set pieces,” she said. “I think that we can improve on that but I think that is something we have every capability of improving on.”
Griggs said she truly believes that her team was the best in the PSAC in possession. The women were able to bring the ball down to the ground under pressure and were able to find outlets while staying composed, she said.
Junior Kylie Downs finishes her second consecutive season in goal for The Rock. She finishes the season in the top 10 of three of the four major rankings in the PSAC for goalies.
Downs said that her team chemistry this past season helped them to have the success that they have had.
Offensively, The Rock was led by Testa, who scored six goals, and fellow junior Skye Kramer, who scored five goals. Griggs said that Testa was “very impactful” this season and she filled in the “target role” on the offense.
“We were unclear at the beginning of the season who would fill that ‘target role’ and it ended up being Brooke”, she said. “Skye also had a phenomenal season and I even thought Julianna stepped up big for us but she ended up getting hurt.”
Junior Julianna Esposito was hurt earlier in the season and did not play for the remainder of the season.
Senior Maddy Tletski had a slow start offensively, at the beginning of the season but finished up her final season for The Rock strong, Griggs said. Tletski finished her senior season with four goals and two assists. She leaves The Rock with eight career goals and four assists. Tletski said that since joining the Green and White as a freshman in fall of 2014, she has made “tons” of memories.
“I definitely think I have gotten a lot funnier these past four years,” said Tletski, laughing with her fellow seniors. “Senior year, in particular, has given me a lot of memories to be able to look back on.”
Senior Tess Keeley finishes the 2017 campaign with two goals, both of which came in the same match against Masfield University on September 9. For her career she has recorded 15 goals and and 18 assists.
Keeley said that she believes one of the biggest changes for her since being a freshman has been the leadership role she has taken on.
“Going from being a freshman to a senior definitely comes with leadership,” she said. “Especially with the freshman coming in, you need to set a good example. Going from freshman to senior I have definitely grown in confidence in my ability.”
Fellow Senior Maddy Smith, despite not registering any points this season, started all 18 games and recorded 1,026 minutes of playing time. Smith said, that since she didn’t play much her freshman year and then because of her tearing her ACL in her sophomore season, that the biggest change for her has been “simply” receiving playing time and getting a role on the field.
“I am fortunate to have been able to make a difference with the people on my team,” Smith said.
Senior Haley Burkholder recorded one goal on the season and was the senior leader on what Coach Griggs has called a “very youthful” backline of defense. For her career, Burkholder registered two goals and four assists. Burkholder said that having a leadership position on the team has helped her take on more responsibility that she said will help her in the future.
“It helps you to mature as a person,” she said. “I believe the responsibility I have taken on these past four years, the last two in particular, will help me with my future endeavors.”
Coach Griggs said that expects this year’s junior class to step-up “big time” for The Rock next season as seniors because they will be the first class to have her and Mark Sappington for all four years as head coach and assistant coach, respectively.
“There is something special in that because they help you with the transition initially, and then they kind of ‘buy in’ to everything,” Griggs said. “There is not one person in particular I expect to step-up. I think next year’s senior class should step-up and take ownership and help lead the team.”
Griggs highlighted freshman Sofia Harrison and Elise Forrey starting every game of the season. The two freshmen were in The Rock’s backline this past season and are expected to continue improving, Griggs said.
Griggs foreshadowed next year’s team by saying she expects 12 incoming freshmen to join the team.
“I expect every locker in the locker room to be filled next season,” she said.
The women have five players being represented as All-PSAC honorees. Downs, Testa, Keeley and sophomore Madison Johnson earned second team honors. Tletski earned a third team all-conference recognition.