The playoffs begin now for the Slippery Rock women’s soccer team.
“We basically just called today our first playoff game. I just told the girls today that from here on out that we’ve got to go out there and win,” Slippery Rock head coach Jessica Griggs said. “To keep our own destiny and stay ahead of those other teams vying for that playoff spot, I told the girls that we’re in the playoffs starting now. It’s time to win out now.”
Sitting in the eighth and final Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoff spot before the game against Mercyhurst University Wednesday afternoon, The Rock had a six-point cushion over Gannon University.
A 2-0 shutout victory over the Lakers saw the Green and White jump to seventh in the PSAC and push their advantage over ninth place Gannon to eight points.
Goals from senior forward Brooke Testa and sophomore defender Sophia Harrison to accompany a stifling Rock defense clinched The Rock’s third consecutive victory.
Continuing a trend of strong offensive performances, The Rock attempted more than 20 shots with ten on goal for the second straight game.
“We’ve just been much more of an attacking-minded team since a couple weeks ago. I just got on them about it and we’ve just been more dynamic about it. They’re trying to get inline a lot which is good because that creates those stronger chances,” Griggs said.
Missing out on a couple of Grade A chances in the first 40 minutes, a bit of luck finally gave Testa the chance she needed. Freshman midfielder Jordyn Minda’s shot deflected off a Laker defender and fell to Testa who slotted the ball past Laker’s keeper Vilde Wold for her fourth of the season. The Green and White carried a 1-nil lead into the intermission.
A probing Rock attack put numerous chances on the net to start the second half amid a squall of freezing rain but did not break through until a corner kick awarded in the 72nd minute. Senior forward Skye Kramer teed up a perfectly struck delivery ball which Harrison headed past Wold for her second goal of the season.
The insurance marker from Harrison, a booming header, proved to be icing on the cake as The Rock secured a second consecutive shutout.
Senior goalkeeper Kylie Downs was handed the start again, collecting her sixth shutout of the season, and while not called upon much but did record a save on the only Laker shot on goal in the contest.
The Rock defense once again put together a strong performance, limiting the Lakers to four attempted shots with only one on target. The Green and White rank sixth in total goals allowed and fifth in goals allowed per game in the PSAC.
While the defense was able to mostly stifle the Lakers’ attackers, Minda and freshman forward Rachel Edge seemed to be the first players on almost every loose ball. The pacey freshmen used their speed and energy to lessen the load on The Rock defense by winning back errant passes or lost dribbles.
Hustle plays and dogged defense may not show up in the box score but goals and assists do. Minda leads The Rock in goals with five while also chipping in two assists for 12 points. Edge has a joint lead in assists with five while contributing one goal for seven points in mostly a bench role.
“I think that this season, we’re just so young so we’re still trying to figure out what our best rotation is. Rachel [Edge] has really blossomed this year and it has been a lot of fun to watch,” Griggs said.
The talented pair has Griggs reminiscent of a current duo for the Green and White. With Testa and Kramer in their last seasons as seniors, Minda and Edge appear ready to step directly into their cleats.
All four players rank within the top five of Rock scoring this season with Kramer leading the way at 13 points. Testa and Minda are currently tied for second with 12 points. Edge rounds out the top five with seven points.
The win elevates The Rock to 10-4-2 with an 8-4-2 PSAC record. Two matches, one home and one away, await the Green and White to finish the season.
A weekend away match with West Chester University looms large for Kramer, Testa and The Rock as crucial PSAC Tournament seeding points are at stake. A win over West Chester would almost certainly draw the Green and White into a more favorable first-round matchup.
NCAA Tournament seeding is also on the line as the NCAA Atlantic Region rankings were released Sunday to show which teams would currently make the National Tournament. The top six teams from the final regional ranking will make the playoff.
The Rock ranks eighth in the preliminary rankings while West Chester ranks fifth. A strong showing against the Golden Rams would do well to impress the voting NCAA members and possibly move into a top-six spot over the last matches.
Kickoff against the Golden Rams is 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20 in West Chester, Pa.