On Wednesday afternoon, the eighth-place Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team hosted Mercyhurst, one of the two squads between it and a playoff spot, with the regular season soon coming to a close. Although the Green and White had only two decisions over the Lakers in its last six tries, they have come when it mattered, in the postseason. That theme continued as The Rock slipped by to increase its playoff odds.
The teams traded shots in the opening stages of the first period before Rock senior midfielder Anthony Werth broke the silence in the 17th minute by dropping a Cory Olix corner kick over MU goalie Martin Jarc’s head. It was Werth’s first goal since tallying a goal in a 2-2 draw at Lock Haven last September.
Compared with The Rock’s two, the Lakers fired six shots in the remainder of the first period. SRU junior goalkeeper Matt Hunsberger, having entered with five shutouts and a 1.36 goals against average, made three saves to bring the 1-nil lead into the intermission.
His team showed no sign of complacency early in the second half. Kenton Keeslar and Hector Buchter both managed a shot within a few minutes of each other. Moments later, sophomore forward Connor Jobe dumped the ball into the box and an MU blunder led to an own goal in the 58th minute.
In the 79th minute, Mercyhurst found itself on the scoreboard after a bad clear on SRU’s part aided in the Lakers’ Connor Wilkinson striking one past Hunsberger. The visitors’ offense seemed to awaken in the subsequent minute, notching three shots, none of which connected to even the score.
In the game’s last half-minute, Hunsberger ensured a Rock victory by making two big stops within seconds of each other. His seven saves match his career-high, which he has now recorded four times this season. The team improved its mark to 6-8-2, with each win having come at James Egli Field.
Tied with Seton Hill at 13 points, but without ownership of the tiebreaker, the Green and White has two fixtures left. The team will trek to second-place West Chester on Saturday before returning home for a final home clash, with third-place Shippensburg.
Rock interim head coach Kevin Wilhelm addresses both matchups as being tough ones but wants the team not to get ahead of itself.
“Every minute is going to matter,” he said. “We just have to take it minute by minute, half by half.”
Speaking on behalf of his fellow seniors’ postseason hopes, Werth said. “It means the world to us. But we just want to go into every day, every practice, and compete and give our best effort. At the end of the day, if we can say we gave our best effort and worked our butts off, that’s all you can really ask for. We’ll see what happens.”