The Slippery Rock women’s soccer team will head into the new season coming off a 12-5-2 (10-4-2 PSAC) record and a playoff appearance last season. After having success in 2018, The Rock was picked to finish first in the PSAC west this year.
SRU coach Jessica Griggs will return for her fifth season as head coach of the women’s soccer team. She has helped continue the tradition of success leading the team to a winning record all four years so far.
“I just want them to compete, really work hard, and have an overall great experience. And I think when they have fun doing what they love, that translates to wins. Obviously, I could say I want them in the NCAA tournament or I want them to win the conference, every coach should have those expectations and goals, but I just want them to have fun doing so and while they’re having fun, to really compete. And I think when they do, that’s when the successes come,” Griggs said.
The team will return many starters from last season, after only losing six seniors. Among the seniors lost, was starting goalkeeper Kylie Downs, who started 15 of the 16 games she played last season. She had a save percentage of 0.790% and had a 10-5-1 record. Sophomore Emma Yoder is set to take over for Downs, and she already has experience in games as she started four games last season. She went 2-0-1 in her starts and didn’t allow a goal. Unfortunately, Yoder’s season came to an abrupt ending after she suffered a season-ending injury.
“Confidence is still getting there for her because she suffered a season-ending injury. And she had a long process and any time you have an injury that’s going to set you back from a confidence standpoint. We think the world of her and I think she’s going to do a fantastic job this year,” Griggs said.
The team will also return sophomore forward Jordyn Minda, who last season led the team in scoring. Minda was named to the All-PSAC first team last season and was also the PSAC Freshman of the Year. Minda was one of three players to be named All-PSAC, but the only named to the first team. Graduated forward Brooke Testa was named to the third team and senior defender Madison Johnson was named to the second team.
“Having a leading goal scorer from a year ago doesn’t necessarily translate to this year, I think that could happen again, but if it doesn’t we can certainly find contributions from multiple players on the field,” said Coach Griggs.
Last season, The Rock only allowed 17 goals all season, with seven being allowed against Bloomsburg across three games. The Rock will not see Bloomsburg this season due to the PSAC going back to east and west divisions. In total, last year The Rock had 10 shutout victories. The defense will be anchored by Madison Johnson as she looks to repeat her All-PSAC season. Last year, the defense allowed 108 shots on goal, 241 shots overall, and 57 corner kicks.
“Organization goes a long way and having a goalkeeper who’s vocal with the ability to have a voice to everyone’s eyes is great. And our back line is strong, solid, and athletic, and Maddie Johnson is obviously incredible in the air. The organization is something that they need to be successful,” Griggs said.
The team played three exhibition games in the preseason. The games gave the chance to get younger players action and experience. And also gave the coaches the chance to evaluate what could be improved for the season.
“I think in the exhibition games we got a lot of new players in, and I think as a team we did a good job rotating players in getting newer players up to speed and really working everyone up to the level and standard we’re supposed to be,” Griggs said.
The team brought in nine freshman this season: seven field players and two goalies. The freshmen class got their first experience against other teams in the exhibition games and also got chances to show what they could in preseason, and according to Griggs, there is always at least one surprise in the preseason, and she found a few in preseason.
“Out of that nine, there’s a forward who I think is going to be really special, there is another attacking player who is stupid fast and speed kills in this conference. And I’ve had a defender who has really surprised us and has potential to be in our starting lineup. And that’s always great because there is always a surprise in every class you bring in and never know who it is until you’re in preseason,” Griggs said.
The Rock will look to follow up a good season and build on the success they had last season. The biggest class on the team is the sophomore class, Griggs understands that it may be a challenge to repeat the success they had last season.
“I think sometimes going into your sophomore year when you’ve had success it’s really difficult to repeat it. I think looking to some newer kids and some veterans as well will help that class not feel as pressured to repeat all those goals. I think we had one kid who blossomed in the spring and can score some goals and we’ve got a couple freshman who do that as well,” Griggs said.
The Rock will start out the season with two nonconference games, but they won’t be looking past any opponent this season.
“I find [the season] successful when the girls have a good experience. Whenever they have a good experience, they happen to also be winning, so those go hand in hand. Typically, when they have a good experience all the other boxes are checked,” Griggs said.