A Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament seed already in hand, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team (8-8-2, 5-5-0 PSAC West) hosted No. 5 Gannon (16-1-0, 9-1-0) for Senior Day at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium on Saturday.
With a win, the Rock would have had a chance to secure a home quarterfinal matchup in the first round of the league playoff. It was not to be, however, as The Green and White struggled offensively, losing 4-0 to the Golden Knights.
Unlike the teams’ previous meeting, in which Slippery Rock broke the scoreboard’s seal in the 6th minute, Gannon opened the scoring in the chilly weather. Little over a minute into the contest, the Golden Knights’ Sergio Del Castillo tallied his seventh marker of the year.
After Del Castillo doubled the lead in the 16th minute, albeit with argument over whether an offsides should have been called, junior midfielder Cory Olix fired The Rock’s first shot almost half an hour into the game.
“Everything was done right to prepare,” head coach Kevin Wilhelm. “But, in the end, you have to execute, especially in the first 15 minutes. You’ve got to keep things tight.”
Gannon’s Lennox Crews stretched the lead to 3-0 before the period came to a close.
“A mature team turns away from that and says, ‘Yeah, we’ve painted ourselves into a corner, let’s get on with it and deal with it,’” Wilhelm said. “An immature team, that’s young, paints themselves in a corner, sits there, commits a couple of fouls and gets a couple of yellow cards. They don’t quite have the maturity yet to deal with situations like that.”
In the 50th minute, starting goalkeeper Matt Hunsberger was pulled to an ovation from the crowd. Of 36 starts and 164 saves, Hunsberger was one of three seniors honored before the game. Also recognized were forward Luke Picchi, a transfer from Millersville, and defender Anthony Werth, who combined for 115 games played in a Rock kit.
For good measure, Gannon’s Joe Knox deposited a penalty kick in the 87th minute.
Despite the loss, Slippery Rock’s eight regular season wins marked the program’s most since 2015, when it won 11 en route to a PSAC crown. The team has improved its win total in each of Wilhelm’s two seasons at the helm.
The Rock will return to the postseason Tuesday in a matchup against the second-seeded Lakers of Mercyhurst.