Knights’ playoff hopes dashed

Going into the weekend, the Gannon University men’s soccer team’s playoff hopes were between a Rock and a hard place. Following the Knights 3-1 defeat to Slippery Rock University, the Knights are playing for pride.

Gannon fell behind early Saturday at Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, and could not recover. The loss officially eliminates the Knights from Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoff contention.

The scene was a familiar one for the Knights, as they once again dug themselves a hole they could not climb out of.

“It was a similar game as many of our other games,” coach Rob van Rheenen said. “We fall behind in a game and play catch up.”

Slippery Rock struck first when the Rock’s Alex Swartz intercepted a pass at midfield, streaked down the right sideline and beat junior goaltender Jason Barbarino and snuck the ball past the back post. The Rock took the goal advantage into the half.

Gannon had several chances but was unable to convert, as Slippery Rock goalie Clayton Master rejected four shots in the first half.

Shortly after the teams made their way out of the locker room, the Rock’s Austin Pierce took a pass from Cody Clark, and booted it into the net from 25 yards out. Slippery Rock added another goal in the 80th minute.

In the second half, Gannon tried to make up the deficit by taking more chances on offense, van Rheenen said.

“When SRU scored the second goal, we pushed players up into the attack and that left us open for counter attacks, which resulted in the third goal,” he said.

Junior Adam Sharbaugh prevented the Slippery Rock shutout, when he found the net shortly after the Rock’s final score.

The loss was the latest in a string of defeats, as the Knights’ late-season swoon continued. Since the Knights were last at .500 on Sept. 25, they have gone 1-3-1.

With one game remaining, the Knights will be relegated to the role of spoiler when they host rival Mercyhurst College Saturday.

The Knights, who stand 6-9-2 overall and 2-5-1 in PSAC play, can possibly eliminate the Lakers (10-6, 4-4) with a win and help from some other teams.

“Regardless of records, the Gannon-Mercyhurst game is always a special game,” he said. “With one more game and no chance of the playoffs, the Mercyhurst game will show again the mentality of our players and will give them another opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that they have what it takes to take the program back to the playoffs for the 2012 season.”

JOE CUNEO

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