Slippery Rock soccer team on a roll
By Jeff Vella
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Deer Lakes graduate Zach Hall wasn't even supposed to get a tryout on the Slippery Rock men's soccer team three years ago.
But when coach Michael Bonelli took over the program in July 2010, he decided to give Hall a chance, and the freshman earned the 25th spot on the roster.
Fast forward to 2013. Hall is a senior captain, the team's second-leading scorer and a major reason The Rock is 7-1-1 and ranked 15th in the nation in NCAA Division II.
“He's a different person,” Bonelli said of Hall, an outside midfielder who has three goals and three assists. “He put in the work, and he's become a great player. We laugh about it because he comes in as a freshman, and he can hardly pass the soccer ball. Now he's one of the better players on the roster.
“You have to do something better than everyone else, and for him, it's his work rate. He outworks everyone else on the field. He works defensively. He gets up and down (the field). He wins headers. He battles.”
Bonelli referred to Hall as the “poster boy” for a program that has re-established itself as a national power during the coach's tenure. Slippery Rock is 18-5-7 over the past two seasons and is unbeaten in nonconference play. It hasn't lost a regular-season road game since Oct. 10, 2011.
“These past couple of years it seems like we keep getting better and better,” Hall said. “This year feels like it's going to be the year for us.”
The Rock lost 1-0 to Mercyhurst in the 2012 PSAC title game, missing out on an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The setback has clearly affected the players.
“We have more fire this year,” said junior defender Josh Brake, a Mars graduate. “We tasted it. You were so close, and it's taken away from you. This year we want even more. We want to win the PSAC and make it to the national championship.”
Bonelli stressed that the team's success is part of a “total culture” in which players become invested in the program, and the coaches help prepare them for the post-Slippery Rock world through networking and internships. As Bonelli puts it, “It's about so much more than soccer.”
On the field, a byproduct of Bonelli's team-first blueprint is a balanced scoring attack that makes it troublesome for opposing teams to defend The Rock. Nine players have accounted for Slippery Rock's 21 goals this season, with nobody scoring more than four. Since Bonelli took over, the highest single-season goal total was six.
If Hall keeps up his pace, he might top that total, but his value isn't just about goals.
“He's not the most talented player on the field,” Bonelli said of Hall. “Not even close. But he's one of the hardest workers, and he puts himself in the right spots.
“He's been here from the beginning. He's been through the bumps and bruises. He's an unbelievable human being. He does everything right on and off the field.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 9 state universities challenged over athletic opportunities for women
- Campus Clippings: Oravec makes surprise appearance for PSNK
- District college notebook: Shutouts pile up for Allegheny’s Nealer
- District college notes: Hempfield grad takes 2nd in steeplechase at Bison Outdoor Classic