The Shippensburg University men’s soccer team pulled out another impressive win in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), downing Bloomsburg University, 2–1, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon from David See Field.
In what has proved to be an exciting season for the team, the Raiders now sit at 8–2 overall with a 4–1 record in the PSAC. Their record is good enough to put them in second place in the conference. A strong defense paired with a handful of consistent contributors on offense have propelled SU to new heights after not making the PSAC playoffs in five years.
Several leaders on the team have stepped up after the loss of some seniors last season, including longtime captain Jan Striewe. Senior forward Cole Kropnick has been the story of the last two seasons, scoring a career-high 10 goals in his last campaign. Kropnick has been off to a fantastic start, already reaching the 10-goal mark with his 10th tally coming in the win against Bloomsburg.
Kropnick put the Raiders ahead in the seventh minute off an assist from senior defender Devlin Mettee. Kropnick leads the PSAC in terms of goals so far this season.
The Huskies responded almost immediately, however, grabbing the equalizer in the eighth minute. Both teams traded small opportunities for the rest of the half, but no one was able to capitalize.
The Raiders started the second half hot, with Kropnick serving a perfect ball to senior midfielder Patrick Luebben in the box.
Luebben fired the pass home for the 2–1 advantage only two minutes after the restart. Luebben is the second-highest scorer for SU with five goals so far, although he has three assists as well.
The defense has been stellar this season for the Raiders, allowing only 10 goals over nine games — only seven allowed after an opening 3–1 defeat to Chestnut Hill.
Led by senior goalkeeper Garret Watson, the unit has allowed the fourth-fewest goals in the conference. Watson currently owns a 1.07 GAA mark, along with a .773 save percentage.
Meanwhile, the SU offense is currently the highest-scoring unit in the PSAC. Being ranked so highly in both areas of play is bound to give any squad a good string of results, as SU has now won four games in a row and is second to only undefeated Gannon (6–0, PSAC) in the PSAC standings.
Looking to continue their winning streak, the Raiders traveled to take on the Panthers from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on Saturday. The Panthers have struggled this season, putting together a record of 2–9 overall, 0–6 in the PSAC. The Raiders were able to pull out the win, 4–0, for their fifth consecutive victory — the longest win streak in five years.
The offense came from multiple sources in the game. Kropnick was ever-present, as always, proving to be the main catalyst once again. He scored his conference-leading 11th goal of the season in the 13th minute off a corner from junior midfielder Colin Marks.
Kropnick would also add an assist on SU’s next goal, when Kropnick poked the ball to redshirt-sophomore midfielder Erik Espinoza after a corner to give the Raiders a 3–0 lead.
There were four different goal scorers on the day for SU, as Kropnick and Espinoza were joined by sophomore midfielder JJ Saukko and freshman midfielder Owen Iacobelli. Saukko opened the scoring for the squad in the 10th minute when the ball fell to him after a rebound, and he fired the ball home for the early advantage.
Iacobelli rounded off the scoring with the only goal of the second half.
The assist came from another cross, this time from senior midfielder Justin Blumberg. Iacobelli headed the ball into the net directly from the corner in the 63rd minute for his first tally as a Raider. Saukko’s score was also his first collegiate goal.
The defense was stellar once again, earning the team’s fifth clean sheet of the season. Senior goalkeeper Garret Watson and redshirt-freshman Bradley Brockman combined for the win, neither needing to make a save with no shots on goal registered by UPJ.
The Raiders outshot the Panthers 23–3 overall and 12–0 in terms of shots on target. Kropnick had 10 shots and five on target.
Now sitting at 9–2 on the season and 5–1 in the PSAC, the team has its highest win total since the 2013 season, with five games still remaining in the team’s regular season schedule.
The Raiders are still in second place in the PSAC standings, only three points behind Gannon University after the Golden Knights dropped their first conference match of the season against East Stroudsburg University in a 4–2 defeat.
The Raiders will next travel to take on California University of Pennsylvania (CALU) in their next PSAC contest this Friday at 6:30 p.m.