Even though the Rams failed to secure a win on the road against Seton Hill on Saturday, West Chester clinched the number one seed in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Rams tied with Seton Hill 1-1, but they clinched the top spot after Gannon University lost 2-1 in overtime against Millersville University later that evening.
The Rams earned a first round bye and now have home field advantage during the playoffs. Head coach Michael Benn led the Rams to a 7-1-3 PSAC record and a 11-2-4 record overall.
“The most rewarding part of coaching this team is the relationships and the day to day interactions with them,” Benn said. “They are a fantastic group of men who have each given up a bit to be a part of our group. I could not be prouder of them.”
The Rams jumped out to a 1-0 lead against Seton Hill with a goal by Daniel Grindrod 14 minutes into the game. ten minutes later, Seton Hill responded with a goal by Alex Dysen that evened the score 1-1.
West Chester had 12 shots in the second half, but couldn’t get another goal past Seton Hill’s goalkeeper, Austin Iddon. Iddon, who ranks third in the conference in save percentage at .780, made seven saves to stymie the Rams attack.
The Rams defense played equally as tough as they did not allow another shot on goal after Dysen’s score. Seton Hill had just two shots on goal the entire game.
The game went into overtime with major playoff implications on the line for both teams. At the time, West Chester did not know the result of Gannon’s match against Millersville, so the Rams needed the win to guarantee themselves the number one seed. A loss for Seton Hill would have eliminated them from the playoffs.
Dramatic finishes have been a staple for this team all year, but they weren’t able to break through against Seton Hill. The Rams best chance was a shot on goal by Stephen Thompson four minutes into overtime, but it was saved by Iddon.
It looked like the tie would cost West Chester home field advantage. Gannon held a 1-0 lead over Millersville with 10 minutes left to play, but Gannon blew the lead and lost in overtime.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday, the Rams did come through in the clutch with a 3-2 come-from-behind-win against St. Thomas of Aquinas University (STA). In the out of conference match, the Rams erased a 2-1 deficit with two goals in the game’s final three minutes.
“The team kept their composure after STA scored their penalty kick to go up 2-1 in the second half,” Benn said. “We had created some good chances that we just did not finish up to that point. The team just had a little more urgency once that goal was scored and we were able to execute and finish off our attack.”
Shane Hartey scored on a header to tie STA, and Jason Pixley scored the winning goal with less than a minute remaining.
“Jason seems to have an ability to just be in the right spot at the right time in big moments,”Benn said. “He has been unbelievably clutch for us over these last few years.”
Pixley finished the season as the team leader in goals—narrowly edging out second-year Doug Goitia by one. It was the fifth time this year that Pixley scored a game winning goal.
It is the second straight year that the Rams have earned the number one seed in the PSAC. Last year, they lost in the PSAC semifinals to East Stroudsburg University.
The Rams will play their semifinal match this year on Friday at either 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. The game will be played at home at Rockwell field.
Brian Devine is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. BD884861@wcupa.edu