Wright State men’s soccer: Raiders grab second seed in league tourney

FAIRBORN — Wright State men’s soccer coach Jake Slemker admitted he didn’t sleep much after a 2-2 tie against Detroit Mercy in the regular-season finale Wednesday, knowing how close his team came to sharing the title with Cleveland State.

The Raiders built a 2-0 lead but couldn’t hold on, finishing two points behind the Vikings — the difference between a win (three points) and a tie (one point) in second place.

“We felt pretty comfortable during the game. They got a little scrappy goal, and we lost our composure and didn’t have the soccer IQ you need on the field during some of the tough moments,” Slemker said.

“We’ve got a pretty young team” with just three senior starters and everyone else in their first or second years, “and guys have had some tough learning moments.”

The result may not have been what they Raiders wanted, but they still snagged the second seed in the Horizon League tourney and earned a much-needed bye into the semifinals. The semis and finals will be Thursday and Saturday and hosted by No. 1 seed Cleveland State.

Picked fourth in the preseason poll, Wright State will face the highest remaining seed among the winners of the two quarterfinal games on campus sites Sunday. Fourth-seeded Oakland will play at home against fifth-seeded Robert Morris, while sixth-seeded Detroit Mercy will visit third-seeded IUPUI.

“We’ve played four games in the last 12 days, and it’s good to get that little extra break before we play again,” Slemker said.

“Obviously, Cleveland State had a pretty good year overall, but I think everyone feels confident against whoever they play. It’s a tournament. Anything can happen.”

The Raiders, who are 4-6-6 overall and 4-1-4 in the league, captured their only HL tourney crown in 2019. They were runner-up in 2018, ‘16, ‘15, ‘14, ‘11 and 1998 (they joined the league in ‘94).

Only two HL teams had winning overall records this year: Cleveland State (9-3-5) and Green Bay (6-3-7). And what kept the Raiders from joining that duo was their spotty offense.

They went 0-3-2 in their final five games, including three straight shutout losses.

“We just didn’t have the pure goalscorer on the team that could get us through some of those games,” Slemker said. “Another eight goals on our roster would’ve really changed our season.”

Joe Kouadio, a senior forward from London, England, led the team with 13 points (five goals, three assists), while junior forward Reece Allbaugh had 11 points (five goals, one assist).

Allbaugh led the league with 61 shots overall and 29 shots on goal.

“Reece is getting the looks he needs, but he’s just trying to figure out that final touch to become a prolific goal scorer,” Slemker said.

“We anticipated more goals from our front four. It didn’t pan out that way, and it led to a lot of ties.”

Ties actually were rampant in college soccer this year after the NCAA, in an effort to increase player safety, eliminated overtime in the regularseason.

Under the old rules, teams would keep playing until a goal was scored, calling it a tie only if neither team found the net after two 10-minute extra periods.

“They’ve been tracking the data, and there’s probably going to be 30% more ties this year because of that,” Slemker said.

There were 49 ties among the 10 HL teams, almost five per school.

That’s led to plenty of grumbling in the ranks.

“You could see a change happen immediately,” said Slemker, meaning going back to the old way of deciding games.

“A lot of people were in favor of it at first, but now, after a year (full of ties), some minds might have been changed.”

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