Wright State men’s soccer: Raiders making progress under new coach

FAIRBORN — Alex Van der Sluijs’ first game as Wright State men’s soccer coach was a 1-1 tie at Xavier, a mid-pack Big East program. So far, so good.

Next on the schedule, though, was a trip to Marshall, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation. And as Van der Sluijs said, “Marshall is a different beast this year.”

The Raiders were no match, losing 5-0. And the defeat left the players a little wobbly.

“I thought we lost some of our confidence,” said Van der Sluijs (pronounced Vander Slice).

“That game was pretty one-sided. We had a great game against Xavier, and Marshall took a little wind out of our sails. That’s what can happen in this sport.”

The Raiders may have needed some time to find their footing, but they’re rolling now.

They notched their first victory of the season Saturday, beating visiting Milwaukee, 1-0. They followed that with a 3-0 win over Bowling Green on Tuesday, scoring all their goals in the final 15 minutes to break a three-match winless streak against the Falcons going back to 2017.

Aside from that late-game breakout, generating offense has been an issue. They’ve been outscored, 12-9, this year, and no individual has more than one goal.

“Scoring goals in the college D-I game is really difficult. Sometimes you have these goal-scorers who just have a knack. But sometimes you’ve got to score by committee,” said Van der Sluijs, whose team is 2-2-3 overall.

“We don’t necessarily have that one guy where we say, ‘Oh, he’s our goal-scorer.’ But I think we’ve got a collective unit that’s going to create chances for us.”

The Raiders returned first-team all-league center-back Pierson Davis, a Beavercreek grad, and two second-team picks in forward Reece Allbaugh and midfielder Brock Pickett.

Midfielder Chris Geddis, a two-year starter and former all-freshman team honoree, also is back after missing last season with an ACL tear.

Allbaugh easily led the league in shots last year at 3.94 per game (the next-best mark was 3.26). But he scored just five goals.

He’s third in shots so far with 18, but he has only one goal to show for it.

“Reece has been playing really well. He’s been dangerous. He’s a guy who’s going to blow up once the floodgates open for him,” Van der Sluijs said.

The defense has been stout — at least since Van der Sluijs switched to goal-keeper Alessandro Malterer, who’s given up just one goal while starting the last three games.

“Sometimes, it’s just taking your moment and grabbing it and holding on to it. And that’s what it feels like he’s doing right now,” Van der Sluijs said.

Of course, defense isn’t a one-man operation. His teammates on the back end aren’t allowing much to get past them.

“I’ve been pleased lately with the pride with which we’re defending. It feels like we’re doing whatever it takes to try to get blocks and limit goals,” he said.

Wright State, which went 4-7-6 last season, was picked fourth in the Horizon League preseason poll. Cleveland State is the favorite, followed by IUPUI and Oakland.

The Raiders are 1-1 in the league going into a road game Saturday night with Purdue Fort Wayne.

They haven’t had an HL tourney win since capturing their only crown in 2019, and they have designs on doing something about that this fall.

“I think we have the group and the buy in, and I like what we’re doing culturally. Consistency and everybody doing their jobs to the best of their abilities are what’s going to get us into that position,” Van der Sluijs said.

“I had a great coach who said, ‘You need piano players and piano movers.’ Sometimes we just need piano movers to get the three points (awarded for a victory). I think we’re on the right path.”

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