Jake Slemker didn’t know as a first-year coach how the Wright State men’s soccer team would respond to him, and he probably figured he’d meet some resistance over changing the playing style to an attacking offensive-minded approach.
But based on the results and the enthusiasm he’s encountering, it’s safe to say the transition has gone exceedingly well.
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“There’s a good buzz about the team. We have a pretty big roster, and it seems like, from top to bottom, everyone is excited and working hard,” Slemker said. “It’s a really good vibe right now, and the guys are still receptive to taking criticism and sharpening up things we need to improve on.”
The Raiders are putting together their best season in the Division-I era, which started in 1987. They're rated 11th nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com — the highest they've ever been ranked — and their 8-0-1 start this season was the best in school history.
The unbeaten streak ended Tuesday with a 2-1 loss at No. 6 Virginia, but they’re ranked ahead of three-time defending national champ Stanford and other traditional powers, which is heady stuff.
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“The guys see it on social media. It’s good for the university. It’s good for the program,” said Slemker, a former Northmont and Wright State standout who was an assistant for eight years under previous coach Bryan Davis.
The Raiders, who are ranked 22nd nationally in the United Soccer Coaches poll, are reaching new heights mostly because of prolific offense. They began the week second in the country with an average of 3.0 goals per game, behind only Wake Forest's 3.2 mark.
“Our front four are all capable of scoring at any time,” Slemker said. “There’s games where all four are clicking. There’s games where three of them are clicking or just one or two. But they all have the ability to change the game at any moment, and it’s really good to see.”
Junior Alec Philippe started the week tied for sixth in the country with nine goals, while junior Jackson Dietrich was second with nine assists. Classmates Deri Corfe (six goals, four assists) and Stefan Rokvic (six goals, one assist) are among the league leaders in points.
Philippe notched a hat track in a 4-1 win over Cleveland State on Sept. 22 and was named the league's offensive player of the week. He also was named Tuesday to the College Soccer News national team of the week after notching three goals in a pair of wins last week.
“He has a special skill set,” Slemker said. “But the one thing you can control is work rate, and he’s always looking to put in extra work. But he brings it every day, and it’s contagious with the other guys as well.”
The Raiders haven’t posted more than 12 wins since 1992, but they should easily reach that total and are on pace to challenge the program record of 16 set in 1988.
They’re 3-0 in the league and will play their homecoming match, which is always a highlight of the season, against UIC at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a good atmosphere with the students out there, and it’s usually a really cool night,” Slemker said. “I hope we can put a show on as a team and let them see what we’re all about.”
GOLF: The Raiders finished second in the 13-team Valparaiso Crusader Classic. Austin Schoonmaker, a junior from Springboro, tied for third, while sophomore Bryce Haney (Wayne) tied for fifth.
CROSS COUNTRY: The women placed third and the men 12th among 36 schools at the All-Ohio Championships at Akron. Senior Hailey Brumfield (Tipp City) was third individually, while junior Nathan Dunn (Covington) was sixth.