SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The Slippery Rock University women's soccer team will use the University's homecoming to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its program by welcoming back players from former teams, along with fans, families and alumni for a weekend of special events.
The weekend's capstone is a 20th Anniversary Celebration planned for 6 p.m., Oct. 19, in the Smith Student Center Ballroom. Tickets may purchased online at: www.RockAlumniCafe.com.
The evening celebration will follow The Rock's 1 p.m. home soccer match against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference opponent Mansfield University on Egli Field.
Prior to the Oct. 19 celebration event, The Rock will induct its first class of women into the SRU Soccer Ring of Honor at the Oct. 18 Ring of Honor Banquet in the Smith Student Center.
The 6 p.m. Ring of Honor Banquet will include induction of Erika Lutwin, the team's first coach; former standout Meghan McGrath; and former SRU club soccer player and longtime soccer referee Sharon Wheeler.
Tickets for the banquet are also available online at: www.RockAlumniCafe.com.
The Rock women's soccer program may only be 20 years old, but has managed to accomplish a great deal more than many similar programs.
SRU, now playing in its 21st season, has put together 17 straight winning seasons, including 15 straight with at least 10 wins. That streak ranks as the eighth-best stretch of winning seasons in Division II women's soccer history.
The Rock has won the PSAC title three times, including last fall. SRU has made seven trips to the NCAA Tournaments and is coming off its deepest runs in the postseason the last two years when it advanced to the "Sweet 16."
Noreen Herlihy has been the head coach for all but two of the program's 20 years and has guided the team to its 17 winning seasons. Herlihy had led SRU's team to a total of 230 wins and has a career record of 230-105-28. Her win total ranks as the 15th best among any active coach in Division II women's soccer.
Herlihy took over the program from Lutwin in 1995 after the former coach oversaw the team's transition from a club to an official varsity athletic team.
"Erika Lutwin and the group of players that pushed for the sport to become a varsity sport and not a club are the ones who get credit for the beginning of this program," Herlihy said. "I am proud to have been the coach for the last 18 years, but Rock women's soccer started well before I arrived. Those women paved the way for where we are today."
The current SRU team is ranked 24th in the Division II national rankings, despite being a relatively young squad that starts four true freshmen and had to replace its top two scorers from the PSAC championship team last fall.
"We've been very fortunate to have some outstanding recruiting classes here," said Herlihy, who has had success recruiting international students as well as local, regional and national students.
The team has always been diverse in its geographical makeup under Herlihy. While the majority of the team are Pennsylvania and Ohio region natives, the current squad includes players from England, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia and New York.
"The program has continued to grow and earn more recognition, which leads to more and more women wanting to play for SRU and be a part of Rock soccer," said Herlihy. "We work very hard in recruiting every year to identify the best players for our program and with the help of some amazing assistant coaches in my career, we have been able to continually bring in excellent recruiting classes."
The program is in full bloom and is coming off arguably its best back-to-back seasons in school history.
"The challenge is not just achieving success," Herlihy said. "We need to maintain that success and continue to build and not let the program slip. It is very important to keep improving. I want our program to grow stronger every year, never stand still and always look forward. When we got on the bus last year with the PSAC trophy, I was already looking forward to defending it the next season. That challenge is something that is exciting for the coaches and the players and continues to drive us to get better."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.