Philippe has the Raiders running

FAIRBORN — At 6-0-1, the undefeated Wright State University men’s soccer team is off to an historic start. Junior forward and electrical engineering major Alec Philippe has been a technically sound piece of the Raiders machine.

Philippe’s team leading total of six goals was elevated by a Sept. 22 hat trick against Cleveland State.

The first goal came off a beautiful cross from Jackson Deitrich that Philippe headed into the back of the net. Next he got a score off a deflection, assisted this time by an outside shot from Deitrich. On the third, the dynamic duo hooked up yet again off a through ball that Philippe tucked into the net.

“Hat tricks are difficult to get in soccer,” WSU coach Jake Slemker said. “You have to work hard and put yourself in the right spot at the right time. He did both of those of things.”

“Leading up to the game coach (Slemker) had us working on finding forwards feet more and making sure we had efficient runs off the ball. I think that’s what helped me score the three goals,” Philippe said. “Not only was it a great achievement for me personally, but it also was a big step for the team. Now we’re sitting at the top of the table (Horizon League) with a few other teams.”

Following his tip of the hat effort, Philippe was named Horizon League Player of the Week. The Raiders as a whole were also greeted by the news that they had been rated No. 15 in the country by Top Drawer Soccer, the highest ranking a WSU team has had since joining the Division I ranks. Also this week, the Raiders received votes in the Coaches’ Poll.

Philippe credits the expectations from the coaching staff as one of the reasons for the hot start.

“They’re demanding and want certain outcomes from us,” he said. “Some might look at that as a bad thing, but I think it challenges us and helps keep us motivated for every game. I’m never unsure what they’re asking from me.”

None other than WSU great Peguy Ngatcha, who was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of the MLS in 2017, mentored Philippe during his freshman campaign.

“He helped me a lot with my positioning and runs off the ball and gave me other tips here and there,” Philippe said.

This phenomenal forward might be greater than he even knows, Slemker says.

“Sometimes he (Philippe) doesn’t realize how powerful and athletic he is. When he plays at 100 percent, he is a very dangerous player,” Slemker said. “Secondly, he is always smiling and enjoying himself, which is great and contagious to his teammates. He always seems to be having fun.”

The up-tempo offense that the Raiders are utilizing under Slemker this season has shades of the 1990 UNLV men’s basketball squad that ran opponents off the court.

“I’ve always been offensive minded, and I think it brings a new dimension to the team, creating more opportunities on offense,” Philippe said. “That’s been helping with our success.”

Next week, the running Raiders will be tested at Virginia, a team currently ranked No. 6 nationally in the RPI ratings. Wright State appears more than ready for the challenge.

“We have to come into each game with the mindset that, no matter who the opponent is, we stick to what we’ve been doing. The coaches set out what they expected from us,” Philippe said. “They wanted more dominant soccer and to be aggressive on the ball. If we can keep going with that mentality, I think we’ll make a great run.”

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