GVSU ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP PATH
After Thanksgiving weekend, things are back to normal at Grand Valley State University. Students make their way back to classes, faculty prepare for final exams and the GVSU soccer team prepares for what is becoming an annual trip to the NCAA Division II Women’s Final Four.
After a heart-pounding finish last Sunday against Minnesota State University, which saw the Lakers advance on penalty kicks, GVSU makes their way to Evans, Ga. for Thursday’s semifinal action.
“We beat a really good team,” said senior goalkeeper Chelsea Parise. “That’s how it is at this point. In order to advance, you have to beat really good teams and trust in what you’ve been doing all season.”
The team that the Lakers will face first is University of California-San Diego, who are coached by Brian McManus. McManus has accumulated an impressive record 417-64-38 in his 25-year tenure at UC San Diego.
“They’re an incredibly well-coached team,” said GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni. “We faced them a few years ago, but we expect to see some new characters. They be really technical and crafty, and we’re preparing for that.”
The Lakers have an extra week to prepare for this one, as well. As opposed to Division I, Division II takes Thanksgiving weekend off before the Final Four.
“I like the idea of a break,” DiIanni said. “It gives us time to take care of injuries and it allows the quality of play to be better after getting some rest mentally and physically. It’s also nice to have the kids spend some time with their families.”
The Laker soccer team will get right back into the swing of things after the holiday. They leave on Tuesday in order to get a few practices and implement a game plan in Georgia before the match against UC-San Diego on Thursday.
In the final days of their careers, the Laker seniors know what it takes to win a national title. This is GVSU’s fourth-consecutive semifinal appearance, which they hope will prepare them for the pressure and intensity of this weekend’s matchups.
“It’s a great advantage,” said senior forward Ashley Botts. “Not many teams can even say that they’ve been to the Final Four once. But to make it four years in a row. But to say that we’ve had that experience and that we’ve got all these seniors who’ve been there is priceless and it gives us a big advantage.”
Coach DiIanni hopes that Botts and the rest of his seniors can keep the Lakers poised and under control when the going gets rough this weekend.
“We are a team of momentum,” DiIanni said. “Once we get rolling, our quality of play is very high, but when momentum swings away from us, we don’t do a very good job of getting it back.”
If momentum ends up in GVSU’s favor on Friday, they have the opportunity to play the winner of The College of St. Rose and University of West Florida in the National Championship game on Saturday.
Links for the broadcast of both games will be on www.gvsulakers.com.