Slow start dooms GVSU in 2-1 NCAA semifinal loss
AUGUSTA, Ga. — In each of the last three seasons, the Grand Valley State University soccer team has finished its season in the NCAA Division II title game — winning two and losing in last year’s final.
Thursday presented the Lakers with an opportunity to return to the title game, but a slow start and a two-goal deficit proved to be too much for the Lakers as they fell to the University of California, San Diego, 2-1.
“That was a great game. I find it hard to believe there will be a better game in this Final Four,” said GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni. “They’re very technical. They’re athletic. They provide some mismatches for us that aren’t good — we didn’t solve problems early on.”
Slow starts plagued both squads, but it was GVSU goalkeeper Chelsea Parise who kept things scoreless early. While UC San Diego found a way to manufacture an offensive attack, the Lakers struggled to put the ball on the net and were out-shot 8-6 (4-1 on goal).
Parise was active early, stopping all five of the Tritons shots, while also fighting off four corner kicks in the half.
Even in the second half, GVSU struggled to sustain possession and present a constant offensive attack, something that’s reflected in the quiet first 80 minutes of action.
“We finished the first half really well,” said senior forward Ashley Botts. “After (UC San Diego’s) second goal we knew we had to step it up. After two goals, you definitely want to start playing a lot harder. If we would’ve come out with the same intensity the entire game, those goals wouldn’t have gone in.”
Under a minute into the second half, UC San Diego struck first.
Midfielder Cassie Callahan floated in a shot — one that looked to be on course to sky over the crossbar — but dropped in over the out-stretched arms of Parise, who appeared to be undecided on whether the ball would sail high.
“It was an unlucky goal; I really don’t know what happened on it,” said senior forward Ashley Botts. “It was a little slap in the face, but we definitely came back strong”
The Tritons struck again later in the half when Izzy Pozurama redirected and headed a shot into the back of the net for the all-important 2-0 lead.
Botts got GVSU on the board with a goal late in the second half. The score came off a deflection from sophomore Charlie Socia and brought the Lakers within a goal.
It wouldn’t be the last of the Lakers’ opportunities, either.
From forward Maria Brown blasting a shot high over the net from the center of the box to defender Kelsey Fiscus’ shot bouncing off the crossbar and fingertips of UC San Diego goalkeeper Kelcie Brodsky, the Lakers made a valiant push to tie the game in the final minutes.
Maybe the most telling of those chances was the final GVSU scoring chance. With Brodsky squirming on the ground near the edge of the box, all GVSU needed was to move the ball and find the opening in the defense.
Instead of firing a game-tying attempt, the team was called for a handball, stunting any momentum it collected — even after out-shooting UC San Diego 20-6 in the final stanza.
“We worked extremely hard to create those opportunities for ourselves. We were kind of unlucky that we weren’t able to finish a couple of them,” said senior midfielder Alyssa Mira. “Definitely the chances were there. We’ll take this as a learning experience. I’m very proud of how we fought back.”