Despite 18 shots in the first half, the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team’s final match of the regular season was not a demonstration of instant gratification.
The only goal of the game came in minute 76 as sophomore forward Katie Bounds navigated Lake Erie’s crowded backline, only to be held in the box by Chrissy Poulos. Senior defender Kayla Kimble put the resulting penalty kick away into the upper 90, completing the Lakers undefeated season and extending GVSU’s winning streak to 16 games.
The win additionally extended the Lakers’ (16-0-1, 12-0 GLIAC) home-unbeaten streak to 59 games, the second longest run in Division II history.
A moment four years in the making encapsulated in a single scoring strike, the goal felt particularly fitting considering that eight Lakers suited up Friday to play the final regular season game of their respective careers
“Friday was a wild experience for me,” Kimble said. “It didn’t really hit me until after the game that I had just played in my last regular season home game. Scoring to remain undefeated was just the perfect ending to that first part of my season and you couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Defenders Taylor Callen, Sam Decker, Kelsey Fiscus, Tayler Ward, midfielders Autumn Jacobs, Shelbey Humphries and goalkeeper Abbey Miller also comprised the senior class that through four years has led the Lakers to a 77-4-10 overall record, four straight GLIAC regular season championships, three consecutive GLIAC Tournament titles and NCAA Division II Final Four appearances and a national championship in 2010.
The crop has not lost a single home match in their four years.
“On senior night, you always want to send your player home with a memorable day, and our kids will always remember that day,” GVSU head coach Dave Dilanni said. “We put a major emphasis on those seniors versus the rest of the team and it was the one day all year long that it was o.k. to focus on the individuals. There’s a lot of emotion that comes with senior day and we started all the seniors – that’s the first time I’ve ever done that in my 11 years at GVSU, and I thought they deserved that.”
The Lakers’ have allowed only a single goal in 2013 and have been the No. 1 ranked Division II team in the nation for seven straight weeks. While success is never unexpected at GVSU, the 2013 squad has surpassed almost all expectations, except maybe their own.
“This season, we’ve really been able to come together as teammates, leaders, friends, on and off the field, and to stand out there together was a very special feeling for our class,” Decker said. “Even though it was senior night, it doesn’t feel like the end yet. We have a long way to go.”
The national championship came quickly, but the sustained success has required time. And just as the 2013 graduating class has grown together, so has so has the 2013 team.
“The growth and development we’ve seen occur here over the last four years has been a lot of fun to watch,” Dilanni said. “All eight are leaders, but I don’t think it came natural to any of them, to be honest with you. The seniors especially have worked really hard, thought outside the box, have done things that are uncomfortable and don’t come easy for them, have done a great job with this group this year and are excited to lead them through the next couple of weeks, as well.”
GVSU will host Northwood, whom the Lakers defeated 5-0 on Sept. 29, Tuesday in a GLIAC tournament quarterfinal game, in hopes of taking the first steps towards a return trip to the national title game.
“Northwood was one of the better games that we’ve played this season. We took advantage of a lot of the opportunities we created and our success rate in the box was very high,” Dilanni said. “In the same token, we’ve seen them and they’ve seen us, and so we’re going to have to be better in all phases of how we play as we get into tournament play.”