GVSU falls 2-0 in spring exhibition at MSU
Freshman Erika Bradfield fights off an AIC defender during the DII National-Semifinals. GVL / Robert Mathews
A Miley Cyrus fueled playlist blared on the bus ride home from East Lansing after a final game of the spring season – a season where last year’s NCAA Division II national title counts little – in which the Grand Valley State University soccer team was defeated 2-0 by Michigan State University.
MSU broke a scoreless tie minutes after returning to the pitch for the second half, and broke the game open with a second goal less than 10 minutes later. Although at the end of 90 minutes, a daunting spring schedule and a historically successful season in the fall that was crowned with a championship, GVSU found plenty of victories off of the scoreboard.
“One of the biggest challenges this spring has been playing for 90 minutes without taking mental breaks, knowing the game plan and then executing it,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “But aside from the two goals we allowed – which were mental mistakes – I thought we controlled the majority of possession against a Big Ten team, got strong efforts from our center mids and backs in terms of quality of play, saw our forwards be active both on offense and defense, and between the boxes, we were the better team.
“Unfortunately, that’s not what wins you games, and you never like to lose, but winning games is not our focus in the spring season. We’re disappointed with how we gave up those goals, but the score was not indicative of what we got out of the game.”
After a 2013 season of nary allowing a goal, the Lakers have uncharacteristically had a few scoring lapses this spring; two on Saturday.
In both cases, GVSU turned the ball over in the midfield, and allowed MSU forwards to run on and get the ball behind the defense. In both cases, GVSU was unable to get either goal back.
“I thought that our midfield, in general, played better than MSU’s, and that our girls played to the whistle for a good 88 minutes – that’s all positive,” Dilanni said. “I’m really pleased that our best game and our best quality of play as a team came in the last game of the spring against our best opponent.
“We gave up more goals than we’re accustomed to giving up, didn’t score at a clip that we normally score at and need to continue to improve, but we got better throughout the spring season, ended on our highest note and for that, I’m proud of kids.
“What we need to do now is understand that it is our job as individuals and as a team to create a foundation for next season. A solid foundation based on work-rate, team chemistry and knowing our roles so that we can take on seven or eight more players next fall with a tone already set.”
Unimpeded by the loss, several student-athletes on the team took a well-deserved reprieve after the game to enjoy a Miley Cyrus concert.
Some of the girls in attendance held starting roles on last year’s team, while some are being asked to step into new roles with a new season on the horizon. But for GVSU – as it was for Hannah Montana – change is inevitable, and not necessarily less fruitful.
Cyrus has evolved from a family-friendly, tweenage icon with Disney ears to a tabloid regular who helped put GVSU’s now restrained pendulum on the map, players – like All-Americans Kayla Kimble, Tayler Ward and Abbey Miller – come and go, but not without leaving an indelible impact on the esteemed GVSU women’s soccer program first, and where as Dilanni and his players acknowledge that with a new season comes a new team, neither party anticipate a divergence from past success – even if that success looks a little different than it did in the past.
“It’s been a very long, very successful year, yet we’re still asking ourselves how we can still improve,” senior goalkeeper, and likely replacement for Miller, Andrea Strauss said. “Our goal this spring was to improve, to make progress, to build on our future and to be ready for August – we’ve done that.
“Now we have to ask how much can we improve on the base? What do we have to work with now, and what are we adding in the fall? What do we need to do so that we can reach our peak at the right time?
“We’ve all learned a great deal for past players and experiences, myself included, for instance how to be a leader, how to stay humble, be there for your teammates and perpetuate what we learn, but we need to continue to improve everyday, to better ourselves everyday, to stay motivated to recreate experiences like we had last year, and to get the freshmen to buy into everything we tried to do this spring so that they can have those kinds of experiences too.”
Heading into the summer – a segment of the offseason where personal growth is emphasized – GVSU will have officially closed the book on the 2013 season that was and focus instead on turning the page to the 2014 season that will be.
With an understanding that 2013, as tremendous a season as it was, does not solely define Laker soccer, and that when making a transition to a new look within the same entity, it’s alright to hope for the best of both worlds.
“I think we played hard as a team, did a lot of the same things that helped us to be successful in past years, and in a lot of ways dominated the game, but we are still learning what this team is going to be all about,” redshirt sophomore forward Olivia Emery said. “It’s a cool process building a team – from the spring season where we’re still transitioning from the previous year, to the preseason, where we add new girls and get to work meshing.
“Seeing what everyone brings to the table on the field and in personality, what everyone’s weaknesses and strengths are, and then working to make those collective weaknesses strengths. To see it all and put it together; one new team.”