Former GVSU standout returns as assistant
Walker led team to NCAA Division II titles in '09, '10
A familiar face is returning to the Grand Valley State University women's soccer team this season.
Before joining first-year head coach Jeff Hosler’s staff as an assistant coach in late July, Kristen Walker (formerly Kristen Eible) was an assistant at an up-and-coming Davenport University soccer program in 2012 and 2013. Davenport won back-to-back Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) outright titles in that span, and had a two-year WHAC record of 16-1.
In addition to her DU coaching stint, Walker was a head coach at East Grand Rapids High School and was also a part of the Michigan Fire Juniors coaching staff in each of the past three seasons.
All of these jobs have helped the new Laker assistant find her style as a coach. She said she was thankful to have these valuable opportunities, which helped build up her coaching philosophy.
Walker said she not only wants to help bring excitement to her sport, but also the program that gave so much to her: she was a standout member of the GVSU soccer team from 2007 to 2010.
Walker captained the Lakers to back-to-back national titles in 2009 and 2010 and was a four-time All-GLIAC First Team honoree. She started 93 games (the second most in program history) under former coach Dave DiIanni and, in that four-year span, GVSU was 87-7-3.
In her senior season, GVSU set NCAA Division II records in single-season shutouts (22) and postseason goals (17 in seven games). GVSU went 22-1-2 that year, outscoring opponents at a 93-5 clip.
She said repeating as NCAA champions in 2010 was one of the toughest accomplishments of her career. She and her teammates expected to repeat, but the season was challenging due to the size of the target on their backs. Still, Walker and the Lakers found a way.
“To achieve that one common goal means doing the little things right,” she said.
The experience from being on that squad is certainly something the 2014 Lakers can relate to after they brought another national crown to Allendale in 2013.
The team, which returned from camp in Petoskey, Mich. on Friday, is months away from any type of postseason run but, in the meantime, the Lakers will have an opportunity to learn from someone who is no stranger to championship expectations at the Division II level.
“In certain scenarios she knows what’s going to happen,” senior defender Alyssa Wesley said. “There’s no reason to question her judgment on things.”
Walker said the recent changes in the program may actually help the team stay focused because it gives the juniors and seniors, who trained under DiIanni, a fresh learning perspective.
The Lakers are clicking so far, Hosler said, and having a likeminded assistant coach is a huge advantage. He and Walker share the same competitive expectations that have become embedded in the GVSU tradition for years.
The expectations are high for the team this year, but with a new leader holding the clipboard and a familiar face nearby, the No. 1 Lakers certainly appear primed to defend their title.