Grades: GVSU soccer earns fridge-worthy A
No. 3 Lakers earn high marks on midseason evaluation
Last season, the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team earned an A for effort, and an A+ for execution. The Lakers romped to a 24-0-1 record, including their third national championship in five years.
This year, however, GVSU is not the same team – and it would be foolish to compare the two. The Lakers graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad, and head coach Dave DiIanni wound up taking the same position at the University of Iowa.
Regardless, not much has fazed the Lakers in 2014. The dynamic squad is off to an 11-1 start this season, including an unblemished 7-0 mark in GLIAC play.
How good, exactly, has GVSU been? Let’s take a look.
GVSU has 43 goals and 42 assists this season.
The starting forwards (Jenny Shaba, Kendra Stauffer, Gabriella Mencotti) have taken on the brunt of the scoring, posting 18 goals and 16 assists between their talented feet.
Shaba, the reigning GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, has yet to hit a goal-scoring roll, but has maintained productivity through her vision and playmaking ability. Stauffer, a sophomore, has followed up an astounding freshman campaign with adequate scoring, but has sent just 11 shots on net this year.
The biggest revelation in the forward ranks has been Mencotti. The true freshman leads the team in goals (nine) and shares the lead for points (14). She has showcased devastating power and sublime placement on her shots, while demonstrating solid chemistry with her fellow attackers.
The team’s starting forwards hold three of the top six spots in total points for GVSU. The crew is well balanced, and rarely goes a game without significant production. There remain a few gaps, however, for the Lakers to fill.
“We’re still working on that final ball to finish the goal off,” Shaba said. “We’re working on being organized in the box and communicating with each other on where our runs are going.”
GVSU coach Jeff Hosler has done minor shuffling with his midfield starters throughout the season, but the depth of skill overflowing from the position makes each move seem justified.
Marti Corby, Gabbie Guibord and Charlie Socia have all started 10 or more games, while Katie Klunder has nine starts.
Offensively, the group has contributed all season. The always-lethal Corby has racked up eight goals and 14 points. Guibord has added seven points, and Socia another two goals. One of the biggest strengths from the Laker midfield, however, is the poise and leadership that stems from the core.
Socia, a senior, and Klunder, a junior, have been making an impact since their respective freshmen seasons. Corby and Guibord, both sophomores, also contributed to the 2013 national championship squad. This midfield knows what it takes to compete for a title, and will do what it takes to get it done.
“At the beginning of the season we struggled on winning aerial balls and we’ve really improved,” Socia said. “We can definitely improve on our defensive shape. We know we can put some goals in the back of the net, but we need to not let in as many goals.”
On defense, age and experience reign supreme.
Seniors Juane Odendaal and Kaely Schlosser have started all 12 games for the Lakers, backing a defense that has yielded just 0.5 goals per game to opposing offenses. GVSU has surrendered only 6.1 shots per game and has stopped nearly every offense from sustaining in-zone possession. The defense has adjusted admirably since losing sophomore Clare Carlson, who has been sidelined since late September with an injury.
“Our organization in the back has been really good, as well as the communication,” Odendaal said. “We could work on getting into the attack more.”
Heading into the season, the goalie position was the biggest question mark on Hosler’s clipboard. There was a four-way race for the top depth chart spot, and Andrea Strauss won out.
There is little to nitpick in Strauss’ performance thus far.
The senior has started all twelve games, logging 1,080 minutes and racking up an 11-1 record.
Strauss has made 37 saves, good for a .860 save percentage, and has allowed a minuscule 0.5 goals per game. In tandem with the Laker defense, Strauss has posted seven clean sheets in her 10 wins.
Further, Strauss has shown impressive poise, making two saves on the two penalty shots she has faced.
Often, the Lakers accrue a wide lead late and give way to their bench. Often, the Lakers use subs to kickstart the offense. Rarely does either move backfire. GVSU’s reserves feature both high-impact spark plugs and minute-eating subs which complement the starters.
Forward Katie Bounds falls into the spark plug category. Bounds, a junior, has netted six goals and dished out two assists while coming off the bench in each contest. Freshman Sara Stevens has added three goals, while players like Alyssa Wesley, Shannon Quinn, Tracey McCoy, Maddison Reynolds and Dani Johnson have logged minutes in nearly each game.
Every Laker position player has seen time in at least four games.
When Hosler was hired by GVSU, he knew he inherited a team chock full of talent and strong recruits. Now, 12 games into the 2014 season, the Lakers look like an effective winning machine once again.
Hosler holds an imposing presence on the sidelines, and clearly commands and deserves respect from his squad. Former GVSU soccer standout Kristen Walker brings practical GLIAC experience to the coaching staff, while graduate assistant Annette Stromberg has focused on working with goalies. If Strauss is any example of Stromberg’s work, it has been nothing short of top notch.
The transition from DiIanni to Hosler has been without major hiccup so far, and GVSU seems to have made a strong choice.
Overall grade: A (3.73 GPA)
The Lakers finish out the last two matches of a three-game GLIAC homestand this weekend against Ohio Dominican (Oct. 17) and Ashland (Oct. 19).