Stauffer thrives after reuniting with coach
GVL / Archive Kendra Stauffer
Kendra Stauffer knew Jeff Hosler in 2012. It was Stauffer’s senior year of high school, and she was playing for Hosler’s TNT club soccer team in Lansing.
College was closing in quick on Stauffer, and Grand Valley State University was yet to hit her radar. Hosler’s involvement with GVSU was largely the same – minimal, a blip far away from the center of the map.
Fast forward two years. It’s 2014 and the No. 3 GVSU women’s soccer team is 6-1. Kendra Stauffer is a dynamic starting forward. Jeff Hosler is the first-year head coach. The team is rolling.
"My parents say it was fate," Stauffer said.
Late in her sophomore year at Caledonia High School, Stauffer committed to Central Michigan University to play soccer. Soon after, however, the Chippewas underwent a coaching change and Stauffer’s commitment was no longer honored.
Despite starting as a standout for four years of varsity soccer at Caledonia, it looked as though Stauffer wasn’t going to get a chance to play at the collegiate level. A coach from a rival high school heard through the grapevine that Stauffer was still without a school and suggested GVSU.
Stauffer came on a visit, and quickly committed.
The impact was immediate. The 5-foot-4 freshman earned a starting spot early in the season and helped lead the Lakers to the 2013 NCAA Division II National Championship. Stauffer scored 11 goals and dished out 10 assists in the regular season, and managed to garner NCAA Offensive Player of the Tournament honors.
"I came in thinking, 'I'm a freshman and I'm not going to play at all,'" Stauffer said. "I didn't get to see the field at all in the preseason, but I started starting once the first few games came around."
And to think, she wasn’t planning on playing college soccer.
After the 2013 season, GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni left to take the same position at the University of Iowa. The search for a new head coach led GVSU to Alma College, where Hosler was at the helm.
GVSU made an offer, Hosler accepted, and suddenly coach and player from the 2012 TNT squad were back together thanks to a series of serendipitous selections.
Hosler has noted improvements in Stauffer's game from their two years apart. If these changes show a trend, Stauffer could terrorize the GLIAC for years to come.
"She seems so much more eager to learn. She's more engaged now from the mental side," Hosler said. "Two years ago she was a really good athlete and a really good soccer player who just kind of played the game.
"Everything was just instinctual, and now she's trying to think the game and learn the game more."
It can be easy for opposing defenses to lose track of the diminutive forward.
When Stauffer is off the ball, she often appears unassuming. The reality is that Stauffer is a threat regardless of her positioning on the field. If she gets the ball in the offensive zone, her on-ball skills and field vision take over and the Lakers often add a tally on the scoreboard.
Through seven games in the 2014 campaign, Stauffer has six points, highlighted by her three goals. She scored the first two goals of the season for GVSU, and found the back of the net once again in the team's 6-0 win at the University of Findlay on Sunday.
"She is a really talented player and when she's on she can take anyone on and beat them," said sophomore defender Clare Carlson. "She can finish any shot she has within the 18... She is able to be calm in those situations."
And in those situations, GVSU is glad she came.