GVSU's 'Fab Four' gears up for grand finale
At some point this week, the Grand Valley State women’s soccer team will play its last game of the season.
The 2014 campaign could end with a loss in the NCAA Division II semifinals. It could end with a runner-up finish. Or it could end with a national championship. One way or another, this week in Louisville, Ky. will draw the curtains on what has been an award-winning four-act performance for a group of GVSU seniors.
Jenny Shaba, Charlie Socia, Alyssa Wesley and Juane Odendaal have, at most, two games left. When it’s all over, they probably won’t take a bow.
But a standing ovation would certainly be justified.
Since joining the program in 2011, the foursome has helped lead GVSU to a .944 win percentage. In that time, the Lakers have lost just two GLIAC games, won four GLIAC regular season crowns, four GLIAC Tournament titles – and a national championship.
They’ve never missed a Final Four.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Odendaal said. “A lot of people doubted us, a lot of people weren’t expecting us to make it this far…It’s pretty cool. I mean, who goes to the Final Four all four years that they’re here?”
As the No. 11 Lakers gear up for their semifinal match against No. 6 Saint Rose on Thursday, the seniors figure to reflect on their best memories at GVSU.
There’s the time they practiced through a hailstorm. Former coach Dave DiIanni stood on the pitch, bundled in weather-appropriate gear, while he shouted at his shorts and T-shirts laden team to keep going.
There’s also memories of various victories through the years – and there’s plenty to choose from. Since 2011, the group has helped GVSU go 85-5-9.
In 2014, they’ve added a number of memorable moments to the list while proving to be invaluable in both leadership and skill.
Shaba, a dominating forward, has scored 10 goals and dished out a program-best 16 assists this season.
Socia, after making the transition from an attacking to a holding midfielder, has been a steady, calming presence in the middle of the field, scoring four goals and notching two assists.
“We’re really close,” Socia said. “We’ve gone through so much together. I’m really excited to share the last bit of my career with all of them.”
Wesley, a consistent defensive cog, has seen time in 21 games this season, rarely failing to put the team’s interests in front of her own.
Odendaal, a deceptively fast defender, has started all 24 games, logging a second-best 1,961 minutes – trailing just one player, goalkeeper Andrea Strauss (2,141).
A peek at GVSU’s roster shows two more seniors. They haven’t been on the squad since 2011. Before 2014, neither contributed significantly to the team.
But the importance of each one should not – and cannot – be left behind the scenes.
Strauss is one. The senior keeper joined the team in 2013 following a stint on the club soccer team. After backing up all-everything goalkeeper Abbey Miller last season, Strauss earned the starting job. She has started all 24 games, allowing just 10 goals, posting a .872 save percentage to go with 15 shutouts.
The second is redshirt senior Kaely Schlosser. After spending the majority of her career at Central Michigan, Schlosser devoted her last year of eligibility to GVSU. The defender has started all 24 games this season, bringing another vocal presence to the back end for the Lakers.
The role of Strauss and Schlosser, GVSU coach Jeff Hosler said, is vital during tournament time.
“(They have) brought a greater sense of urgency to the group because they’re seniors and it’s their first shot at a championship,” Hosler said.
Winning that championship won’t be easy. It never is. GVSU – the only two-seed left in the tournament – will have to battle through a pair of one-seeds in order to bring home its second championship in as many years.
One way or another, the encore performance for GVSU’s seniors is on the horizon. The last four years have shined a burning spotlight on the Laker program, and four players have grown to be stars under that glow.
So take a bow, Shaba. Take a bow, Chuck. Take a bow, Mama Wes. Take a bow, U. No one knows when the final act will end – or how it will end.
But one way or another, you’ve earned this last shot. Soak it in. You deserve it.