PK perfection propels GVSU to title match

Strauss' heroics lift Lakers past Saint Rose in Final Four

By Adam Knorr | 12/7/14 11:22am

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Andrea Strauss toed her line, staring straight ahead. Rain cascaded down on the field at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium at Bellarmine University.

No. 11 Grand Valley State and No. 6 Saint Rose were tied 1-1. Two overtimes passed, scoreless. The teams were forced to go to penalty kicks to decide the match.

GVL / Kevin Sielaff
GVL / Kevin Sielaff

The stakes? A trip to the NCAA Division II National Championship game.

Strauss set. The first shot came. Strauss moved to her left, overstepped the ball, but got a hand on it. No goal.

Charlie Socia stepped up for GVSU. The senior midfielder calmly slotted it away to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead.

Again Strauss returned to the net. This time, the shot sought the top corner, but a diving deflection kept the Golden Knights off the score sheet.

Then it was Gabbie Guibord’s turn. In the vein of her teammate before her, the junior knocked her shot to the low corner and into the back of the net. 2-0 GVSU.

Once more Strauss stepped to the goalmouth. And once more, Strauss came up with a save.

Gabriella Mencotti, a freshman, took her turn at the penalty spot and blasted a shot home -- 3-0 Lakers in penalty kicks. Final score 2-1. Game over. Lakers win.

“Ever since I started playing goalkeeper I just kind of had a knack for reading people and thinking where they’re going to go, trying to read how they line up or how they approach the ball and kind of go with my gut and hopefully it’s right,” Strauss said. “I was pretty lucky tonight. I will admit that.”

Thursday night's tilt lasted nearly three hours, and every second of it was a white-knuckle ride.

The Lakers opened the game in a commanding manner, controlling possession and mustering a few promising opportunities, but couldn’t break through.

With just over five minutes to go in the first half, Saint Rose muscled its way onto the scoreboard. A set piece in Laker territory led to a bouncing ball in GVSU’s box. The ball eventually found its way to the foot of Saint Rose’s Carmelina Puopolo, who snuck a shot through traffic and past Strauss to put the Golden Knights up 1-0.

Less than two minutes later, Guibord struck a deep shot that rang off the post, but the buzzer soon sounded, and GVSU headed into the locker room behind on the scoreboard for the first time all season.

“There doesn’t need to be a sense of panic,” said head coach Jeff Hosler when asked about his message to the team at halftime. “There’s still 45 minutes left. I thought in the first half we were the better side.”

With 32 minutes remaining in the second stanza, GVSU’s relentless pursuit paid off. Sophomore Kendra Stauffer was taken down in the box, and the Lakers were awarded a penalty kick.

Marti Corby -- the picture of reliability -- stepped up to take the kick. Corby pushed a ball to the lower right corner, but Saint Rose goalkeeper Ashley Homer got her hands on it.

The shot stayed out, but the rebound didn’t. Corby followed up on her own miss, capitalizing on her second opportunity to bring the Lakers back to even at 1-1.

“It was not my greatest penalty kick attempt,” Corby said. “I hit it a little near to the keeper’s hands but I knew she would let off a rebound especially in the slick conditions.”

The teams traded opportunities for the rest of regulation. Strauss made saves when she was called upon. Mencotti nailed the post. Stauffer dished to Katie Klunder on a two-on-one, but Homer came up with a breakaway save.

After 90 minutes, GVSU and Saint Rose were tied.

The first overtime passed with neither team making a dent on the scoreboard. In the second bout of overtime, Puopolo -- the second-highest point scorer in the NCAA -- took advantage of a miscommunication in GVSU’s back line and tore on a breakaway at the net.

Strauss was the only thing between Puopolo and the net. Between a season ending or another day to play.

Strauss came out to meet Puopolo, slid, got a foot on the shot and kept it out of the net. Soon after, the double overtime horn sounded and it was time for penalty kicks.

Strauss’ heroics may have come as a shock to some, but her teammates knew better than to doubt their keeper. In GVSU’s 2013 national championship game, Strauss suited up as a backup to then-goalkeeper Abbey Miller. Had the game gone to penalty kicks, Strauss would have come on as a substitute.

It didn’t, however, which led to Strauss seeing her first collegiate shootout action on Thursday evening.

GVSU outshot Saint Rose 26-12, although just 8-7 in shots on goal. Strauss made six saves compared to Homer’s seven, but the effort was just enough.

The Lakers will take on No. 8 Rollins in the national championship match on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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