Young roster provides promise for GVSU men's club soccer
The Grand Valley State men’s club soccer team suffered a disappointing end to their 2016 season, finishing only one spot away from making the playoffs.
With eight added freshmen on the roster and a handful of veteran leaders lost to graduation last year, this year's team is faced with a tougher challenge than what they've experienced in the past.
“We lost quite a bit of senior leadership and talent to graduation and transfer," said Jeff Crooks, men's club soccer head coach. "Surprisingly, we had a couple of people back that we didn’t expect to have. That changed the team quite a bit, but we were able to recruit and get a few more good players that showed up to our tryouts.”
A large amount of lost talent and leadership is a hard thing to replace when it comes to club sports. For clubs that can't offer much in terms of scholarships, recruiting is a unique challenge.
“The first thing kids think when they hear recruiting, they think about getting a big scholarship," Crooks said. "That is the furthest thing from the truth, especially when it comes to club sports. There’s really not a whole lot I can offer them because they are actually paying to play on our team. I have to use our strengths, which are an amazing university and a quality education.”
Although there are still growing pains with the new roster, Crooks already has an idea of what the team's strengths and weaknesses are.
“Our strength right now is a lot of our guys are really hard workers, and as a team, we work hard together to achieve our goals," Crooks said. "Our weakness is the fact that we lost some of the best players that I’ve coached in my time here at Grand Valley. So we lost a lot of pace and lost some guys that were outstanding with the ball.”
Crooks also talked about the team's season so far and what they need to improve.
“Our biggest thing this year is trying to finish the game," he said. "We’ve lost a couple of games this year that if we would have played a full 90-minute match and concentrated the whole time, we probably would have been able to finish it off."
Although the season didn't start the way they had hoped, the Lakers are now aware of the mistakes they must fix moving forward.
“We lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have because of silly mistakes, so now we are behind the 8 ball,” Crooks said. “But, I am assuming we are going to make the playoffs. My expectations for my team are the same every year. I expect to make the playoffs, and I expect to advance in the playoffs.”
This year’s team has a record of 5-2-2, and the Lakers will have to win their final four games of the season to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Lakers play their next three games on the road, but they return home to take on Michigan State in their final game of the season, and that game has huge playoff implications.
Crooks wants to draw a larger fanbase to his team’s final game.
“I wish people would come and watch games and see how good the product actually is," Crooks said. "I think what happens too often is people say, 'It's just club.' We play good teams, and we play good soccer, and I think the guys would appreciate having a bigger fanbase.”