Revamp and Reload: after losing key contributors, GVSU soccer looks to continue winning ways
Madz Ham during the game against Ferris State University on Sunday October 1, 2017. GVL / Emily Frye
The Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team has been nothing short of dominant in recent years. Since 2014, the team has lost a total of nine games, making them one of the best soccer programs in Division II. Last year, the team continued their winning ways, finishing the season 20-4 before losing in the Elite 8 to Central Missouri.
This year’s team is younger and less experienced, primarily due to the team losing several major contributors from last year, including Dani Johnson, Shannon Quinn and leading scorer Gabriella Mencotti. Replacing their 30 goal scorer will not be an easy task, so the contributions will have to come from multiple other sources.
Two of the team's promising players include senior Tara Lierman and sophomore Ava Cook. The two were the second leading scorers on the team last season, both ending the year with 13 apiece. If they continue to improve and raise their goal count, they could replace that production seamlessly.
One strength that the team will continue to rely on going into this season is their defense. Last season, the Lakers allowed .62 goals on 7.8 shots per game. They held opponents to a .080 shot percentage and over the entire season only allowed 15 goals.
Even with the loss of some key offensive players, the defense of the team should remain a strength this year. Returning All-American defensive players Madz Ham and Cecilia Steinwascher were All-Region honorees in 2017 and will help to anchor this year's team on the defensive side of the ball.
Another loss from last year’s team that will be interesting to watch moving forward is starting goalkeeper Jennifer Steinaway. The keeper started every game for the Lakers and allowed .60 goals per game on an .842 save percentage.
The team looks to replace Steinaway’s veteran presence with sophomore Jessica Radice. In eight games last season, Radice allowed .037 goals and had a .857 save percentage. The sample size from Radice’s season is much smaller, but if she can remain consistent with her production from last year, she should be able to replicate Steinaway's averages.
Although this team is young, they still have to deal with the burden of expectations that come with playing for a storied program. The team was unanimously voted number one in the preseason GLIAC coaches poll and number six in the country for Division II, coming in behind fellow powerhouses Central Missouri and California-San Diego.
The Lakers also have some new faces coming in in the form of transfer students who are hoping to bring some needed experience to the team. They are bringing in five transfers this season who could contribute right away: Caitie Baron from Xavier University, Morgan Krause from the University of Iowa, Sydney O’Donnell from Vanderbilt University, Riko Sagara from Martin Methodist and Olivia Trombley from Michigan State University.
The Lakers kick off their season at home on Friday, Aug. 31 against Bellarmine at 4 p.m.