GVSU soccer's Riko Sagara joins GRFC for the off-season
The Grand Valley State women's soccer team has been no stranger to success in the last several months. With an appearance in the NCAA Championship game, winning the GLIAC title and a handful of team and individual awards, the Lakers have much to be proud of.
One of those award winners was junior Riko Sagara, who was named GLIAC Offense Player of the Year. In order to keep in shape and prepare for next season, Sagara joined the Grand Rapids Football Club for their 2019 season.
Leading with 23 assists in the 2018 season, Sagara was a big component to the achievements the Lakers saw this season. Sagara also appeared in the GLIAC’s leaderboards for goals, points and shots in the season. With 11 goals, 45 points and 93 shots under her belt from the season, she is looking to be in a good spot for the upcoming off-season with GRFC, and hopefully next fall for the Lakers.
This will be Sagara’s second season with GRFC, after spending last season with Lansing United. In 2017, Sagara was able to help assist their appearance in a UWS National Championship, and after the season she just had, is likely to help bring another bout of success to the team.
Originally from Tokyo, Sagara sometimes runs into a language barrier while out on the field, but senior teammate Tara Lierman says that despite the challenge, her way of dissecting the game helps the team during matches.
“She’s a very dynamic and creative soccer player,” Lierman said. “She’s very knowledgeable about the game, she’s got one of the highest soccer IQs out of anyone I know.”
There was a running joke on the team this season with Sagara: she wasn’t one to enjoy practice, but loves playing in games. Lierman says GRFC will give Sagara the opportunity to train in a way she likes in the off-season, rather than working out and training alone.
“Riko is a student of the game,” Lierman said. “Any chance she gets, she wants to play. I think playing with GRFC will help her get on the field and get better in a way she likes.”
Sagara will be a lone senior in the 2019 season for GVSU, though she’ll find support from the 14 juniors on the roster. Despite the lack of numbers in the senior class, Sagara will still be able to make an impact, as Lierman says the amount of knowledge and caliber of talent she has helps other players.
“Riko is a very knowledgeable soccer player, and plays technical and is also very talented,” Lierman said. “She makes others around her better.”
As a midfielder, Sagara carries several different responsibilities with her onto the field. Although she isn’t one to be looking to score, Lierman said she’s more of a playmaker.
“She’s not a huge scorer, she’s not always looking to get to goal,” Lierman said. “But as a playmaker, she puts people in position to score which is why she has so many assists, and why she was leading the nation in assists last year. She’s like a point guard in basketball, she makes plays and helps put people in the right position.
“I would tell her to just go out there and do what she knows, and communicate as much as she can to the other players about her ideas and what she’s thinking,” Lierman said. “She has a lot going on in her brain, and is dissecting the game constantly. She has the ability to really help the players around her.”