The road to the final four

GVL / Eric Coulter
The Lakers celebrate their win

GVL / Eric Coulter The Lakers celebrate their win

Kyle Roskamp

After outscoring its opponents 19-2 in postseason games this season, the Grand Valley State University soccer team’s tournament run seemed eerily devoid of the usual tournament drama. On Sunday, Laker fans figured out where that drama had been hiding.

On Friday night, on their home field, the Grand Valley State University soccer team defeated Wisconsin-Parkside 2-0 to put them in the regional final with a chance at at their fourth consecutive Final Four appearance.

Seniors Erin Hilbert and Ashley Botts scored for the Lakers in the first half, The second half was a back and forth battle, as Wisconsin-Parkside outshot the Lakers 8-7 in the last 45 minutes, but neither team could capitalize and the game ended 2-0 for the home team, and GVSU advanced to Sunday’s regional final.

Sunday brought a familiar foe to the Grand Valley Soccer Field. As the 17th ranked Minnesota State Mavericks made their way to Allendale after holding the Lakers to a 0-0 draw in on their home field back in September.

“We already played them once,” said GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni. “This was the most prepared we’ve been for a team in the tournament. We broke down tape, went through their tendencies, I thought it showed in the first half.”

In the 12th minute, senior Maria Brown put classmate Ashley Botts in on goal with a perfect through ball. There was a lot left to do for Botts, however, as she took Brown’s ball in stride and cooly bent it in to the corner to give the Lakers an early lead.

“There was open space down the middle,” Botts said. “The ball came through, I took a touch in, and just finished it far post. I didn’t see anyone covering, So I thought if I could take that touch in then I could take that space.”

The Lakers stayed on the attack, but failed to convert again in the first half. Kayla Addison poked a cross over the crossbar shortly after Botts’ goal, and freshman Casey McMillan also headed high with ten minutes left in the first half.

“Our first half was exceptional.” DiIanni said. “I thought we were unfortunate not to be up by more than one goal.”

The Lakers held Minnesota State in check for the majority of the second half, and it looked like the Lakers were headed for a ho-hum 2-0 victory just like they did two days earlier.

Then things got interesting.

With under ten minutes to play, Minnesota State earned a free kick on the edge of the box. Minnesota State’s Caitlyn Graboski pounded an impressive free kick past GVSU goalkeeper Chelsea Parise to pull within one.

Only a few minutes later, Minnesota State’s Emily Moris played a ball into the box, and after a tussle around the goalmouth, Breanna Steele slotted it into an empty net to tie the game at two and send the game into overtime.

GVSU regrouped and started the extra session on the attack. Botts almost got on the end of a ball in the box, but was bested by the Minnesota State keeper, who kept her team in the game.

“Unlike my personality, we were extremely positive going into overtime.” DiIanni said. “I thought we were okay in the overtime, we were very positive.”

The second overtime period saw Minnesota State on the attack, narrowly missing two chances near the beginning of the second stanza. The teams played out the rest of the overtime timidly, heading to penalty kicks in a 2-2 tie.

The Lakers and Mavericks went kick for kick for the first four penalties, with Parise erasing misses from Addison and Senior Erin Hilbert by making impressive saves on two of Minnesota State’s penalty takers.

“At the end of the game, that’s one of my strengths,” Parise said. “That’s my role, to keep the ball out of the net. Then I have to trust that my teammates will put the ball into the goal.

After Minnesota State’s fifth player slotted her penalty home, Ashley Botts took the long, menacing walk from half field to the penalty spot.

She calmly took her run to the ball and hit it with pace, right into the Minnesota State goalkeepers palm. The ball stayed in the air for what seemed like hours, then dropped tidily in the side of the net, halting the Minnesota State celebration for at least one more shot.

“I thought I missed it,” Botts said. “But after it went in I saw the ref put his thumb up to the other one and call it a goal.”

After freshman Kelly Capoccia matched a successful shot from a Minnesota State player, the net Maverick kicker shot high to put GVSU one shot away from a fifth Final Four in six years.

Junior defender Taylor Callen walked to the spot and put caught the Minnesota State goalkeeper wrong-footed to give the Lakers the victory and a trip to Georgia in two weeks for the Final Four.

The Lakers will face the University of California-San Diego in Evans, Ga. on Nov. 28.