GVSU soccer gets better with time

GVL / Archive
Taylor Callen defends with the help of teammate Tayler Ward

GVL / Archive Taylor Callen defends with the help of teammate Tayler Ward

Pete Barrows

Two hours, 110 minutes. That’s 6,600 seconds played. Almost two full American football games
with no huddles or commercials.

And in all that time, neither the No. 2 ranked Grand Valley State University Lakers nor the No. 5
ranked Armstrong Atlantic State Pirates managed to net a single goal on the first day of the Holiday
Inn Express Savannah Midtown Clash on the Coast tournament. The season opener for GVSU
concluded in a 0-0 overtime draw Friday afternoon.

“To come down in 90-95 degree heat, against the home school (that has won or tied 41 straight at
home) and continuing to push the pace as the game went on—especially in the last 50-60 minutes,
I thought that we created enough chances to maybe win the game at the end,” GVSU head coach
Dave Dilanni said. “We lacked quality in the final third in terms of finishing inside the box and
getting in behind the back line, but whenever you don’t give up a goal, you have to take that as
being a positive.”

Allowing Armstrong to only shoot four shots on goal, the ballyhooed and battle tested GVSU
defense performed as advertised. With only nine shots on goal notched by the tenderfoot Laker
front, so did the offense.

“We set goals for ourselves—we don’t want to get scored on, limit the shots—little things like that
to keep the shutouts rolling,” said senior all-GLIAC honorable mention defender Taylor Callen.

In a first half that could only be described as plodding, GVSU and Armstong combined for nine total
shots on net. Armstrong’s best chance came in the 14th minute when sophomore Brianne
Matarazzo tested GVSU senior keeper Abbey Miller, who passed with flying colors. The Lakers fired
rebuttals in the 20th and 35th minute, with freshman forward Marti Corby who led the Lakers with
four shots, narrowly missing both times.

It wasn’t until the final 45-minutes of regulation that the game picked up.

With less than 25-minutes left in the match, a deftly placed corner from senior defenseman Tayler
Ward marked off the head of senior midfielder Shelby Humphries only to be deflected for a Pirate
save. It was the start of an offensive flurry that continued the rest of the game and put Armstrong
keeper Morgan Luckie thoroughly through her paces.

In the final 19 minutes and seven seconds of the second half, GVSU racked up five shots, following
up with seven shots and two fractionally missed scoring opportunities in two 10-minute overtime

“We went to our bench just as much as they did and I thought with about 25 minutes left in the
second half and the group that we had on the field caused a lot of problems for them,” Dilanni said.
“We continued to push through that group for the rest of the second half, but unfortunately we
didn’t get the goal we were looking for even though we created the opportunities. I think it’s
becoming very obvious that when we’re committed and on the same page, we’re a pretty deep team
—we have a lot of options and can play at pretty high pace.”

Sunday morning, GVSU matched up against the No. 13 ranked Columbus State Cougars, a squad
that had also played into overtime Friday, dropping a heartbreaker to No.1 ranked West Florida 3-2
as time expired. With an opportunity to provide an appropriate retort and earn the season’s first W
on the line, it was the Lakers who responded with marked improvement and a 2-0 victory.

“Today was a great result for us,” Dilanni said. “You could make the case that Columbus State
should have won the game against West Florida. I thought on Friday they were the better team,
better than Armstrong Atlantic, and so we were concerned about playing them.”

Allowing five less shots (14 against Armstrong, 9 against Columbus State) on defense and totaling
eight more on offense (19 against Armstrong, 27 against Columbus State) in 20 fewer minutes of
action, the Lakers looked the part of a team in growth, learning as it goes.

“One of our main objectives coming down here was to get results in both games, whether ties or
wins,” Dilanni said. “We did not want to take losses. So it was really important for us to come back
with not only as good a performance—we had to be better.”

In the 57 minute 57 second mark, All-GLIAC second team performer junior Charlie Socia snared the
first official goal of the season for the Lakers on an out-of-the-box strike to the upper 90 off an
assist from sophomore midfielder Katie Klunder.

“It felt pretty good,” Socia said. “I don’t score very often, so it was nice to get one. It was a nice
balled laid off by Katie Klunder, and I just took a couple touches. Dave (Dilanni) had been telling us
to shoot all day so I just hit it, hoping it’d make it somewhere near the goal so someone could run
on to it, but then it just went in.”

With a ‘take shots and good things happen’ philosophy in full effect, freshman forward Michelle
Foote then made good on a one-on-one chance from 13-yards out after receiving a pass from
Corby in the 63rd minute, finishing the game and the weekend with style. Everyone—from the
backline backbone up—played and contributed something to the win.

“I thought we played well on Friday, but I thought we played a lot better on Sunday,” Callen said.
“We started to build that chemistry and play as one—we played as a unit, we defended as a unit, we
passed as a unit and we became more creative up top. Defending starts up top with the attacking
players—communicating, staying organized, defending as a unit—and I think that’s the key for the
rest of the season, too.”

In both contests, as the game went on, the Lakers got better—saving their very best for last in a
match in which Dilanni felt the Lakers “were unlucky not to have won by more,” a microcosm that
Laker fans and coaches alike surely hope to see develop with the team as the season progresses.

“I’ve told them all along we’re going to be a better team in October than we are right now,” Dilanni
said. “How much faster we improve during that time is up to them, but we’re going to try and put
them in positions to learn. I thought we made some big strides this weekend.”