GVSU beats UCM, returns to Final Four

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#5 Kendra Stuaffer

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #5 Kendra Stuaffer

Adam Knorr

The Grand Valley State women’s soccer team went up against an undefeated Wisconsin-Parkside in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Lakers won.

The Grand Valley State women’s soccer team went up against an undefeated Central Missouri team in the Elite Eight.

And the Lakers won.

“I’m just really happy for the girls, really proud of their effort,” said GVSU coach Jeff Hosler. “Finishing that (Friday) game off and being able to get their emotions back in check and refocus against another undefeated opponent today is great.”

Friday afternoon brought a matchup with host school No. 3 UW-Parkside.

From the opening kickoff to the heart-stopping end, No. 11 GVSU’s 1-0 win was a white-knuckle ride.

The Rangers (18-1-3) controlled the flow early on, pressuring GVSU for the opening 15 minutes. Laker goaltender Andrea Strauss made a pair of strong saves to keep UW-Parkside at bay.

Then, the stream flipped its current.

“First 15 (minutes) they were the better team,” Hosler said. “We settled in and we were much more aggressive and our style of play started to wear them down.”

Junior Katie Bounds came off the bench, and things immediately happened for GVSU (21-2-1). Bounds took a shot, and, soon after, gave the Lakers their best opportunity through what can be chalked down to sheer hustle.

Bounds made a play on a ball in the air, winning it from lunging Ranger goalkeeper Mallory Geurts. The ball found GVSU’s Gabby Mencotti, who fired on a wide-open net. A UW-Parkside defender, however, made a brilliant save by getting a foot on Mencotti’s shot. The score remained knotted at 0-0 going into the break.

Pointed passing and an unbendable defense sustained GVSU in the second half, but attempts from both sides stayed fruitless. Katie Klunder rang a header off the crossbar, but that was as close as GVSU would get – until overtime.

Less than seven minutes into the extra frame, GVSU earned a free kick courtesy of a Ranger handball. Set piece specialist Marti Corby stepped up to take it, serving a seeking ball into the box.

The ball deflected off Mencotti’s head toward the net. Geurts managed to get a hand on it, but senior defender Kaely Schlosser slid and got a foot on the ball, directing it into the net and sending GVSU through to the Elite Eight.

“We were kind of tentative… and the first half we played kind of scared. They look it to us,” Schlosser said. “We were pretty lucky they didn’t score. We built up a lot of momentum in the second half and had a lot of possession and we took it to them.”

Just two days later, the Lakers handed another undefeated team its first loss of the season.

GVSU met No. 10 Central Missouri (21-1-2) on a balmy Sunday afternoon. The Lakers were never seriously in danger, topping the Jennies 3-1.

GVSU struck first in the 18th minute, courtesy of a senior-to-senior connection. Defender Juane Odendaal sent a floating ball into the box. The Lakers got a flurry of chances at it, but Jenny Shaba ended up slipping one across the goal line to put GVSU up 1-0.

Soon after, Mencotti was taken down from behind on an opportunity in the box, and the Lakers were awarded a penalty kick. Mencotti calmly stepped up to the spot and drove a shot into the lower left corner.

In the second half, Mencotti and Shaba teamed up off a UCM goalkick to give GVSU a 3-0 lead. The Lakers won the ball in the air, Mencotti flicked it along to Shaba, and Shaba finished the one-on-one opportunity.

The Jennies managed to get on the scoreboard with 13 minutes remaining as Mikala Modiri lobbed a high, looping shot behind Strauss.

With Sunday’s win, GVSU punched its ticket to the program’s sixth consecutive Final Four appearance.

“To go to one Final Four is an amazing accomplishment,” Shaba said. “We’re blessed for this to be our fourth in our four years… Each one feels as special as the one before.”

The Lakers will play Saint Rose in the NCAA semifinals on Dec. 4 in Louisville.