Soccer team prepares for regional semifinals

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson
Kayla Addison controls the ball during the game against Findlay.

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson Kayla Addison controls the ball during the game against Findlay.

Greg Monahan

When the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team beat Tiffin University last weekend to capture another GLIAC Tournament Championship, the Lakers thought they had seen the last of the Dragons for 2010.

But as it turns out the two teams might be headed for another tilt this weekend, which could be the two teams’ third match-up in less than three weeks. GVSU tied the Dragons 1-1 in late October before beating them 2-0 during the weekend to wrap up the GLIAC tournament.

The Lakers (17-1-2) will face the winner of Tiffin and Quincy University in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at 1 p.m. Sunday.

GVSU has not played Quincy in 2010, but the teams faced off twice in the past two seasons with the Lakers winning 2-0 in both games.

Junior forward Erin Mruz said GVSU is ready to meet either team.

“It’s always interesting when you play a team for the third time, but with our team we’d be so excited to play either team that I don’t think it really matters at this time,” she said. “It’d be nice to see a new team with Quincy, but on the other hand I think we’d be prepared to play Tiffin and beat them again.”

Though the Lakers do not yet know which team they will face, GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni is not concerned about either opponent.

“We’ve done this enough to know that there’s things we want to change and adjust going into the NCAA tournament and playing new opponents,” he said. “There’s enough things to do to worry about Grand Valley rather than who we’re going to play.”

Home-field advantage has been the story of GVSU’s season – a luxury the team will enjoy throughout the NCAA Regional Tournament. The Lakers are 11-0 at home this season and have outscored opponents 49-0. No soccer team in GVSU history had ever shutout every opponent at home before this season.

“It’s a lot better playing on our field where we know how we play and how we can spread out the game as opposed to someone else’s field,” said sophomore forward Ashley Botts, who had both GVSU goals in the GLIAC Tournament Championship game. “This is a goal we’ve been striving for all season – to host regionals – so now that we have it, we’re all excited. Getting to stay home is better than having to travel.”

The advantage of Laker Field goes beyond the players’ comfort of sleeping in their own bed. The dimensions of GVSU’s home field are the largest allowed in the NCAA and are significantly bigger than most playing surfaces in the GLIAC.

Each of the four goals surrendered by the Lakers came on the road, as did the team’s only loss. Smaller fields bogged down the team earlier in the season, which is one reason the team is excited to chase the dream of reaching nationals at home.

“Our play here goes to show how good our defense has been and how comfortable we are playing at home,” Mruz said. “No other team can keep up with us and run with us for 90 minutes on our field. Like our game last Sunday, we just wore down Tiffin in the last 45 minutes.”

The winner of Sunday’s contest will punch its ticket to the NCAA Regional Championship on Nov. 19. If the Lakers win, they will play the game at home at a time to be determined.

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