GVL/ Amalia Heichelbech
Junior forward Kayla Addison out runs her opponent during their Friday match against Tiffin University.

Amalia Heichelbech

GVL/ Amalia Heichelbech Junior forward Kayla Addison out runs her opponent during their Friday match against Tiffin University.

Joe Maher-Edgin

Two goals from a pair of free-kick restarts were enough to give the No. 1 Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team a win over Ashland University in the 2011 GLIAC Tournament Championship game Sunday afternoon.

GVSU (18-0-2,15-0 GLIAC) defeated the No. 3 Eagles (9-8-4, 7-4-4 GLIAC) by a score of 2-0 in the final game of the tournament, capping a perfect GLIAC season this year.

The Lakers finished the regular season unbeaten to claim a seventh-consecutive GLIAC conference championship and continued their perfection into the conference tournament this weekend, dismissing Tiffin University on Friday 2-0 before advancing to the final round.

GVSU fought hard in the first half against strong winds and a patient Eagle defense. GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year Ashley Botts garnered a lot of attention f and had few opportunities in the first half.

Senior midfielder Erin Mruz helped put the Lakers in the driver’s seat going into halftime after curling in a free kick from about 40 yards out to teammate Charlie Socia. The driven set piece beat Ashland goalkeeper Rebecca Plescia, who misstepped off her line to parry it away. Socia put her head to the kick and redirected it to the lower right corner of the goal to give the Lakers a 1-0 advantage in the 16th minute.

“Typically when I’m taking free kicks I want to pick out [Socia or Maria Brown] because they’re two of the best players in the air,” Mruz said. “Charlie made a good run in and got in front of her defender … I didn’t know if it was going in because it bounced off the post.”

Despite having trouble creating good shots in the second half, GVSU enjoyed much of the possession causing difficulty for Ashland to get down the field offensively and even across the halfway line for long periods of time.

Dilanni said the wind at their backs in the second half played to their advantage. “We pressed a little higher,” he said. “… We wanted to be close enough defensively to be able to challenge for the ball and give our forwards and our [midfielders] a better opportunity to win and keep the ball in their end without having to chase back.”

Botts found the net for GVSU after being tripped up in a last ditch tackle by Ashland defender Savannah Garside. Head official Derek Mroz was forced to show a red card and sent Garside off for clearly denying a goal scoring opportunity. Botts then fired the awarded free kick through a gap in the Ashland wall and to the lower left corner of goal with under a minute remaining in the game.

Dilanni said the restarts were important moments that had been rehearsed
on the practice field.

“We’ve spent some time on [set pieces],” Dilanni said. “Anytime you can have Erin Mruz on a ball that is from 30 yards out, she’s able to find players on services and has a great touch … and Botts sitting 20 yards away from goal with a cannon of a right foot, those are two of the best players in those situations.”

The win was another completed season goal and another milestone for Dilanni’s team. “It means more for me as a coach to see our team be successful and accomplish one of their season-long goals from the beginning of the season,” Dilanni said.

“As a program, each team that comes along has that tradition that their trying to match up to. I’m really proud of this group of girls that they were able to accomplish that and match six per teams in our program.”

The Lakers will look to add to their legacy when they enter the NCAA Tournament next as two-time defending
national champions.

Dilanni said he expects his squad to be seeded No. 1, to have a bye into the second round and to have home field advantage in their first game, but he and his team will have to wait until the tournament draw Monday night for an official announcement.

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