GVSU soccer to host Truman State in regional final

GVL / Luke Holmes - GVSU Womens Soccer won 2-0 against Missouri St. Louis on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – GVSU Women’s Soccer won 2-0 against Missouri St. Louis on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

Josh Peick

After a 2-0 win over Missouri-St. Louis in the NCAA Regional Semifinal, the Grand Valley State soccer team will host Truman State in the regional final Friday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. The Lakers (20-1-1) have beaten the Bulldogs in the first weekend of the regular season the past two seasons.

In 2014, GVSU topped Truman State 3-0 at home, and the following year in Kirksville, Missouri by a score of 4-0. Although the Lakers have had success against the Bulldogs in the past, the team’s focus is on the current task at hand.

“Every tournament game is a clean slate,” said GVSU’s Marti Corby, the nation’s assists leader (23). “You like to think back to it, but every team is different every year.”

Friday’s game will be the first meeting between the two teams this season, but both teams have played mutual opponents in the regular season. Truman State is 1-0-1 against GLIAC opponents this season, beating Ohio Dominican 1-0 and tying with Ashland 1-1. The Bulldogs also tied with UMSL 0-0 earlier in the year.

The Lakers have fared better against the same teams this season. GVSU is 3-0 in such games, outscoring opponents 12-0.

As a team, the Bulldogs have scored only 28 goals this season, but that has been more than enough for one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. Truman State’s defense ranks third in goals against average at .239 per game. GVSU is one spot ahead with a .225.

“If we play the way we’re capable, we can be the best in the country,” said GVSU’s Gabriella Mencotti, the nation’s leading goal scorer (28). “We play against the best defense every day (in practice), so (we need to be) very dynamic, making sure we are crashing on everything and making sure that we are solid coming up the field.”

GVSU has the second highest scoring offense in the nation with a goals-scored average of 4.18 per game, but the Lakers have not faced a top-tier defense like Truman State yet this season.

“They’re not going to give us anything, that’s for sure,” Hosler said. “We’re going to have to be really sharp and really aggressive in the right moments in order to break them down and crack a goal.”

In the regional semifinal, the Lakers found scoring opportunities early in the game but were unable to capitalize on those opportunities. The offense will be looking to grab the early lead against the Bulldogs.

“We have to get off to a better start, and if we don’t, we can’t get frustrated,” Corby said. “If we get the lead, we can’t put it in cruise control. We have to keep putting the pressure on and keep going for goal.”

In order to crack the Truman State defense, the Lakers will need to find the right connections on the field and control the pace of the game.

“We just can’t be predictable,” Corby said. “We have to move the ball around, get in wide areas, be creative and just be urgent.”

While the Lakers dealt with a high-press team in UMSL in the previous game, the dynamic of the regional final will be different. With a defensive team in Truman State, the pace of the game will change.

“Truman isn’t typically a high-press team, but when they do choose to press at the right moments, they are very effective doing so,” Hosler said. “Our backs are going to have to do a good job creating tempo for us.”

The GVSU offense usually starts from the back-four defenders, and against the Bulldogs they will need to be active for the team to have success.

The winner of the regional final game will play Sunday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. against the winner of the Central Missouri and Fort Hays State game. That game will be played directly after the GVSU game Friday, Nov. 18.