GVSU soccer advances to Midwest Regional Championship after 4-0 win over Ohio Dominican

GVL / Emily Frye   
Tara Lierman celebrates Gabriella Mencottis goal against Ohio Dominican on Sunday November 12, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Tara Lierman celebrates Gabriella Mencotti’s goal against Ohio Dominican on Sunday November 12, 2017.

Robbie Triano

The road to their fifth straight NCAA National Championship appearance continues for the Grand Valley State soccer team.

In the Midwest Regional Semifinals, the No. 1-seeded Lakers (19-3-0) didn’t skip a beat in their convincing 4-0 victory over the No. 5-seeded Ohio Dominican (16-5-2) in the rain Sunday, Nov. 12, at the GVSU soccer field. The win advances the Lakers to the Midwest Regional Championship.

The Lakers entered the contest with a full week of rest and added practices after their No. 1-seeded position earned themselves a bye on Friday, Nov. 10. The week allowed head coach Jeff Hosler and the rest of the team to focus on one important detail: themselves.

“This was a great week because we could really focus on ourselves and get an extra day of training in,” Hosler said. “We gave them an extra day off on Friday because we could see that our bodies were tired after those three games in five days during the GLIAC Tournament. That preparation really paid off for us well today.”

Practices during the week revolved around creating a more fluent offensive attack, which paid off for the Lakers as they finished the contest with 22 shots, 16 of them on goal. With precise forward passing, GVSU found their rhythm early on as freshman forward Ava Cook kicked off the scoring party for the Lakers. After weaving through three defenders, Cook buried a left-footed shot in the back of the net, giving the Lakers an early 1-0 lead in the 11th minute. The goal was her 14th of the season, second on the team. 

Although this was her first taste of NCAA postseason action, Cook was ready to step up to the challenge. 

“There was definitely some nerves before the game, but I know I have a team behind me that has been through this before,” Cook said. 

The Lakers continued to fire away at the goal, ending the first half with 13 shots, but Ohio Dominican goalkeeper Marissa Wierzbicki refused to let the Lakers gain any footing on the scoreboard. Wierzbicki finished the half with seven saves, including a penalty kick from GVSU senior defender Shannon Quinn.

But one shot that the Panthers couldn’t stop came from senior forward Gabriella Mencotti, as she dribbled through three defenders and rifled a shot from 25 yards out that found the back of the net. The goal gave GVSU a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute and the last score of the half. The “SportsCenter Top 10”-esque goal raised the eyebrows of Hosler.

“That was just a really special goal,” Hosler said. “She took three or four players on and had a great finish. She just has that quality to her.”

Mencotti found herself on the scoreboard once again after a pass from senior Tracey McCoy led to a perfect shot opportunity on the right side of the box, giving GVSU a convincing 3-0 lead in the 47th minute. The goal was Mencotti’s 28th of the season, just one shy of tying her league-leading record from last season.

Closing out the contest’s scoring was freshman defender Cecilia Steinwascher, who scored her fourth goal of the season after her corner kick narrowly crossed the goal line in the 59th minute. The score gave GVSU a 4-0 lead, which would eventually become the final score. 

With a large enough lead, the Lakers were able to give their starters rest and play every single player on the roster to close out the contest.

“I thought our reserves didn’t skip a beat when they had their moment,” Hosler said. “All in all, just a very thorough performance throughout. There’s some things we need to clean up and tidy, but I thought we played very well.”

The victory propels GVSU to the Midwest Regional title against No. 9 Quincy University (17-3-1) Friday, Nov. 17, in Warrensburg, Missouri. GVSU is no stranger to Quincy and their game plan, as they defeated the Hawks 2-0 on the road Wednesday, Sept. 27. However, they will have to face the challenge of guarding GLVC Offensive Player of the Year Mackenzie Rief, who leads the conference in goals (10), shots (109) and points (23).

For seniors like Mencotti, with each game leading to the National Championship in single-elimination format, this final stretch of their collegiate career is something they want to finish with glory.

“Everything is just taking it one game at a time,” Mencotti said. “We’re obviously trying to make it as far as we can, but we’re doing a good job taking it step by step to earn ourselves another week. 

“Overall, we’re just super excited and can’t wait to get after it.”