Women’s team to face Findlay in GLIAC semifinals

GVL Archive / Rane Martin
Junior midfielder Erin Mruz carries a smile as she runs down the ball during their game against Northwood University last Saturday.

GVL Archive / Rane Martin Junior midfielder Erin Mruz carries a smile as she runs down the ball during their game against Northwood University last Saturday.

Greg Monahan

It is the biggest time of the year for the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team, and the defending Conference and National Champions are again ready for tournament play.

The Lakers earned a bye through the first round of the GLIAC tournament and will take on the University of Findlay Friday after the Oilers beat Saginaw Valley State University Tuesday 2-1 in overtime to advance to the second round.

GVSU struggled against Findlay in the team’s only matchup of the year with the Lakers trailing before scoring three second-half goals en route to a 3-1 victory on the road.

“Findlay was definitely an aggressive team,” said sophomore forward Ashley Botts. “We kind of downplayed how aggressive they were going to be the first time. So they’re going to hit us a little bit, and we’re expecting that.”

Three teams besides GVSU remain in the tournament – Northern Michigan University, Tiffin University and the Oilers – and each gave the Lakers trouble earlier this season. GVSU lost to Northern Michigan University in September, tied Tiffin on the road and trailed Findlay at half.

GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni said the key to the team’s success throughout the rest of the season will come from its midfield, which has propelled both the Laker offense and defense this season.

“Certainly our midfield is the strength of our team in terms of our system,” he said. “When they’re playing well, we’re playing well. So, we need our midfield to be dominant. That’s part of why we want to play at home because of how they’ve proven how they play here.”

The Lakers have been dominant at home, going 10-0-0 during the season and outscoring their opponents 47-0. With a 5-1-2 record on the road, still impressive and yet not nearly as dominant, senior midfielder Kristin Eible said it is important the Lakers keep playing at home for as long as they can.

“Obviously we play better at home so it’ll be nice to not have to travel,” she said. “We get to have teams come play here on a bigger field where we play better.”

If the Lakers win the GLIAC tournament, they will earn home-field advantage in the NCAA regional playoffs as well, something Botts said the Lakers would need in order to give themselves a shot at back-to-back National Championships.

“(Home-field advantage) is a big thing that we always want to achieve,” she said. “Because when you’re at home you’re sleeping in your own bed, you’re eating your own food, and you’re not having to travel to someone else’s field where they have the advantage.”

The Lakers enjoy the largest-allowed playing surface at their home field in Allendale. The 120 by 80-foot dimensions allow the fast GVSU team to spread out its offense and run a deliberate attack. In comparison, some of the smaller fields in the GLIAC have bogged down the offense.

“Our field is the best field in the conference in our opinion,” Botts said. “It’s nice and big where we can let our game play the same way we practice. That gives us a little more motivation to try and stay at home.”

The Lakers will kick off against Findlay on Friday at 1:30 p.m. If they beat the Oilers, the team will matchup against the winner of the Northern Michigan-Tiffin game in the GLIAC finals on Sunday at 1 p.m.

[email protected]