Column: A GVSU womens soccer fan travel guide

Mason Tronsor and Josh Peick

History could be made by the GVSU women’s soccer team this upcoming Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 1-3 as the Lakers travel to Kansas City, Missouri in search of their fourth consecutive NCAA National Championship title and sixth overall. GVSU is currently tied with Franklin Pierce University with five total national championships. The Lakers will square off against Columbus State in a rematch of last year’s national semifinal contest and, should GVSU win, would face the winner of the Western Washington versus Kutztown match in the championship game.

I, Mason Tronsor, had the honor of traveling to Pensacola, Florida last year to witness the Lakers’ third straight national title victory. The trip was an up-and-down experience, especially for a college student and aspiring sports writer. If there are any Laker faithful thinking about making the trip to the great state of Missouri for a couple of days like the Lanthorn’s own assistant sports editor Josh Peick and photographer Emily Frye then here are a few things worth noting.

JP: From what I have heard, Mason, you arrived in Pensacola the same day of the first game of the Final Four. What was that experience like, leaving Grand Rapids in the morning and arriving in Florida before game time? Would you suggest fans do the same thing?

MT: I believe our flight left Grand Rapids around 2 a.m. After a slight issue with our luggage, we flew to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and ran into an unexpected gift. Kendra Stauffer’s (GVSU senior forward) grandparents greeted us at the gate and we sat next to them on the plane ride to Pensacola. Once we arrived, they were kind enough to drive us to the field as our jet-lag probably kept us from finding a cab. It was one of the nicest gestures I have ever been offered. They even gave us a ride after the game to our hotel. I’d suggest leaving a day or two in advance unless you are as lucky as we were in finding two amazingly generous grandparents of a player to chauffeur.

JP: Since Emily and I will be driving to Kansas City this year, transportation from the hotel should not be a problem. Maybe we can give the Stauffers a ride this year and repay the favor. Last season, GVSU made it to the Final Four after a shootout thriller against Central Missouri. What was that game like as a journalist and how confident were you in the team winning it all after that game?

MT: I remember sitting in my apartment, live-streaming that match on my computer. Once I saw shootouts were approaching, the heart-pounding in my chest grew heavily. I thought this could be it for the back-to-back champions. It was the first time I saw them in a tight-game situation like that all year long. I had my doubts but I’m sure glad they proved me wrong.

The hardest part about that match was not showing any bias and not cheering for GVSU. I know you know this better than anybody, but what fans might not understand as sports writer is that we need to stay neutral, report facts and try our best not to sensationalize or show favoritism even if we bleed blue, black and white.

JP: Objectivity is vital in this field, but it’s tough not to cheer in the press box. I’ve had to stop myself multiple times. But our fandom aside, what was the one difference-maker for the Lakers to win it all last year?

MT: Well, we all know about the explosive offense the Lakers can unleash on opponents, especially when they spread the midfield and attack the gaps. However, the key to winning championships in most sports is defense, and down the stretch last season, GVSU had a veteran defensive core in front of a young goalkeeper, which helped immensely. Remember the name Katy Woolley? She was the mainstay of the defensive backs last year along with Clare Carlson who continues to defend like an All-American.

OK, Josh, now it’s my turn to ask you about this year’s team looking to make history. What will this year’s Laker squad need to do in order to bring a fourth straight title back to Allendale? What is your prediction, putting all biases aside?

JP: This year’s team has looked really good down the stretch. The offense is clicking and the defense is as stingy as ever. Carlson has taken reign on the defensive side of the ball and the rest of the backs, Shannon Quinn, Erika Bradfield and Madz Ham, have made it tough on opposing offenses to find success. The GVSU offense is as dangerous as last year’s team, if not more, but I think the key to success for the Lakers is the play of their midfielders. Yes, midfielder Marti Corby is on another planet right now with how well she is playing, but I think the Lakers’ success hinges on the play of Dani Johnson and Tara Lierman. Both midfielders have looked strong as of late in controlling possession and that has translated into wins for the Lakers.

Putting bias aside, I like the Lakers chances to make it four straight. I hate to admit it, but I had my doubts about this team midway through the season. They hit a stretch in early October where they didn’t look sharp, but in the past couple of weeks, they have looked like a three-time defending national championship team. I have yet to see an opposing defense that can suppress the Lakers’ offensive firepower because I’m not sure it exists. I think on Dec. 3, GVSU will be atop DII women’s soccer as the only school with six national championships.

MT: Well Josh, safe travels for both you and Emily and we’ll see if the Lakers bring back the hardware.