Courtesy / gvsu.edu
Dave Dilanni

Courtesy photo

Courtesy / gvsu.edu Dave Dilanni

Bryce Derouin

The Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team came up short in their attempt at a three-peat as Division II National Champions. The Lanthorn had a chance to interview head coach Dave DiIanni to see how the team was preparing for its upcoming season this fall.

THE LANTHORN: You guys had a very successful year, making it back to the national championship game where your 42-game unbeaten streak was snapped. Has your team used this as a motivating factor to come back stronger this season?

DIIANNI: We were really proud of how the season went. Obviously, only one team gets to win their last game and that wasn’t us last year. I think the motivation is always there to do the best they can and work as hard as they can. We saw a lot this past winter and spring from our upperclassman in terms of leadership and in the weight room and in the field with workouts. A lot of the motivation began last winter and last spring in terms of getting better as a group and getting better as individuals.

THE LANTHORN: How do you plan on compensating for the loss of your seniors? Especially key players like All-Americans Erin Mruz and Megan Brown.

DIIANNI: Again, I think right from the beginning we tried to work on reconfiguring our team in the winter and the spring. We don’t have our seniors in the winter and the spring, so our team starts to take a different shape without them anyways. We’re trying to replace good players, but you know we are in a program where we think that opportunities are going to exist every year when seniors graduate. You can’t replace those players but you hope that other people take opportunities provided to them and every senior provided leadership for us and it’s now our new seniors class to lead this 2012 team … this is their team now and it’s their turn to lead.

THE LANTHORN: What are your expectations for this year’s incoming recruiting class?

DIIANNI: We always have great expectations for our incoming classes because we feel like they are great student athletes. They’re very passionate about playing for the university and the program. I think that we try to temper those expectations though. It’s a very difficult jump for the freshman to make, coming in from high school and making the jump into our program. We expect them to come in and fit and expect them to do the best they can in the classroom. We expect them to learn what it takes to compete in our program. Not only for themselves, for their teammates.

THE LANTHORN: How will the addition of Shaylin Mannino replacing Shannon Neely as the goalkeeper coach affect the team?

DIIANNI: Shannon did a wonderful job for us for three years. We’re really proud of her for accepting the job at Northwestern, a great university like Northwestern University. But we feel like we got a really great coach with unlimited potential in Shay Mannino from Central Michigan. She had a great career as a player and student athlete. I think she is willing to learn and build a relationship with our goalkeepers and our players. She reminds me a lot of what Shannon was three years ago, and we’re hoping that Shay will reach that potential as well, but Shay will define her own career and we are excited to see that transpire.

THE LANTHORN: What are going to be some keys for your team to regain the national title and who do you expect big things from this year?

DIIANNI: Well number one, we need to get great senior leadership. I think we’ve already seen a lot of that this past winter and spring, and we are seeing a lot of that this summer. Our seniors are staying connected with the rest of the team and they’re in charge of running workouts on their own for the team and so number one we have never had a great team accomplish their goals without great senior leadership. We need to stay healthy and avoid injuries that will take games and minutes away from players. And ultimately, we need to create a competitive environment every day in practice that is gonna help us challenge one another and make each other better so that we can accomplish our goals for the fall season.

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