?GV soccer is no goals, all A’s at midterm

GVL / Robert Mathews
Senior Shelby Humphries

GVL / Robert Mathews Senior Shelby Humphries

Pete Barrows

Eight Division II women soccer programs entered Saturday, Oct. 12, undefeated; only one remained on Sunday.

After a 6-0 victory against GLIAC rival Ferris State University (6-5, 4-3 GLIAC), the Grand Valley State University soccer team had successfully traversed the two-third mark of the 2013 regular season undefeated, unfazed, a (nearly) perfect 10-0-1.

The Lakers have not allowed a single goal, and their streak of 11 consecutive shut-outs is a new program record. GVSU has outscored opponents 36-0, and 14 different players have contributed a goal. The Lakers have bested all opponents this season: home and away, ranked and unranked, in conference and out, rain and shine. They’ve gutted out 1-0 decisions and coasted to 8-0 leads.

The Lakers possess a near ideal mix of youth and experience gelled expertly together by seasoned hands of veteran coaches like strands of hair aligned neatly in David Beckham’s pompadour, and they pass the eye test on the pitch in the same fashion that they grade out on stat sheets—with flying colors.

If GVSU’s athletic program had a proverbial fridge, the Laker soccer midterm report would be proudly displayed. Alas, midterm reports—as many college students have learned the hard way—are fleeting shimmers and far from final.

“We haven’t arrived,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “We haven’t accomplished anything. We’ve won no championships yet.”

Eleven games into the 2013 campaign with six regular season games left to play, here’s how the Lakers measure up.

Defense: A

The Laker defense is spearheaded by seniors Kayla Kimble and Taylor Callen, a unit that has been the focal point of the 2013 squad.

“Our backline is very experienced, and we’re riding a high right now, but we also have to remember that we are going to get scored on at some point—that might happen,” Callen said. “It’ll be how we react to that, if and when it does.”

Seniors Sam Decker and Tayler Ward, juniors Alyssa Wesley and Juane Odendaal, sophomore Katy Woolley and freshman Gabbie Guibord have also played extensively along a backline that has allowed only 63 shots on the season.

“Obviously, the grade (for our defense) would be excellent,” Dilanni said. “We haven’t given up a goal, the leadership’s been good, we’re very deep back there, and competitive—everyone wants to play, and we’ve been able to rotate players to keep our girls fresh. In the past, we’ve played four girls all year, and we’re playing six or seven in the back right now with six center midfielders. The midfield defending has been very good, as well, and our kids know it’s not just the backs—it’s the midfielders and forwards, too.”

Of those 63 shots, only 27 have trickled through to goal. Senior goalkeeper Abbey Miller has 26 saves. Redshirt freshman backup Holly Ellerbroek has the other.

“I think the goalkeepers, not only Abbey Miller, but Holly Ellerbroek and Andrea Strauss have done a fantastic job,” Dilanni said. “Particularly in training where we’re trying to replicate game situations for our girls as much as possible, their play has been essential to achieving our results.”

Offense: A-

Through the first six games of the season, the Lakers scored eight goals. Through the last five, the Lakers have scored 28.

“Obviously we’ve been able to get some more goals in the last few games, and I think a lot of that is that a lot of different people are scoring,” senior midfielder Autumn Jacobs said. “We don’t have just one or two people getting all of our goals, we’re more dynamic than that, and I think it’s harder for other teams to know how to defend us when we have so many players who can get involved in the attack.”

Senior forward Jenny Shaba and freshman forward Kendra Stauffer are tied for the GVSU scoring lead with five goals apiece, freshman forward Michelle Foote leads the Lakers with five assists, and with 12, 14 and 11 points respectively, they’re the three leading point earners for the team. Although, it’s the entire offensive unit that has progressed with the season, as eight Lakers have scored at least three goals and seven Lakers have threaded at least two assists.

“I think offensively we’re still a product that needs improvement,” Dilanni said. “Some of that’s consistency based on tactical awareness and finishing, but we are very happy about the work rate. We are very athletic. I think the seven or eight of them that are competing with each other for playing time are making each other better and I think that’s been a big key.

“We spent a whole month on attacking and really neglected defending. We’re happy with where we’re at right now, but the games are going to get tighter as they get more meaningful—I don’t think we’re going to see those six, seven goals anymore—and that’s why we’re going to have to be a little more clinical when the opportunities arise.”

Bench: A

In Dilanni’s 11 years as head coach at GVSU, this 2013 squad might be the deepest he’s fielded. Frequently playing 20 or more girls in a single game, there is no shortage of options to choose from, and Dilanni doesn’t plan on exhausting any of them.

“I think our bench is getting as many goals and points as our starters are and in fewer minutes,” Dilanni said. “That says a little about what the starters are doing, tiring out opponents, but it also says a lot about our bench and how focused they are and knowing their role coming off the bench and wanting to perform that role. We’ve said this as a team, but we’re going to be as good as our bench will go. That really is something that most teams don’t have and we’ve put a lot of importance into it.”

Coaching: A

With so much going right, it’s easy to forget what it feels like when things go wrong. Cautious against complacency, the GVSU coaching staff is well aware of the perils associated with being a No. 1 team.

“One thing we’ve always said is that we want our training sessions to be game-like in terms of intensity, sharpness, focus and speed,” Dilanni said. “This year is no different. I think part of that is competition for playing time, part of that is the talent level that we’re fielding, and part of that is maintaining the accountability for one another. I think our kids have done a fantastic job of that, and although we’re only three quarters of the way through the year, our team chemistry is very high as a byproduct.”

GVSU will host Findlay (6-4-2, 2-2-2 GLIAC) on Friday at 7 p.m. and Tiffin (3-7-1, 2-5-1 GLIAC) Sunday at 1 p.m. As they’ve been in most matches this season, the Lakers will be favored in both contests. Don’t expect that to impede their process to continually improve.

“Perfection is a pursuit,” Dilanni said. “I think the more we can create adversity for one another so we can prepare for it in the future, the farther along we’ll be.”