Defending champs scrimmage at Spring Arbor

GVL/Archive Bo Anderson

Katie Klunder (2), and Katie Bounds (6)

GVL/Archive Bo Anderson Katie Klunder (2), and Katie Bounds (6)

Pete Barrows

The defending national champion Grand Valley State University soccer team took the pitch for just the second time this spring on Saturday afternoon with a trio of 30-minute scrimmages against Spring Arbor University, and returned home with a 1-0 victory.

Although the score and last season’s title results count for little as the Lakers gear up for another campaign.

“Nobody on this roster, outside of the coaching staff, has come back in the offseason as a national champion, and we’ll have to fight complacency,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “The foundation of next fall – the work, the sweat, the sacrifice — is going to come right now, and we all have to understand that to be able to grow.

“Last year’s done, and that national championship trophy is already in our trophy case. That trophy we want to go after next season is still out there for anyone to take.”

Starters Kayla Kimble, Tayler Ward, Taylor Callen and Abbey Miller as well as Autumn Jacobs, Kelsey Fiscus, Shelby Humphries, Sam Decker have all graduated from last year’s team, and leave a void along the Lakers’ last line of defense.

Sophomore forward Erika Bradfield’s early injury has hampered GVSU, too, as has a nicked-up time share in net between senior Andrea Strauss and redshirt sophomore Holly Ellerbroek.

Accounting for injuries and lost seniors, the Lakers are down numbers until a seven-member freshman class provides reinforcement in the fall.

They are currently working with a roster of 15 field players, yet despite the attrition, GVSU soccer has seemingly picked up right where it left off, and has not allowed a single goal this spring.

“We bring back more firepower on offense than defense, but our defending is ahead of our attacking right now, the same as last year,” Dilanni said. “It’s harder to teach and gel offense, but we are getting chances, even if we’re not finishing them.

“The big question for us in the spring, especially being short-handed the way we are, even more than ‘are we winning games?’ or are ‘are we scoring goals?’ is ‘are we getting better everyday?’

“We have a talented group, but the spring is a time for kids to improve as individuals more than as a team. The hope is that you’re a better player in the spring than in the previous fall, especially the less-experienced kids, and we’re still working on figuring out who we can count on in the fall.”

On defense, sophomore Clare Carlson will take up a right back position, senior Alyssa Wesley will move inside to center back with fellow senior Juane Odendaal, and junior Katy Woolley will resume her spot on the Laker defense.

In two games this season, the unit has played and progressed without missing a beat.

“We knew that we were going to have a little less experience in the back, so we’ve really focused on getting familiar with each other, communicating and building a bond so that we’re able to lead this team out of the back,” Woolley said. “That really helps, I think, cycling into games just as strong as we’ve been in years past.”

Up front, junior Katie Klunder, sophomore Marti Corby and senior Charlie Socia will all return to comprise last season’s midfield, while senior Jenny Shaba, junior Katie Bounds, red shirt sophomore Olivia Emery and sophomore Kendra Stauffer will once again provide their services to GVSU’s attack.

“I think the back line is still the teams strongest line, as it was last year, but the offense has a lot of promise,” Wesley said. “As the spring season goes on, we’ll continue to work on communicating up top, staying organized as a team, moving the ball efficiently, and getting extra goals so we can secure wins for our team.”

GVSU will play again Friday against Western Michigan University, and will continue to build into the fall where there will be a new trophy at stake.