Soccer success starts with defense

GVL Archive / Brian Sevald
Chelsea Parise, the Lakers starting goaltender, gets ready to snag an incomming ball during practice

GVL Archive / Brian Sevald Chelsea Parise, the Lakers’ starting goaltender, gets ready to snag an incomming ball during practice

Greg Monahan

Before the season began, the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team set a goal, no pun intended. It was a similar goal to the one they set each season – to allow the fewest goals in NCAA Division II.

Thus far for the No. 3 Lakers (13-1-1, 10-1-1 GLIAC), the defense has been the brightest spot on a team overflowing with talent as the women have allowed just three goals in 15 games. GVSU is tied with Northern Kentucky University for the fewest goals allowed in Division II but leads in goals against average with three more games played than Northern Kentucky.

Several players lead the Lakers’ back line with junior Meg Brown, junior Kayla Klosterman and senior Jenna Wenglinski frustrating offenses throughout the season.

However, equally important has been redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Chelsea Parise. Parise was in net during the team’s 2009 National Championship run, and she has improved upon last year’s success with a microscopic 0.21 goals against average through 15 starts this season.

GVSU head coach Dave DiIanni said Parise has been the leader on defense in just her second year of competition.

“Chelsea is our heart and soul on the back line,” he said. “She’s got a bubbly personality, but she also wears her emotions on her sleeve, and that’s a good thing for us. She always goes out there ready to go.”

If Parise’s 0.21 GAA isn’t spectacular enough, the roll she and the rest of the defense have been on over the last month is one of the finest in the history of GVSU women’s soccer.

Since a shocking 1-0 overtime loss to Northern Michigan University on Sept. 19, the first loss in more than 60 regular season games for the Lakers, Parise and the Lakers have been impenetrable. In eight games since the loss, the Lakers have outscored their opponents 39-0 and out-shot the eight teams 143-25. GVSU has had more goals scored than shots allowed in five of the eight games.

Parise said the team’s aspiration to have the least goals against in the nation has motivated the entire squad, and it has gotten better as the year has progressed.

“We hold a lot of pride in our goals against,” she said. “It’s great to see that we’ve only allowed three goals on the whole season thus far. It’s a great feeling, it’s our hard work paying off, and we see that on the scoreboard.”

She added not only does the team feed off of its eight straight shutouts, it might be getting into the heads of its opponents.

“To other teams it can be kind of intimidating,” she said. “They ask, ‘Oh, they’ve only let three goals in, how are we going to beat this defense? How are we going to score?’ It’s a statement that we want to put out to other teams that we’ve only let in three, and we’ll play tough.”

The defense may be upperclassmen-led, but the team gets contributions from several freshmen as well. Six of the seven freshmen on the team play on the GVSU back line, including Tayler Ward, who said she has been able to learn from the juniors and seniors.

“(The upperclassmen) have been leaders,” she said. “We’ve got a bond and a friendship. It’s our communication throughout the game that helps us.”

The Lakers will look to extend their shutout streak to 10 games this weekend as they head on the road to Tiffin University and the University of Findlay. Friday’s game at Tiffin kicks off at 4 p.m. followed by a noon match up on Sunday with Findlay.

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