HEADLINE: Short of history
HEADLINE: GV soccer falls short of fourth straight national championship with 3-2 loss to Western Washington
BYLINE: Josh Peick
Winning one championship is hard. Winning two is even tougher. Winning three-in-a-row is almost impossible, and four consecutive national championships has only been done once in the history of NCAA Division II women’s soccer.
In its opportunity to win a fourth consecutive national championship, the Grand Valley State women’s soccer team fell one game, one goal short of accomplishing that feat. After beating Columbus State 3-0 in the semifinals, the Lakers (23-2-1) fell 3-2 to Western Washington (24-0-1) in the championship match in Kansas City, Missouri.
In the semifinal match, Columbus State pressured the Lakers from the opening minute. After attempting zero shots in the first 25 minutes, the Lakers finally generated offensive opportunities.
“Grand Valley has given up zero first-half goals all season, and we knew that,” said Columbus State coach Jay Entlich. “Our goal was to try to dictate play, we’ve scored a lot of first-half goals, (and) it just didn’t happen for us today.”
With less than 10 minutes left, midfielder Marti Corby scored with the ball sitting on the goal line after hitting the post on a deflected shot. Corby scored again early in the second half, shooting to the far left on a shot from inside the box.
“We’ve talked as a theme as it being a race to two in our matches,” said GVSU coach Jeff Hosler. “(The second goal) settled us down.”
Forward Kendra Stauffer added an insurance goal with a tough-angle shot from near the left side of the goal. The three goals were more than enough for the GVSU defense, recording its 20th shutout of the season.
In the finals, Western Washington pressured the Lakers harder than any team has this season. The Vikings controlled possession and out-shot the Lakers 16 to eight in the contest.
“(Western Washington’s) ability to high-press got us out of our rhythm,” Hosler said. “Frankly they did a much better job building from the back than we did.”
Western Washington struck first in the 18th minute with a goal from the left foot of Caitlyn Jobanek. Jobanek scored from 20 yards out into the top-left portion of the goal.
Later in the half, forward Jayma Martin scored the equalizer for GVSU on a shot from a tough angle left of the goal. Gabriella Mencotti chipped a ball over a Viking defender and as the goalie came out to play the ball, Martin danced around her, gathered the ball and scored.
“I thought we responded well when they scored,” GVSU defender Clare Carlson said. “We just weren’t disciplined defensively right away, and it led to good goal-scoring opportunities for them that they capitalized on.”
Less than four minutes after Martin’s goal, Jobanek scored again for the Vikings in similar fashion to her first goal. After a throw in from the right side, Jobanek turned toward the middle of the field and fired a shot from 25 yards out that found the top-left again. In the race to two goals, Western Washington beat the Lakers.
Western Washington took the one-goal lead into the second half. It was the first time the Lakers allowed a first-half goal and trailed at halftime this season.
After a scoreless 25 minutes to the start of the second half, Carlson scored the second equalizer of the game. Forward Kendra Stauffer passed the ball to a trailing Carlson who fired a one-time shot just outside the box. The ball sailed over the goalie and into the pylon.
For the second time, the Vikings answered back with quick goal. This time, midfielder Emily Webster fired a free kick from 30 yards out off of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
“Every time a very good Grand Valley team got back into the game, we had an answer,” Western Washington coach Travis Connell said. “They were fantastic goals, and probably that’s what it takes to beat a team like this.”
The goal marked the first time that the Lakers have given up three goals in a match this season.
“Conceding three goals, you are not going to win very many games,” Hosler said. “We felt that they had good ball-strikers, and we had to close those spaces.”
For the last fifteen minutes the GVSU offense pushed, but the Lakers were unable to score a third equalizer. When the clock struck zero, the Vikings held a one-goal lead, and for the first time in four years, GVSU did not finish a season with a win.
“Right now its sadness and devastation, but you have to look at the big picture,” Corby said. “For our class, one game does not define our career.”
With the loss, the 2016 senior class finished with four national championship appearances, three championship wins and a 92-5-5 overall record.
“(The seniors) mean everything to the program,” Hosler said. “As I told the team, this isn’t their legacy. Their legacy is something that is going to be felt for many years moving forward. To play in four national championship games, to win three of them, is a remarkable feat and no one can ever take that away from them. Their discipline and sacrifices and commitment to our program are things that are going to be with us for a really long time.”