GVSU midfielder Alyssa Mira does it all

GVL / Eric Coulter
Womens soccer practices before their first match Friday.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Womens soccer practices before their first match Friday.

Bryce Derouin

When people hear the term “midfielder” in soccer, they usually think of someone who sets up the offense and the attacking forwards.

Senior Alyssa Mira and the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team are changing the perception of how soccer fans in the GLIAC view a midfielder.

Mira was named the 2011 GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year while being a defensive holding midfielder, and playing a key role for the Lakers defense last season.

“In our system, we play with one holding midfielder that sits in front of the back four defenders,” head coach David Dilanni said. “That player the past five years has been voted the team MVP from within their peers. To be able to be good at that position, you have to be very fit and willing to work hard.”

Mira was an anchor for a Lakers defense that blanked their opponents 16 times last season. She was also selected to the Daktronics All-America third team, the Midwest Region first team, and the NSCAA Midwest Region first team.

“I think that what the GLIAC coaches saw in Alyssa was that even though she wasn’t a defender, she was extremely important in everything we did,” Dilanni said. “And if we didn’t have her, we wouldn’t be as good defensively as a team, and I think the coaches were right.”

Mira also came up big on offense in the GLIAC tournament, when she scored the game-winning goal in the GLIAC semifinals against Tiffin. She finished the 2011 season with two goals and six assists.

Mira was honored with the awards she received, but was also surprised at the same time.

“I think that it was surprising to me, because in a way it was a good thing because I’m a midfielder, and for a holding midfielder to be named defensive player of the year, gives the position more recognition than it usually receives,” she said. “Usually people think midfielders are attacking players who help on offense, and it really demonstrates how it’s a position that you really have to work on offense and defense.”

The importance of Mira’s position is evident to everyone, including her teammates. The amount of responsibilities Mira has on the field makes her one of the most important players on the team.

“In order to be in that position you have to be very consistent, day in and day out,” said senior goalkeeper Chelsea Parise, who is co-captain with Mira for this upcoming season. “She impacts the flow of the game and the pace of the game. Her along with the other midfielders are the playmakers, we look to connect passes to her and she’s our outlet to switch the field or go on the attack, or hound the forward and be defensive minded. It’s a position that yes, is offensive minded, but it’s more of a defensive-minded position and I think she understands the balance very well.”

Mira will once again play an important part for the Lakers defense, as they enter the season with a No.2 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. GVSU was also chosen as the favorites by the GLIAC coaches to win the GLIAC women’s soccer title.

“Our expectations are extremely high for Alyssa and they’ve always been,” Dilanni said. “I think the last couple years she’s accepted those lofty expectations. We want her to be the hardest worker and the fittest individual on our team. I want her to be a leader that our young players can look up to both in the classroom and on the field and as a person.”

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