Mitchell putting forth winning attitude after loss

GVL Archive / Cody Eding
The Lakers loss against Michigan Tech puts the Lakers back against the wall, and they must perform well in all of their games.

GVL Archive / Cody Eding The Lakers loss against Michigan Tech puts the Laker’s back against the wall, and they must perform well in all of their games.

Cody Eding

Grand Valley State University head coach Matt Mitchell doesn’t want to talk about the past.

And frankly, I don’t blame him.

Mitchell has answered his fair share of questions – from myself included – about the 2009 season in the wake of last weekend’s 20-17 loss to Michigan Technological University. When your team has lost only two regular season games in the past five seasons, I guess it comes with the territory.

“The first thing I don’t want to hear out of our guys is about last year,” Mitchell said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “I don’t want to hear that.”

Last year, the Lakers lost to Hillsdale College in week seven of the regular season. In response, the team reeled off seven straight wins – including a playoff thrashing of Hillsdale – en route to an appearance in the National Championship game.

Mitchell dismissed the notion of using last year’s success to validate the loss against Michigan Tech.

“I don’t want our program to think it’s okay to lose games,” he said. “I don’t want to hear about how last year after Hillsdale we rebounded and went on this run. I’m not really interested in any of our players, any of our coaches or anybody else saying that to our team. We’ve only lost five regular season games in the last 10 years, and one of those was on Saturday. And I’ve got to make sure the young players in our program understand that’s not acceptable around here.”

The Lakers should not and cannot rely on last year’s performance. With a new coach and new players across the field – both of which have experienced growing pains this season – there’s no guaranteed waltz to the championship.

Last year’s quarterback is an assistant coach. Last year’s running back is tearing up the NAIA. Last year’s leading receiver is an extra in a Kurt Russell movie, as is last year’s kicking specialist and starting safety. Last year is over.

Yet, GVSU is more than capable of overcoming the loss. Now, it’s up to the players whether or not they use the loss as motivation. The talent is there. The team just needs to execute better — something they failed to do on the road in Houghton.

“We’re not proud of how we played and definitely disappointed,” said senior safety Matt Bakker. “Forgetting about how we played probably just defeats any purpose of learning a lesson from a loss like that. I think we have the people in place to be able to play better and its just about going out there and executing.”

There’s little room for error. If the Lakers slip up during the season’s last two games, the team risks losing the GLIAC title. Worse, GVSU could fail to make the playoffs, something they have not done since 2000.

“This loss is going to go one of two ways,” Mitchell said. “It’s either going to serve as, I guess, as a motivator and a reminder. I’m hoping the guys don’t forget about it here for a while.

“If it lingers, and we can’t get over that, and we’re not using that in the proper way, not using that as a motivator, then its going to define us, too,” he added. “That loss against Michigan Tech is going to define our season one way or the other.”

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