Cook to return for fifth, final season at GV during fall 2021 semester


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Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

On Dec. 14, 2019, the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team won the NCAA Division II National Championship. Before they were able to return to the field and defend their title, COVID-19 struck the nation. The team’s spring tournament was cancelled, along with their fall 2020 season. 

“It was a heartbreaker,” said senior forward Ava Cook. “It was tough knowing that we had just won the championship and we were trying to keep our title this year. We thought we weren’t going to get the chance to do that. It was very tough putting the idea together of me not ever playing again into perspective.”

For Cook, 2019 was potentially the last time she would ever play soccer as a GVSU Laker. Fortunately for her and the rest of her team, their season was rescheduled for spring 2021. Cook will be around next year too, thanks to the NCAA COVID-19 eligibility rules. 

Student athletes normally have five years to play four seasons of their sport. The NCAA extended this eligibility into six years to play all four seasons. In Cook’s case, since the team’s fall 2020 season was cancelled, Cook will be eligible to return even after the competition this spring. 

In a normal year, the GVSU women’s soccer team may play a maximum of 26 games, like in their 2019 championship season. With their conference-only schedule this year, they will only be able to play 13 games if they make it to the championship.

Since they will be playing only half the games they normally would have, the NCAA has deemed that this season is not a full one. This allows Cook to come back for another year of competition at GVSU. 

Another year of playing soccer at GVSU was of course something that Cook was interested in. But it was a difficult decision to make, as there were many factors leading into her final choice. 

Cook had to pick between graduating with her degree this semester or going another several months to get her hard-earned diploma. If she was to return, she would also have to change her schedule in order to stretch out her classes for another semester. She also had to decide if she was going to graduate school or extend her undergraduate program.

Despite the issues involved with extending their eligibility, continuing to play the sport she loves was in the forefront of her mind. 

“That was by far one of the hardest things I had to choose between,” Cook said. “I would be graduating at the end of this 2021 winter semester. It’s surreal to think that I’d be done and moving on to the real world. It’s my love for soccer that is bringing me back for another four months.” 

Ultimately, Cook decided that it was in her best interest to return for the fall 2021 semester. She will just focus on an advertising and public relations internship as her final credits to graduate. In taking just one course, Cook can focus heavily on soccer.

With goals to pursue a playing career after college, this may be her best opportunity to get some more tape on her play. 

“A huge reason for why I’m coming back is so that I can have this four months of soccer to develop professional opportunities afterwards,” Cook said. “I get to train with amazing teammates everyday and I can better myself with being prepared for more opportunities.” 

Graduating in the winter instead of the spring also serves Cook well. For professional soccer organizations, Cook’s availability in the winter is better for scouting. She will also be able to show her diversity and skills on the soccer field one last time for her recruiting profile. Her skills on the field will also be appreciated by the members of the GVSU soccer team. 

“Ava has been the best goal scorer in DII for the last two years,” said coach Jeff Hosler. “To have her back for another year of experience is a huge lift for this group. She has great leadership ability and she’s the one that everyone turns to. Everyone trusts her. When you bring all of that together with her skillset, that gives her the opportunity to leave here as one of the best players in our program’s history.”

Cook’s value to the team isn’t only on the field. As she returns for her fifth season, the leadership she will be able to provide the team is immeasurable. Cook will also have the chance to continue her legacy at GVSU as one of the best soccer players of all time. Currently, Cook has 66 goals in her career at GVSU and was instrumental in their GLIAC Championship in 2019.  

“I think it’s incredible and it’s something that will continue to lead to her legacy,” Hosler said. “We talk to our players all the time about that. What are you going to be remembered for and what will your teammates take away from you? It’s an opportunity for her to positively impact all the new freshmen on the team.”