Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist —

Archive for September 2013

Defense a foundational measure for women’s soccer

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

Clichés are a dime-a-dozen, idioms should only be used once in a blue moon, adages are mere rules of thumb, and yet all exist in some founding basis of function.

For Grand Valley State University soccer, one cliché has been put to the test year-in and year-out. One
idiom in particular has been proven to be representative more often than not. It’s an adage that might
be appropriately hung in the Laker locker room as an equivalent to the famed Notre Dame ‘play like a
champion today’ plaque.

That truth is that defense wins championships.

“I think it starts back when I started my tenure here, giving the kids a consistent message that defense
wins championships—that’s a philosophy and a tradition,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “I think
everyone wants goals, and it’s the nature of our sport that there’s not always as many goals as fans
would like, but if you can’t defend and keep the ball out of the net, it’s almost impossible to win the
big games.”

And if the philosophy’s not broke, why fix it?

During Dilanni’s tenure, the numbers are staggering—particularly of late. Dating back to 2010, the
Lakers have out-fired opponents by 1,239 shots and put 681 more on goal all while out-scoring foes
by 215 goals. In 60 of their last 80 games, GVSU has recorded a shutout, a 75 percent clip, and five
games into the 2013 season, the Lakers have not allowed a single goal.

“In the past, you would see partial commitment as a team to defend,” Dilanni said. “The defenders
would obviously be defending, but we wouldn’t necessarily have all 10 players defending. This year I
think there’s been a lot more awareness to help each other out.”

Playing a centerback-by-committee rotation composed of seniors Kayla Kimble and Taylor Callen and
sophomore Katy Woolley, with senior Tayler Ward and junior Juane Odendaal typically book-ending
the starting line and senior Sam Decker, junior Alyssa Wesly and freshman Clare Carlson playing on
call, depth has been a major component of the scoreless equation.

So has time. Between Ward, Callen and Kimble, almost 14,000-minutes, about equivalent to nine days,
have been logged cumulatively on the pitch.

“A lot of us have played together for a while now so we have developed that chemistry on the field,
which plays a big factor when teams only get off a few shots a game,” Kimble said.

With many of the Laker defenders playing relatively equal minutes, there’s little separation between
rotation combinations, which are based primarily by in-game match-ups and weekly practices and
kept optimally fresh.

“I think we’ve started 16 different players this year, which is unbelievable,” Dilanni said. “I’ve never,
ever done that before.”

When senior keeper Abbey Miller, who has made saves on all 13 shots she’s seen this year, was named
GLIAC Women’s Soccer Defensive Athlete of the week, it came to the surprise of no one. After all, the
awarding committee doesn’t penalize candidates for receiving a little help from friends.

“Abbey has done exceptionally well this season,” Kimble said. “Her being very vocal and such a strong
rock in the back for us, it’s a huge relief for us backs to know she’s behind us if something were to

As talented and decorated as many of the back line defenders are—and they are both—it takes an
entire roster to effectively play the brand of suffocating and technically sound defense distinct to
GVSU soccer. In a game divided into miniature battles to be won across the field, playing on the same
page is crucial.

“Defending starts up top with the attacking players and must be played as a unit,” Callen said. “If
things break down and the ball does get in, communicating and staying organized has been really
helping us, from tucking people in to working together. I think that’ll be key for the rest of the
season, too.”

The results since 2010, like the numbers, speak for themselves, starting with the back-to-back titles
won in 2009 and 2010, as the Lakers finished second and third in 2011 and 2012, respectively. A
strong defense does not necessitate championship results, but with a greener, more anemic offensive
front that hasn’t yet been forced to play from behind and might not be ready to, a strong, united
defensive back hasn’t been more imperative to GVSU’s success in years.

“We’re very young up-front, and it’s going to take time for us to be able to gel and get consistency up
front,” Dilanni said. “We have lots of talent, but it’s just going to take time and the nature of the sport
is that offense generally comes later than defense. We’ve been very vocal about our upperclassmen in
the back being more consistent from the very beginning to allow our young kids to come around.
We’re not going to play scared, but we’re going to play tight.”

As GVSU’s hellacious season opening road trip rolls into Saginaw Valley State and Northwood
universities this weekend before the Lakers make their return home to play Malone on Oct. 4, a new
shutout streak rests at five games, waiting to be preserved. It’s become a tradition for GVSU soccer,
handed down from squad to squad and worthy of defending. A tradition, a philosophy, a cliché that
defines a program.

“Certainly there’s a philosophy, but then you have to have all 11 players bought in to that philosophy,”
Dilanni said. “I think there’s also been enough of a legacy that each defender and each team wants to
one-up the team that just finished. In that way, the history and the tradition (of defense) helps us out,
too. There’s competition at every spot, and I think that pushes our girls to be better.”

To read the original post “Defense a foundational measure for women’s soccer”, click here at the Lanthorn online.


Written by peterdbarrows

September 26, 2013 at 6:10 pm

GVSU soccer No. 1 rank put to the test; the Lakers make the grade

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

11425_wsoccer_rgb01oGrand Valley State University soccer has welcomed all takers this season—facing off against three Division IINSCAA top 13 ranked opponents—and through five games, the freshly No. 1 ranked Laker side remains untarnished.

GVSU, 4-0-1, boasts a record unblemished save a scoreless tie with No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic State,
and for only the second time in program history and the first time since 2006, when the Lakers started
their eventual NCAA Division II championship campaign 6-0-0, GVSU has not surrendered a goal
through the first five games.

“I think the parallel between this team and the 2006 squad is that everyday, we recognize that this is
truly a team effort for us,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “Different players are playing different roles
in different games and if one player isn’t playing as well as maybe they should, we have players
coming off the bench ready to fill that role.”

In its first game as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, GVSU opened GLIAC play Friday with a 2-0 victory
over Ashland. Junior Jenny Shaba started the scoring off five minutes and 15 seconds into the first
half. It was Shaba’s first goal of the season on a roster that evenly balances the scoring load.

“We’re very fortunate to have such a deep offensive line,” Shaba said. “We’re all very competitive so it’s
a lot of fun to play together.”

On the other side of the ball, the starting Laker backline comprised of seniors Autumn Jacobs, Kayla
Kimble and Tayler Ward, junior Juane Odendaal and freshman Erika Bradfield, who scored her first goal
as a Laker off an arching cross from fellow freshman Kendra Stauffler, held Ashland without a shot in
the opening half and yielded only three shots in the game.

“The defense is our oldest line, starting three seniors and a junior, and they’ve had a lot of time to
come together as a group,” senior tri-captain Sam Decker said. “Last year that line was on their way,
but now they’re really playing great.”

This season, GVSU has allowed only 13 shots-on-goal and 43 total shots while posting 42 shots-on-
goal and 87 total shots, netting eight goals in the process. Through five games, senior keeper Abbey
Miller has only been asked to make 13-saves, and Friday, Miller made her one save opportunity in
routine fashion.

“The key (to our defense) is working for each other,” Shaba said. “We work hard to defend as a team,
then advance up the field together, as well. I think we grow and learn more about each other with
every game we play and the adversity from a tough schedule lets us see each others strengths and lets
us play together accordingly.”

On Sunday, GVSU squared off against a physical Ohio Dominican team and was relatively stymied in
the first half. In the final 45-minutes, however, GVSU played with a sense of urgency distinctive of a
first place team and quickly took control of the contest.

For the second consecutive game, Shaba, who fired five of the Lakers nine shots in the game, netted
the game-winning goal. Persistently applying pressure throughout the day, Shaba broke the Ohio
Dominican backline in the 68 minute off a cross from sophomore Katie Bounds, allowing the Lakers to
return home with two more victories tallied and a 2-0-0 record in GLIAC action.

“Today we played 18 to 19 players and in the last 20-minutes, Ohio Dominican got very, very tired,”
Dilanni said. “Some of the best teams that we’ve had in the last four, five, six years are the ones that
are extremely deep and as long as our kids continue to buy into the team aspect, I think the sky’s the
limit for us.”

With two more away conference games upcoming, beginning with rival Saginaw Valley State on Sept.
27 at 2:00 p.m., GVSU will have played six of their first seven games on the road. In a much-improved
GLIAC conference, the journey towars returning to an NCAA title game won’t be smoothly paved.

“Playing these tight games are making us better,” Dilanni said. “They’re going to make us better as a
team and as individuals now and because we’re going to have to fight and scrap and stay in the game
longer, they’re going to also make us better in the long run. We’ve had a tough start to the season, as
far as schedule goes, and to be able to start GLIAC play with two wins is great for us.”

To read the original post “GVSU soccer No. 1 rank put to the test; the Lakers make the grade ”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

September 23, 2013 at 7:56 am

GVSU distance runner knows how to finish strong

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

Jessica Janecke, only a redshirt sophomore, is young, was lightly recruited, is generally unassuming – and she’s the No. 1 returning finisher on the No. 1 Division II cross-country team in the nation. It isn’t by accident.

“Her work ethic is unbelievable – it’s the best on the team,” said Grand Valley State University assistant
cross-country coach Nick Polk. “From in practice to all the stuff she does outside of practice – the
core, the drills – she’s super focused. She helps everyone else because of how focused she is. People
see how strong she is and how strong she looks and I think other people want to be like her – it’s

The program is so well-established that the U.S Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association
gave it the Division II Program of the Year award in honor of current GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. It is
so successful that Laker student-athletes and their solo accomplishments often bottleneck together in
a indistinguishable blur like cross-country runners bolting from the start box.

Only a select few Laker runners manage to get out in front of the pack and stand out from the crowd.
None more so than Mandi Zemba, who in 2005 won the overall individual National Championship in
cross-country – the first Laker to ever do so – as she covered the 6,000-meter course in Pomona,
Calif. in a time of 21 minutes and 1.7 seconds.

In her first year running competitively at a collegiate level, Janecke ran a time of 20:23.2, placing
fourth overall at last year’s national championship meet. It was the third highest finish in GVSU
history. Zemba rewrote the distance record books in 2006 by breaking six GVSU school records, and
before she’s done, Janecke will likely leave marks of her own. For now, her ambitions resemble her
approach to running– grounded, team-oriented and extremely effective.

“Cross-country is such a team sport and you have to fuel the team to do great things,” Janecke said.
“The more people you can bring with you, the better. In cross-country, you can’t go out and expect to
do things by yourself– the individual doesn’t mean anything. If you don’t have the pack with you,
there’s no point in leading a race. No matter where I finish in a race, it’s reciprocal of what they’ve

Picking up right where she left off, Janecke placed No. 1 on the Division II side in last Friday’s Spartan
Invite with a time of 21:19, her first race opportunity of the 2013 season. Pushed by a pack of
Michigan State runners as well as teammates Courtney Brewis (21:25), a senior, and junior Allyson
Wynchester (21:32), GVSU swept the top three, put four runners in the top five, eight in the top 15 and
11 in the top 25. The Lakers collectively picking up where they left off as a team. Only a minute and
nine seconds separated the Laker pack.

“At a big meet when there’s a lot of good girls, that’s the determining factor if you can win or not–
that spread,” Polk said. “Where’s your first runner, but also where’s your fifth runner? That’s the
reason we won nationals last year I think and I think that‘s what will help us win this year. We need our
five, six, seven runners to be as close to Jess as possible – it takes a team.”

Last year, Janecke’s metamorphic growth from ‘o.k.’ to top five in the nation was sudden, but with a
year under her belt she’ll no longer be running from behind. A leader on the course, she sets a spike
in every race, and heading into the season, for the first time in her career, Janecke is far from an
unknown commodity. And with a new season comes a new set of challenges.

“Staying consistent, staying healthy, running to race – making everything count – that’s my focus,”
Janecke said. “In cross-country, you don’t have a meet every week – you only race five times maybe –
and you have to be ready to perform when the time comes.”

With exceptional results come escalated expectations, and Janecke and the lady Lakers will be asked
to shoulder plenty of high hopes this season. As if running 6,000-meters pushing teammates to their
limit wasn’t workout enough.

Can the Lakers defend their title? Can Janecke continue her meteoric rise? Time always tells in running,
but when it matters most, expect both parties – Janecke and the Lakers – to finish strong.

“She’s (Janecke) learned every step of the way, embraced all the training, done all of the little things
and does everything all out – we have to make sure we’re balancing hard work with rest,” Baltes said.
“She was competitive (in the Spartan Invite) and I think one thing that we saw last year was that she
got a lot better as the season went on. Our hope is that she’ll follow that same lead this year. She’ll do
what she needs to do to be there when it counts.”

To read the original post “GVSU distance runner knows how to finish strong, ”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

September 18, 2013 at 7:50 am

GV cross country ready to run off rust

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

If you don’t run, you rust – or so the old saying goes – and for the Grand Valley State University cross country squad, competitively dormant since summer commenced, the interpretation is literal. Rearing to get back in full gear, the Lakers will get their first chance to run – and hopefully knock off some rust in the process – at the 2013 Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational to be raced this Friday.

“I’m just ready to get back to racing,” said senior Larry Julson, who has been running approximately 100-miles a week throughout the summer and intends to keep going into October. “The summer, it’s short, but it’s really long at the same time. So I’m ready to get that competition feeling back. That’s why I run – to compete.”

Run annually across the Forest Akers East golf course in East Lansing, the invite, which fielded over 5,000 total entries last year, will host colleges and in in-state high schools from virtually every division and even a few middle schools for good measure throughout the day.

Amongst those collegiate entries, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Michigan State, ranked No. 13 on the men’s United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I preseason poll and No. 30 on the women’s, will all be in attendance, as will be GVSU Division II rivals and GLIAC foes like Hillsdale, Ferris State, Wayne State, Findlay and Ashland.

“There’s a school that’s in our conference, Ashland, we battle it out with in track – they’re going to be there,” Julson said. “Then there’s a school regionally that we battle with, the University of Southern Indiana – they’re going to be there, too. It’s going to be a good gage to see how we’re looking against the rest of the field.”

Only the first official meet of the season for the Lakers, the stakes will be low. That won’t prevent the competition from being high.

“You can look at two ways,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “You can start the season low-key and not have much pressure or you can get in there and mix it up right away and that should pay dividends down the road. Hopefully there’s a good mix of teams and individuals that push us and individuals and teams we can do well against.”

As much of a difference as every second saved of every kilometer run can make, Friday the will to race will take an onus.

“We’ll look at the big picture,” Baltes said. “You just never know what kind of times the course is going to present – if it’s super-hot, if it’s windy, if it’s wet, it’s going to be slower. Times can matter a little bit, but we’re really looking to see how we compete in the middle to the second half of the race. Anyone can look good for a half of the race, but it’s really who takes care business over the second half of the race, who’s tough, who pushes through that early season race discomfort. “

The GVSU women, who will return five of seven scorers and six of seven runners from last year’s national championship squad, enter the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the Division II USTFCCCA preseason poll for the first time in program history, despite winning two of the last three national titles. The GVSU men, who return three top finishers from last year’s seventh place team and five of seven entries, come in at No. 5 in the rankings.   

An un-scored invitational, the meet in it of itself will hold little to no direct bearing on the Laker’s likely promising season to come, but as most any runner knows, a strong start can make all the difference.

“It’s relatively flat and normally a pretty fast race and we’re really excited to get back on track,” said junior Alan Peterson, who in 2011 finished 38th at the Spartan Invite with a time of 25 minutes and 30 seconds. “We’re definitely looking to make a statement on our first race – it’s really going to set us up well for the rest of the season. We’re looking to get back on the podium – so stop four – and with hard work, we definitely have the guys to do it.”

With four of the top 51 national meet finishers – sophomore Jessica Janecke (4), juniors Alyson Winchester (6), Hannah Osborn (26) and Madie Rodts (42) and senior Courtney Brewis (51) back, the lady Lakers posses strength up top to keep them in range of the podium all season.

The men, who with seniors Josh Moskalewski (53) and Brent Showerman (82) and sophomore Joe Duff (78) lack Anthony Witt/Tyler Emmorey (both 2011 graduates) lack runners in the top-10, will instead have to rely on their pack.

“The pack’s looking really good,” Julson said. “We’ve gotten strung up a couple times on a couple of the workouts, but the past couple workouts, we’ve really pulled it together. We’ve had probably our top 12 guys all right next to each other. We did miles last Friday and I think was probably like the eight guy and ran my last mile in 4 minutes and 49 seconds. We had seven guys in front of me running 4:43 to 4:49 so we’ve got the top 10 looking really, really solid.”

Championships are not won overnight and none will be returned home Friday. The framework will be laid however as the Lakers, collectively as a team, look to extend their cross country dynasty.

We’ll rely on the pack again,” Baltes said. “Hopefully the people who’ve gotten it done in the past will get it done again and hopefully we get a couple people who step up. We’re not going to talk about winning a national championship or being top four today.  We’ll just focus on the day-to-day process and getting better.”

Written by peterdbarrows

September 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm

MLive High School Sports

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Pete Barrows
Sports Desk Reporter

I love sports. I enjoy writing. It’s a good pairing on paper, and if I had my druthers, I’d always pen stories like these:

BROOKLYN — There’s an old folktale known to most as the ‘North Wind and the Sun’, and make no mistake, the former was a player that made its presence known at Saturday’s Division 1 boys cross country state finals run at the Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.

Although when Aesop added the fable to his collection, he couldn’t have known the story would be adopted centuries later by repeat state champion and cross country runner extraordinaire, Grant Fisher of Grand Blanc, as his own.


And so the story goes:

The North Wind and the Sun argued over who was strong above the MIS, when around the bend of the second mile came charging  young man — lets call him Fisher — draped in a singlet, shorts and spikes. A quick glance back over his shoulder was all that he needed to assure himself he had the space between himself and the rest of the field requisite to complete his race design before he pressed on.

“My race plan was not time orientated at all, but rather section orientated,” Fisher said. “I wanted to cruise through the first mile, and attack the second mile, but when I did, the wind attacked me right back.

“When I woke up this morning and saw snow on the ground or as the car shook from the wind on the drive over, well it wasn’t a surprise on the starting line that not every day is going to be 75-degrees and sunny, but the course conditions are never ideal. You have to fight strong still because that’s how you create opportunities to run a perfect race.”

As Fisher extended his lead and hammered the third and final mile of the course, the North Wind picked up its effort as well, taunting the sun that he was the force of nature that could make the young man slow his gait. But even as the North Wind blew and blew, the young man wouldn’t relent.

Not one stride. In fact, as the Sun peaked its way out from behind the clouds, what’s become a familiar phenomena to cross country fans across the country reoccurred — Fisher sped up.

“I’ve talked to a lot of runners, and they all say winning the second time’s harder,” Fisher said. “Last year, the title was up for anyone to grab, but this year, expectations were different.

“I still like to think that I’m an underdog, and act like no one’s out to get me. That I’m out to prove something, but realistically, that’s not the case and probably won’t be for the rest of my high school career.

“That’s why I set expectation for myself, and don’t let other people dictate them for me. Why when I had executed my plan and felt great doing it, I kicked it in down the stretch.”


Fisher crossed the finish line first with a time of 14:52.5 — it was the second time in his career that he’s eclipsed the 15-minute barrier — but what happened next might have impressed the Sun even more.

Despite running like the wind against the wind in the race, Fisher finished looking as if he had just come in from a leisurely jog. He was the first one to help up exhausted runners from the ground and greet them with a genuine handshake.

The accolades — for example having been named the 2013-14 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Player of the Year — of which there are many, speak to Fisher’s talent and resolve, but much like the weather, the North Wind, they fail to define him as a runner.

“I don’t think racers are made or defined in the 15 minutes or so of racing, but in the other 23 3/4 hours of the day,” Fisher said.

Rockford finished first overall as a team (140), while White Lake Lakeland placed second (146). Waterford Mott was third (148).

Please flag inappropriate comments for review

But it’s not my druthers that count; it’s the page views. At least for now. Perhaps there is no room in sports writing for iconoclasm. That won’t stop from trying to work a little in every time I get the chance.



Bloomfield Hills Marian basketball prospects Bailey and Samantha Thomas embrace family tradition of defense

Curtis Russell and Ben Fales each reach 1,000-point plateau to cement legacy at Algoma Christian

Portage Northern falls a point short in pursuit of fourth straight powerlifting state championship

Diver Jake Herremans of Rockford wins second straight Division 1 state title

Division 8 state finals: Kept waiting for 34 years, Munising travels 412 miles for state title shot

Michigan District 9 Big League team aspires for spot in ESPN televised final

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 67, Jenison 35: Tom Izzo sighted at FHC

Battle Creek Central 47, Portage Central 42: Jamiel Wade punctuates “Battle Creek” debut

Grand Rapids Union 2, Hastings 0: Defender Chris Santana finishes 2nd in cross-country meet, then plays soccer

Bay City Central Quad: Bryan Bishop honored for 30 years of service

Coach Larry Bailey enters Parchment Hall of Fame during 51-27 victory against Delton Kellogg

Dexter softball team honors first coach

Live Covers:

Division 1 boys cross country state finals: Grant Fisher blows away competition in title defense

D2 State Finals: Bay City Western’s Krissy Harmon breaks state record in final meet of her high school career

Grandville Calvin Christian 2, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 1: Bad case of deja vu spites Lakers in state title rematch

Hudsonville Unity Christian 3, Detroit County Day 1: Underdog Yellowjackets undone, despite early edge

Coloma 6, Springport 2: Coloma softball team advances to state semifinal, right on cue

Coloma softball team prepares for Division 3 state quarterfinal matchup with Springport

Chelsea boys swim and dive team’s historic season ends with second place finish at Division 3 state finals



Leroy Pine River 34, Sanford Meridian 27: For second straight week, Pine River scores late to advance

Melvindale Academy for Business and Technology 42, Muskegon Heights Academy 36: Long season at the one

Lansing Catholic 35, Saginaw Nouvel 7: Quarterback Tony Poljan leads Lansing Catholic football team to victory

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 38, Detroit U-D Jesuit 14: Alex Malzone and Grant Perry break school record in win

Breckenridge 30, Merrill 26: Wade San Miguel scores four touchdowns in comeback win


Fulton-Middleton 64, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 60: Pirates avenge buzzer-beater to win Class D regional

Jackson Lumen Christi 71, Battle Creek Harper Creek 68: Khari Willis nets 24 points in win

Muskegon 81, Muskegon Mona Shores 26: Deyonta Davis drums up double-double in victory

Reese 63, Saginaw Valley Lutheran 33: Reyna Frost shatters school scoring record

Jonesville 60, Homer 59: Sarah Dawson thwarts late comeback with game-winning put-back

Ann Arbor Skyline 62, Salem 56: “Ball doesn’t lie” as Skyline wins season-opener in overtime

Saginaw Nouvel 73, Tawas Area 38: Future Miss Basketball candidate Laurel Jacqmain scores 21 in win


Division 4 Bowling State Final: Emma Davis flirts with perfect on her way to state title

Unity Knights 7, Lowell/Caledonia/South Christian 5: Ales Hyrsl nets four goals in victory

Division 3 regional final at Lake Odessa Lakewood: Emable Irankunba leads GRCC to second straight regional title

Flint Southwestern 27-12, Flint Hamady 19-1: Devon Haggard swipes 11 bases in sweep

Okemos 57, DeWitt 56: Conner George hits game-winning 3-pointer as time expires

TVC Jamboree: Freeland girls golf team takes first behind podium sweep

No. 1 ranked Okemos girls water polo team wins fourth East Region Championship in five years

13 lives on in Flint Powers Catholic boys lacrosse team 17-5 victory over Saginaw Heritage

Class B Grant 3, Fremont 1: Grant wins fourth straight district title


To read more from the high school sports deskclick here to visit my complete archive with

Written by peterdbarrows

September 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Posted in MLive

GVSU soccer gets better with time

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GVL / ArchiveTaylor Callen defends with the help of teammate Tayler Ward
Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

Two hours, 110 minutes. That’s 6,600 seconds played. Almost two full American football games
with no huddles or commercials.

And in all that time, neither the No. 2 ranked Grand Valley State University Lakers nor the No. 5
ranked Armstrong Atlantic State Pirates managed to net a single goal on the first day of the Holiday
Inn Express Savannah Midtown Clash on the Coast tournament. The season opener for GVSU
concluded in a 0-0 overtime draw Friday afternoon.

“To come down in 90-95 degree heat, against the home school (that has won or tied 41 straight at
home) and continuing to push the pace as the game went on—especially in the last 50-60 minutes,
I thought that we created enough chances to maybe win the game at the end,” GVSU head coach
Dave Dilanni said. “We lacked quality in the final third in terms of finishing inside the box and
getting in behind the back line, but whenever you don’t give up a goal, you have to take that as
being a positive.”

Allowing Armstrong to only shoot four shots on goal, the ballyhooed and battle tested GVSU
defense performed as advertised. With only nine shots on goal notched by the tenderfoot Laker
front, so did the offense.

“We set goals for ourselves—we don’t want to get scored on, limit the shots—little things like that
to keep the shutouts rolling,” said senior all-GLIAC honorable mention defender Taylor Callen.

In a first half that could only be described as plodding, GVSU and Armstong combined for nine total
shots on net. Armstrong’s best chance came in the 14th minute when sophomore Brianne
Matarazzo tested GVSU senior keeper Abbey Miller, who passed with flying colors. The Lakers fired
rebuttals in the 20th and 35th minute, with freshman forward Marti Corby who led the Lakers with
four shots, narrowly missing both times.

It wasn’t until the final 45-minutes of regulation that the game picked up.

With less than 25-minutes left in the match, a deftly placed corner from senior defenseman Tayler
Ward marked off the head of senior midfielder Shelby Humphries only to be deflected for a Pirate
save. It was the start of an offensive flurry that continued the rest of the game and put Armstrong
keeper Morgan Luckie thoroughly through her paces.

In the final 19 minutes and seven seconds of the second half, GVSU racked up five shots, following
up with seven shots and two fractionally missed scoring opportunities in two 10-minute overtime

“We went to our bench just as much as they did and I thought with about 25 minutes left in the
second half and the group that we had on the field caused a lot of problems for them,” Dilanni said.
“We continued to push through that group for the rest of the second half, but unfortunately we
didn’t get the goal we were looking for even though we created the opportunities. I think it’s
becoming very obvious that when we’re committed and on the same page, we’re a pretty deep team
—we have a lot of options and can play at pretty high pace.”

Sunday morning, GVSU matched up against the No. 13 ranked Columbus State Cougars, a squad
that had also played into overtime Friday, dropping a heartbreaker to No.1 ranked West Florida 3-2
as time expired. With an opportunity to provide an appropriate retort and earn the season’s first W
on the line, it was the Lakers who responded with marked improvement and a 2-0 victory.

“Today was a great result for us,” Dilanni said. “You could make the case that Columbus State
should have won the game against West Florida. I thought on Friday they were the better team,
better than Armstrong Atlantic, and so we were concerned about playing them.”

Allowing five less shots (14 against Armstrong, 9 against Columbus State) on defense and totaling
eight more on offense (19 against Armstrong, 27 against Columbus State) in 20 fewer minutes of
action, the Lakers looked the part of a team in growth, learning as it goes.

“One of our main objectives coming down here was to get results in both games, whether ties or
wins,” Dilanni said. “We did not want to take losses. So it was really important for us to come back
with not only as good a performance—we had to be better.”

In the 57 minute 57 second mark, All-GLIAC second team performer junior Charlie Socia snared the
first official goal of the season for the Lakers on an out-of-the-box strike to the upper 90 off an
assist from sophomore midfielder Katie Klunder.

“It felt pretty good,” Socia said. “I don’t score very often, so it was nice to get one. It was a nice
balled laid off by Katie Klunder, and I just took a couple touches. Dave (Dilanni) had been telling us
to shoot all day so I just hit it, hoping it’d make it somewhere near the goal so someone could run
on to it, but then it just went in.”

With a ‘take shots and good things happen’ philosophy in full effect, freshman forward Michelle
Foote then made good on a one-on-one chance from 13-yards out after receiving a pass from
Corby in the 63rd minute, finishing the game and the weekend with style. Everyone—from the
backline backbone up—played and contributed something to the win.

“I thought we played well on Friday, but I thought we played a lot better on Sunday,” Callen said.
“We started to build that chemistry and play as one—we played as a unit, we defended as a unit, we
passed as a unit and we became more creative up top. Defending starts up top with the attacking
players—communicating, staying organized, defending as a unit—and I think that’s the key for the
rest of the season, too.”

In both contests, as the game went on, the Lakers got better—saving their very best for last in a
match in which Dilanni felt the Lakers “were unlucky not to have won by more,” a microcosm that
Laker fans and coaches alike surely hope to see develop with the team as the season progresses.

“I’ve told them all along we’re going to be a better team in October than we are right now,” Dilanni
said. “How much faster we improve during that time is up to them, but we’re going to try and put
them in positions to learn. I thought we made some big strides this weekend.”

To read the original post “GVSU soccer gets better with time, ”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

September 8, 2013 at 6:41 am

Keeping the tradition alive

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GVSU goalkeeper has big cleats to fill for the upcoming soccer season

Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

It’s a new year, a new semester, a new season for Grand Valley State University soccer, and senior keeper and first year starter Abbey Miller has plenty on her plate— namely, playing into the clown-sized cleats passed down to her. The good news is that when names on a page become careers on a field, history has consistently recalled GVSU goalkeepers kindly.

“We have a lot of faith in Abbey,” GVSU head coach Dave Dilanni said. “Both (Kristina Nasturzio and Chelsea Parise) spent a year behind another (keeper) and learned from each other. Even before Kristina started, she sat behind Melissa Henson, whom she was able to learn from. Abbey Miller’s been able to do that as well.”

Henson, a starter from 2000 to 2003, still holds a share of the Lakers’ single-season save percentage mark (.938 in 2000) and, since hanging up her gloves, has assisted on GVSU’s sidelines tutoring her progeny.

The first of those successors, Nasturzio, a starter from 2005 to 2008, boasts the lowest career goals against average (.34 a match) as well as the highest career save percentage (.890) in GVSU history.

More recently, Parise, a starter from 2009 to 2012, played in (101) and won (84) more games while
recording more shutouts (59) than any Laker in the history of the program.

Between the three highly esteemed net guardians, virtually every meaningful keeper record—
single-game, single-season, career or otherwise— has been rewritten and kept, the position’s
prestige building with that of the program’s.

After three seasons under Parise’s wing and shadow, Miller is tasked with continuing the
exceptional legacy associated with being a Laker goalkeeper. Whether or not Miller’s up to the task
remains to be seen, but if she should fall short of expectations, it won’t be from a lack of ability.

“I think one thing Abbey may be lacking a little is game experience,” Dilanni said. “You try to
prepare her in training and practice, give her the opportunities to show she can make those plays,
but physically she has all the tools and looks the part. What Abbey lacks in experience, she brings
plenty of athleticism, body control and very good hands. I think those things, we’re hoping, are
going to fill that void for lacking a little bit of game experience.”

Idle time isn’t always the devil’s playground, but it certainly can be numbing.

Playing in only seven matches equating to 172.13 minutes of real game time since enrolling at GVSU, Miller has excelled in a limited capacity with seven saves a .875 save percentage, but has yet to deal with the 90-minute doldrums associated with the position and the school – it isn’t uncommon for a GVSU keeper to get two or fewer save opportunities in a contest – waiting to trip up the unsuspecting goalie. With a returning back four that helped to post 18 shutouts in 2012, Miller won’t be working alone, but it will take team attentiveness from the forward front down to stay ready and avoid being caught off-guard.

“Staying mentally in the game and staying focused,” Dilanni said. “That’s really what it is – mentally being strong, following the play and keeping your mind alive, understanding that there may only be one breakdown in the entire game and that’s the save you need to make.”

Playing extensively in the more rigorous spring season and getting plenty of reps in practice, Miller has worked tirelessly to stay sharp and has already made strides in her game since assuming the starting role this offseason. So much so that she hopes to make her mark amongst a heavily experienced back line.

“One of the main things I learned from Chelsea was how good of a communicator she was and how she organized the players in front of her,” Miller said. “Personally, I want to be that main communicator in the back. Just have a leadership role and be a presence in the back. And since coming in as a freshman, I feel much more comfortable playing with everybody.”

For the last decade, the GVSU goal has been tended with pride and the transition between successors has been made as fluidly as a keeper-initiated outlet to midfield. It’s become a natural order and yet not all keepers, for better or worse, are created equal. Each has brought a unique verve to the crease, proving that there’s more than one way to block a shot.

“Chelsea was an extremely loud presence on the field,” said senior defenseman and Miller’s roommate of the last three years Sam Decker. “She saw everything and she made sure you new it. If you missed something or there was something you should have done, she let you know.

Abbey is a great leader, but in some ways she’s more of a lead by example type. She talks when she needs to and lets people know what they need to know.”

Holly Ellerbroek, a redshirt freshman, is next in line to the throne, but until the 2013 season closes, the cycle will continue with Miller taking her long awaited turn atop. The shoes will take some breaking in of course as both Miller and Ellerbroek learn and adjust, but just like your mom assured you when she bought you a fresh pair in middle school, there’ll be plenty of room left to grow.

“Our hope is that every game, as she (Miller) gets a little more experience, she becomes a little more comfortable underneath herself,” Dilanni said. “As she does, she’s going to start blossoming into that goalkeeper that’s going to take us very far in the playoffs.

As daunting as it may be to replace a mainstay in goal, Miller is up for the challenge. Whatever trepidations she may have heading into the season, her teammates do not share.

“There’s not one person on this team who said ‘oh I’m a little nervous that Chelsea’s gone,” Decker said. “All anyone can say is that ‘Abbey’s going to do great this year’. Everybody’s really behind her and everybody’s ready for her to take this opportunity. It’s her time. It’s her year to shine.”

To read the original post “Keeping the tradition alive, ”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

September 4, 2013 at 7:01 am