PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Chelsea Parise sat hugging her knees about 20 yards from where her team gathered on the sideline, collecting herself while “The Final Countdown” blared over the loudspeaker at the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championship semifinals on Thursday afternoon.

After two overtime periods in the first semifinal of the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championship, Grand Valley State and Chico State were deadlocked at 1-1, forcing a penalty-kick shootout.

Once the horn sounded to signal the end of the second overtime, Parise -- GVSU’s junior goalkeeper – separated from her teammates and shut out the world as she prepared for one of the most pressure-packed situations of her sensational career.

ON TO THE FINAL
Grand Valley State needed penalty kicks for the second consecutive game, but the Lakers found a way to get past Chico State and into their third consecutive NCAA title match.
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“That’s kind of my ritual,” Parise said. “I stay away from the team and get in the zone. I clear my mind – I think that’s really what helps me out.”

It was only the second time GVSU had gone into a penalty kick shootout this season, but it was only last week that Parise had been in the one-on-one battle.  In the NCAA regional final against Colorado School of Mines, Parise and the Lakers survived a shootout to advance with a 4-2 win on penalty kicks after a scoreless contest.

It was more of the same for Parisi, a native of Warren, Mich., against Chico State. Parisi, an All-Midwest Region selection, again made three saves as GVSU topped the Wildcats, 3-2, in the shootout.

“I read the body language of the players coming up,” Parise said. “I can tell when they’re lacking confidence when they come up to the ball and I thrive on that.  It’s just one my strengths – PK shootouts -- I want to pull it out for my team.  I’m not supposed to make a save, so just making one is great for the team.”

It was the third time Chico State went into penalty kicks during its’ improbable run in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats were the No. 5 seed in the West Region, won four times to move on to the semifinals for the first time in school history. Chico State downed Cal State Stanislaus and Cal State L.A. in penalty kick shootouts, winning both 4-3.  Parise, however, proved too tough for the Wildcats this time.

“We always talk about him them hard and keep it on frame, and we’ve done that through the stretch,” Chico State head coach Kim Sutton said.  “It’s worked for us twice, and today we did the same thing.  Today, it was just a better goalkeeper and she made three saves.  It’s hard to win when their keeper comes up with three saves.  That’s the difference.”

“Their goalkeeper did a great job blocking ours,” Chico State senior midfielder Lisa Webster said.  “We hit them hard and hoped for the best.  That’s how soccer works … sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

With the shootout victory, Parise improved her career mark to 64-1-10, and 8-0-1 in NCAA postseason games during her three seasons.  She entered the contest with 14 shutouts on the year, and it looked like Parise might add another to her total until Webster netted a late goal in regulation to tie the score.  Parise and the GVSU defenders bounced back from the short setback.

“Our kids played a fantastic overtime and swung some momentum back in our direction,” GVSU head coach Dave Dilanni said.  “Even though we didn’t score I thought we were feeling good about ourselves going into penalty kicks.  We just continue to win those PKs – we have a great goalkeeper and some good shooters.  I guess it was our time.”

GVSU forward Maria Brown scored the Lakers’ only goal just 53 seconds into regulation, but Chico State held off the Lakers’ offense for the rest of the contest.

“We came back strong and started to get our rhythm going, and played our game,” Sutton said.  “We controlled much of the game, especially right after our goal.  We knew we would get back in it, but it’s hard to do PKs three times in a playoff run.”

The Lakers are looking for their third consecutive NCAA Division II title. They defeated UC San Diego 4-0, in the 2010 championship game and Cal State Dominguez Hills 1-0, to claim the 2009 trophy.

And if it is a penalty kick shootout that decides this year’s national title game against Saint Rose on Saturday, don’t look for Parise in the huddle on the sidelines. She won’t be there. And that’s just fine with her coach.

“She’s a weirdo – no one wants to be near her,” Dilianni joked.

The NCAA Division II women’s soccer championship game will be played at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Ashton Brosnaham Park in Pensacola, Fla.