Dec. 4, 2010

By Ronnie Ramos

Grand Valley State capped one of the most dominating seasons in NCAA Division II women's soccer history and repeated as national champion Saturday with a 4-0 victory over UC San Diego.

No team in the history of Division II soccer has been harder to score on. The Lakers set a Division II record Saturday with their 21st shutout of the year in 25 games. Sophomore goalie Chelsea Parise recorded her 17th shutout, tying the Division II record for most shutouts in a season, and the team did not allow a goal in its five NCAA tournament games.

"The run we've had, especially in the tournament, not giving up a goal has been fantastic," Grand Valley State coach Dave DiIanni said. "When we get on a roll, we get on a roll."

Grand Valley State has been nearly perfect during its current back-to-back national title run. The Lakers are 44-1-6 in the past two years with 34 shutouts and only 17 goals allowed in 51 games. "That's quite a record, but the trophy is what we really wanted as a team," DiIanni said.

"It really hasn't hit me yet, it's surreal," Parise said. "It feels great. We had high expectations from last year to this year. It's nice to see that we can exceed those expectations and standards and meet them."

This year, the Lakers allowed only five goals all season, none at home. "We want to be difficult to play against," DiIanni said. "We want to be difficult to score against. There's no doubt that, last year's team and this year's team, because we were so good defensively as team, that's why we are where we're at."

The defensive dominance is more than just a strong back line and a superb goalie, DiIanni said. "It's the team," he said. "One of the things that make it easy for our back line is because our forwards defended. It starts with 10 players wanting to help support and cover and eliminate opportunities... I thought we did a pretty good job of that today against a good team."

Tritons Coach Brian McManus credited Grand Valley's composure and ball control. "I don't think we played as well as we can play, but having said that, the season has been an incredible season for us," he said.

The start of the game was delayed by an hour so ground crews could remove snow from the field. The game was played in a steady drizzle of freezing rain, but McManus said his team composed of players mostly from Southern California was not affected by the weather or slick conditions on the artificial turf. "The conditions were great," McManus said. "We've played in a lot worse fields than that. The field had nothing to do with it. We just fell short."

They ran into a juggernaut. Grand Valley is more than a defensive-minded team. The Lakers set an NCAA tournament record for the most goals in a tournament with 16 - something that was not lost on senior Jaleen Dingledine, who scored the third goal of the game.

"At halftime, before (coach DiIanni) came into the locker room, we were all talking about another record - the most goals in a tournament," she said. "We're always setting goals for each other and trying to outdo records and other teams."

Grand Valley didn't waste much time in controlling the game Saturday.

"I liked our start," DiIanni said. "I think we matched the intensity really early and created a couple of early opportunities."

Grand Valley scored first in the 20th minute. Kayla Addison chased down a loose ball on the right side and served a perfect cross to Erin Mruz, who - befitting the icy conditions - one-timed the ball into the back of the net from 13 yards out.
"That first goal was just a quality, special goal," DiIanni said.

The Lakers added a second goal 17 minutes later on their third corner kick of the game. Defender Megan Brown curled the kick into the far side of the net, just over the heads of two leaping defenders guarding the post. The unassisted goal was Brown's first of the season.

"That was a goal that I think was very big," DiIanni said. "The elements weren't fantastic and the way we defend as a team is difficult to score on us."

Grand Valley State outshot UC San Diego 10-4 in the first half. The Lakers came out aggressively at the start of the second half, controlling the ball and forcing the Lakers to play defense for most of the first 10 minutes.

"A lot of teams would have collapsed at half time," Tritons Coach McManus said. "We came out and made a game of it." What did McManus tell his players? "I told them to go out and enjoy it. And Valley, they're a strong team. They're seasoned. They've got a lot of maturity behind them."

The Lakers showed that maturity, weathering the Tritons' attack at the start of the second half.

"They came out and pushed us in the second half early but we matched it," DiIanni said.

Grand Valley counter-punched pushing the ball forward and capitalizing on a loose ball. Ashley Botts controlled the ball in the middle of the field, just outside the box, and got to senior Jaleen Dingledine on the right side. Dingledine shook free of the defender and blasted a shot from eight yards out over goalie Kristin Armstrong.

"It's definitely a great way to end my career," senior Dingledine said of her goal.

The way Grand Valley plays defense, DiIanni knew the third goal was decisive. "That was the game right there, that third goal," he said.

Addison, who assisted on the first goal, pounced on a loose ball in the box, drilled into the net in the 78th minute to complete the scoring and secure Grand Valley's national title.