The Grand Valley State women’s soccer team has a chance to make history by winning the program’s third consecutive NCAA title on Saturday.
There’s just one thing that can stop them: Columbus State, a team that is looking to make a little history of its own.
The Lakers and Cougars will meet for all the marbles at 1 p.m. ET Saturday at the Ashton Brosnaham Soccer Complex in Pensacola, Fla.
"The message has been clear all season, that we are here to win a championship, and that's what we came here to do,” said GVSU coach Jeff Hosler.
The Lakers (22-1-1) will be playing in the Division II national championship match for the sixth time in the past seven years. They have won back-to-back titles twice during that stretch (2009-2010 and 2013-2014), but never three in a row.
To give that a little perspective, only one other program in Division II women’s soccer has achieved the feat of winning three consecutive titles since the championship’s inception in 1988.
That team — Franklin Pierce — actually won four trophies between 1994 and 1997. The head coach who started that run was Mark Krikorian, who is looking to start another streak as head coach at Division I’s Florida State. The defending NCAA champion Seminoles are vying for their second straight title this weekend.
Playing for the NCAA title is why junior transfer Jayma Martin (Pueblo, Colorado) chose Grand Valley State.
“This is my first shot at a trophy and I’m really excited to chase this with the team,” said Jayma Martin. “This is what was expecting when I came to GVSU, so I’m excited.”
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Martin is certainly doing her part in helping the Lakers meet those expectations. She has scored four goals in her past three NCAA Tournament games.
“Our theme over the last couple weeks has been to focus on being playmakers and making key plays in key moments,” Hosler said.
But, playing in Pensacola in the postseason hasn’t been kind to the Lakers. The only two times GVSU has played in the final match at the venue, the Lakers came out on the losing end. Metro State beat them in 2006 and Saint Rose pulled off the upset in 2011.
This year’s squad is looking to turn that tide, and has the firepower to do it. The Lakers rank second in the nation with 4.25 goals per game and 10 different players have contributed at least three tallies this season.
“They are a talented team and definitely the best team we’ve played,” said Western Washington head coach Travis Connell, whose team lost to GVSU in the semifinals. “We’ve really had our way with teams using our defensive pressure and there are times we got to them, but by far they dealt with us better than any team we faced.”
Columbus State is hoping to put an end to the Lakers’ title streak. The Cougars will compete in the NCAA championship match for the first time in program history after winning a school-record 22 games.
“We all believe that we can do this,” said CSU freshman Olivia Jarrell, who leads her team with 17 goals.
Like the Lakers, the Cougars (22-2-1) also have an offensive-minded team that is averaging 3.44 goals per game, which ranks fifth in Division II. Sixteen players have scored at least once this season for CSU.
Columbus State is playing in its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Cougars made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA semifinals this year, and will not be satisfied until they take the first-place trophy on the bus ride back to Georgia.
“We’re not done yet,” said CSU head coach Jay Entlich. “We didn’t come down here to come in second place. No one remembers who lost the Super Bowl or who lost the World Series. Everybody remembers the champion.”