PENSACOLA, Fla. — Pulling off a “three-peat” doesn’t happen very often in sports, but the Grand Valley State women’s soccer team didn’t let anything stand in its way in accomplishing the rare feat.
The Lakers (23-1-1) captured their third consecutive NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championship with a 2-0 victory over Columbus State (22-3-1) in Saturday’s title match.
“They really put a lot of pressure on us in the first 45 minutes and made us earn it for sure,” said GVSU head coach Jeff Hosler. “But from day one, this is what we set out to do.”
GVSU now boasts five NCAA championships — the most by any team in Division II women’s soccer history since the championship began in 1988.
“The girls were well aware of what was at stake for them in terms of cementing their legacy at Grand Valley State,” Hosler said. “I know our girls cherish every win they get and each championship they win along way, but for them to be a three-time national championship, I know it is special for them.”
Only one other program in Division II women’s soccer has won three consecutive titles since the championship’s inception in 1988. That team — Franklin Pierce — actually won four trophies between 1994 and 1997.
“There’s a reason they’ve been here seven years in a row,” said CSU head coach Jay Entlich. “They’re extremely talented and they have well-coached players. They were very disciplined and didn’t really give us any easy looks at goal. That makes it really difficult to beat them. We lost to a tremendous champion.”
Junior midfielder Marti Corby drew the foul and capitalized on a free kick to put the Lakers up 1-0 in the 14th minute of action. Corby booted her 25th goal of the season over wall of defenders and the fingertips of CSU goalkeeper Maylyn Parsons for the game’s first score.
Corby’s ninth game-winning tally of the year also set a GVSU single-season record.
She was voted the Offensive Most Outstanding Player of the tournament with a goal and assist in the victory.
“(Corby) is just tremendous,” Entlich said. “I can’t say enough about that kid.
The Lakers added an insurance goal just before halftime as senior forward Katie Bounds (Southfield, Mich.) took a Corby pass and dribbled by two defenders to beat Parsons one-on-one for her sixth goal of the season.
The goal was crucial in helping put away the pesky Cougars, and allowed Bounds to end her career as a three-time champion.
“Nothing means more to me than this moment,” said Bounds.
Columbus State was the offensive aggressor in the first half, outshooting GVSU, 8-2, but could not get anything past Lakers freshman goalkeeper Emily Maresh.
“Up until this point we had scored 83 goals and we had never done that before in program history,” Entlich said. “Today, we just didn’t score goals and in the end, the scoreboard doesn’t lie. We had chances, and in the end we didn’t finish and they did.”
The Lakers wore down the Cougars in the second half, earning an 8-4 advantage in shots along with a 6-1 edge on corner kicks.
Hosler was especially proud of his team’s defensive effort against a Cougar squad that had scored multiple goals in 10 consecutive games.
“I think we were as physical on our backline than we have been all year,” Hosler said. “I think we were as good at ball winning as we were all year. I think we really watched Emily Maresh grow up over these last couple weeks.”
Maresh registered four saves in the match, handing the Cougars only their second shutout of the season.
“She really performed for us when we needed her,” Corby said. “She was really dominant in there grabbing everything in the air. We can trust her back there, which is huge for us.”
The championship victory was GVSU’s first in three tries at Pensacola’s Ashton Brosnaham Soccer Complex. Metro State beat them in 2006 and Saint Rose pulled off the upset in 2011.
Columbus State was competing in its first-ever NCAA title game after advancing to the postseason for 10 consecutive seasons.
“It means a lot to get to the national championship game,” Entlich said. “There are 307 teams and only one team can win in the end.”