This Friday night, one of DII women’s soccer's most storied senior classes will see its final regular season come to a end, closing the book on a group of seniors that seemingly never knew failure. The three-time defending national champion Grand Valley State Lakers take the pitch Friday in Big Rapids, Michigan, hoping to close out their second consecutive undefeated conference slate in preparations for yet another title run.
Right smack in the middle of a very talented senior class is Marti Corby. Corby has been as highly decorated a soccer player as they come, being a First-Team All-American since her freshman year. Since then, she has won two consecutive NSCAA National Player of the Year awards as well as Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors. She has also been the midfielder for a team that has lost a mere four games over the past four seasons. It has been hard to not have a championship-or-bust mentality, but Corby and her teammates remain humble and take it one day at a time.
“Obviously, that’s our goal every year,” Corby said. “We think, if we don’t get there, it’s somewhat of a failure. But we just want to go out and know that we played the best that we possibly could. If we lose, but we know we played our best. We can still be ok with it. With the success that this program has had, we like to think that, if we play the best that we can, we can beat anyone in the country.”
That’s not to say Corby has been all alone on this incredible run. The team's offense has been second to none. Senior forwards Jayma Martin and Kendra Stauffer— the reigning GLIAC Player of the Week— are amongst the nation’s top-20 scorers with 15 and 13 respectively. It’s almost as if Corby and her fellow seniors can play with their eyes closed and know where each other will be on the pitch.
This season, Corby has taken on a different role. She's operating as more of a field general.
Last season, she led the GLIAC in goals scored with 25, while she has only scored five this year. She is, however, leading the nation with 20 assists. Part of the reason for the shift in style has been the breakout of junior forward Gabriella Mencotti, who is tied atop the nation’s leaderboard for goals with 21.
“I can control the tempo more,” Corby said. “It’s been great with Gabby because if I pass her a good ball in her range, she will put it away. It’s amazing knowing that, and it goes for all of our starting forwards. They are just so great at scoring that now my focus can be on giving them a ball to put it into goal.”
Corby knows that she’s often in the spotlight. Being a three-time All American and two-time national Player of the Year brings that attention to a player. Despite the added pressures of incredibly lofty expectations of the Lakers’ programs, she often has to deal with the expectations others have on her.
“I definitely do,” Corby said of feeling extra pressure. “I focus day to day, to be playing my best. That isn’t always defined by stats. I need to keep that in my mind. I don’t need to worry if I’m not scoring or if I don’t get a point in this game because that doesn’t reflect on how well I’m playing. Teams play tough on me because of my scoring from last year, and that leaves the forwards more chances to be a threat. I do feel pressure, but as long as the team’s succeeding and I’m doing my job, then I am happy.”
This Friday night, Corby, Martin, Stauffer and the rest of the Lakers take the field against their rival Ferris State. They look to finish off a perfect season in the GLIAC, their third in four years, which would bring their conference record to a remarkable 45-1-1 over their tenure.
“It’s a lot of excitement, especially with it being one of our rivals [Ferris State],” Corby said. “To go undefeated in conference would be a huge momentum shift for postseason. It’s pretty strange knowing that once this game is over, nothing is promised. You go to practice one day for a game, and you don’t know if you’ll ever practice again or not. It will be weird, but I’m looking forward to Friday and, hopefully, going out with a win.”
As the No. 1 seed in the Oct. 19 Midwest Regional Rankings, win or lose, Friday won’t be Corby’s last game for the Lakers. Next week begins the GLIAC Tournament, and Nov. 11 will see them begin the quest for their fourth title in a row, a feat only accomplished by Franklin Pierce from 1994 to 1997. Corby and her Lakers are hoping to make history and have their run with the GVSU program spoken about for decades to come.
“I want us to leave a legacy that everyone remembers the domination that this program has, especially for the work our class put in over the four years that we were here,” Corby said. “I want people to strive to be what we were. I want to be this great example and show all the people behind us that anything is possible if you put the work in.”