The No. 6-seeded SVSU women’s soccer team made an unlikely run to the GLIAC tournament championship game but ultimately fell to GLIAC champion Grand Valley in the title match.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, the Cards scrapped against top-seed GVSU for an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. SVSU was unable to bring home the hardware, as the Lakers won 3-0.
It was the program’s first GLIAC tournament final since 2009.
“I’m so proud of this team,” head coach Michael O’Neill said. “We had the hardest route to the championship game, but we didn’t back down one bit.”
It wasn’t until the 44th minute of the game that Grand Valley’s Sara Stevens found the back of the net for first strike of the game.
Despite being held scoreless, Saginaw Valley wasn’t lacking offensively and outshot GVSU 10-6 in the first half.
The second half was a continuation of the first half’s battle – both teams desperate to find some weakness in the other’s defense.
In the 55th minute, the Lakers’ Tracy McCoy found an opening and put Grand Valley up comfortably, 2-0.
SVSU wouldn’t be beaten without a fight and responded with four straight shots on goal, but none could get past the GVSU goalkeeper.
With 13 minutes remaining, the Lakers put a final knockout punch on the Cardinals when Gabrielle Moncotti scored on a bicycle kick on a loose ball in front of the net.
The Lakers held off any Saginaw Valley desperation shots and held on to win 3-0.
Saginaw Valley reached the title game after topping the No. 2 seed Ashland Eagles in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.
Both teams found it tough to get any offensive attack during the first 90 minutes and both overtimes. Saginaw Valley outshot the Eagles 15-10.
Forced to be decided in penalties, both teams sent their best place kickers up to get a chance to move on to the conference finals.
After two shots a piece, the teams were deadlocked 1-1. SVSU found the back of the net in its next two shots. But the play of Abby Divizzo, the Cardinal goalkeeper and a penalty specialist, sealed the Saginaw Valley victory with two straight saves.
On Tuesday, Oct. 31, SVSU began its GLIAC tournament run with a quarterfinal win over No. 3 seeded Ferris State in Big Rapids.
“We came in with the mindset that even though we were a lower seed, we were not the underdog,” senior forward Kristin Syrowik said. “Our passes were sharp, our shots were on target, and we had a ton of energy defensively. We were ready to prove to the rest of GLIAC that we are here to compete.”
Ferris, fresh off a victory over top-ranked GVSU, entered the GLIAC tournament with an immense amount of confidence. That was until the Cards’ sophomore defender Jennifer Muana connected on a corner kick from Amanda Minissale early in the first half to put SVSU up 1-0.
Despite a strong first-half push on offense from the Bulldogs, SVSU’s Abby Divizzo held strong in goal, collecting seven of her 13 saves on the day.
Coming off its strongest offensive performance of the year, a 7-0 victory over Northwood, SVSU translated that success into the second half, when Mallory Hestwood sent a pass upfield for Alexis Hilliard, who sent the ball past the keeper for the Cardinals’ second goal of the game.
The Bulldogs, desperate to score and to keep their season alive, bombarded the Cardinal defense with seven shots in the next 15 minutes. In the 80th minute, Ferris’ Mackenzie Dawes connected on a pass into the box from Carley Dubbert for their first score of the game.
Despite the goal and strong offense all game, Ferris State’s offense lacked in the final 10 minutes, and SVSU held on to win its first GLIAC tournament game since 2012.
Despite the loss in the title game, O’Neill is proud of his team’s performance both during the regular season and the GLIAC tournament.
“We lose three great seniors this year, but I know this group will be back hungry as ever,” he said.