BR-6 Grand Valley is the reigning, defending NCAA Division II Champion — a feat the team accomplished the last two seasons in a row. The Lakers grabbed the title four of its last six seasons, but despite their recent success, there are five teams ranked above them heading into the regular season. Heading into their 2015 campaign, the Lakers have some questions left to answer.
Who will fill the shoes of Andrea Strauss?
Strauss, the starting goalie for the Lakers the past two seasons, accomplished a stunning feat in 2014 by shutting out 16 opponents in 26 games. She was named the Most Outstanding Defender of the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and ended her career with the fourth-lowest goals against average (0.41), fourth-highest save percentage (.883), tied for the fourth-most solo shutouts (16), fifth-most wins (22) and eighth-most saves (83) in Grand Valley history. She is tied for the second-most solo shutouts (16) and wins (22) by a Lakers keeper in a single season; recorded the ninth-lowest single-season goals against average (0.423) in school history; had the seventh-most saves in a single season with 81; posted the eighth-highest single-season save percentage (.880) in school history; and ranked eighth among Division II keepers in goals against average (0.423).
To say that the skills of Strauss will be missed is a massive understatement. The 2015 roster includes four goalies: freshmen Sofia Sweier and Emily Marsh and sophomores Paige Pryson and Jennifer Steinaway. One of the four will have to step up and step up big.
Is coach Jeff Hosler the real deal?
In his first season at the helm, Hosler went 22-2-2 at Grand Valley and won a national title. While the feat is impressive, the question that remains is if his success is the product of the work put in by the previous staff in recruiting and forming a core of players that were used to playing in big games and winning championships. The next two to three seasons will prove just how good this young coach really is.
Hosler isn’t new to winning. Prior to taking over Grand Valley, he led the D-III Alma Scots to a 91-55-12 record in eight seasons.
Where will the scoring come from?
Sophomore Gabriella Mencotti is the prime suspect as the Michigan native led the Lakers with 16 goals and 11 assists in her freshman campaign. Mencotti will be without her right-hand woman in Jenny Shaba, though, who has a team-high 16 assists to go along with her 12 goals and 88 shots. Marti Corby is another Laker that graduated after posting 12 goals and 13 assists on a team-high 97 shots. The two big losses to the front line combined for 24 goals, 29 assists and 185 shots. That output will be tough to replicate and is a big reason why the team’s ranking dropped a bit from BR-1 at the end of 2014 to BR-6 in the preseason of 2015.
Should we count the Lakers out?
Absolutely not. The team is the only one in Division II history to win back-to-back National Championships twice in program history. They’ve won 4 of the last 6 national titles. A team with that type of success draws the top talent in the country. Just like the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team, the best players in the land want to compete for the GVSU women’s soccer team.