By NICK DEMAAGD
When the lights come up, the stage is set. The stage that the Grand Valley State University men's club soccer team stands on is a big one. The Lakers (10-0-3, 5-0-2 MASC) remain undefeated in the midst of a difficult conference.
The most crucial factors in the team's success lie in the activation between the players and their raw skills.
Coach Jeff Crooks, now in his 12th season as head coach said, "The players have made all the difference this year. They're kids who are good soccer players, they don't get rattled under pressure."
Combining that calm mentality with strong team chemistry has assisted GVSU in staying near the top of its conference. Tough opponents like Michigan State University and Western Michigan University have failed to prevail against the Lakers, allowing GVSU to preserve its perfect record.
Solid defense helped the Lakers force shutouts against MSU and WMU and tally two more wins.
"We've defended really well and we haven't given up many goals this season," said team captain Robert Klein. "MSU and WMU are the two best teams in the conference."
With 53 goals scored and only 10 goals allowed in the 13 games played this season, the Lakers have made a statement that they're ready to make a run for the national title.
Club president and team captain Evan Skiff said the team had switched up the formation from last year.
"Paul Bump is a crucial midfielder," Skiff said. "He makes a lot of plays and is a physical element that we didn't have last year."
Bump, a sophomore, is just one of the many talented players that have made a huge impact during games. Playmakers like Bump don't act out of selfishness, however. Team leadership lays the foundation for setting up and executing opportunities on the field.
"As team captains, we're leaders on and off the field," Skiff said. "We have to make smart decisions and show the guys how things are done. Having solid grades and acting mature helps set a good example."
Crooks also said that the team is a good group of guys who really get along together.
"They are committed to what they want, and they'll work hard to make it happen," Crooks said.
With just three games left before the conference tournament, Crooks isn't worrying about keeping a perfect record. For Crooks, having his injured players heal up is a priority before the national tournament, which will follow the conclusion of the conference tournament.
"I'm confident that we can win out. Whether we win or not won't define our season. Our goal every year as a team is to be national champions," Crooks said.
The Lakers are slated to play Eastern Michigan University on Friday at 7 p.m. at home in Allendale.