For men's club soccer head coach Jeff Crooks, Grand Valley State not having a varsity men's soccer team isn't for better or worse.
It's just gravy.
"I think for (the players) the situation is, 'I'm going to get a great education, and I'm going to still play a sport that I love competitively. I'm still going to be able to do that?' That's gravy," Crooks said.
GVSU has been without a varsity men's soccer team since 1995. This is in large part due to Title IX, part of the education amendments of 1972 that enforces gender equality.
Schools must have equal opportunity in athletics for both men and women to be in compliance with the law.
"Due to the fact that GVSU has a student population that has been around 60 percent female and 40 percent male for quite a few years now, we have never seriously considered adding another men's sport," GVSU Director of Athletics Tim Selgo said. "We added women's lacrosse five years ago for the same reason. We now have eleven women's sports and nine men's sports.
"With over 550 student athletes and football having over 100 male participants, we still have more male participants than female participants."
The players and coaches don't feel the club sport status diminishes the level of competition.
"There's no difference between club soccer and varsity soccer," club president and starting goalkeeper Alex Pastor said. "The competitive level is that of a varsity team without the time commitment."
GVSU is able to get many players who hold offers from Division III schools, but would rather compete against teams a step higher in competition.
"I get quite a few kids that get offers to go to smaller schools, but they decide not to do that and they come to Grand Valley, and they realize they can play soccer also, so it's a double jackpot," Crooks said.
GVSU is in the Central Division of the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference (MASC). The MASC has 44 member teams divided into four, 11-member divisions. Teams in the conference range from midwest schools like Xavier to the University of Michigan.
Last season, GVSU's season was ended by Cincinnati in the MASC conference tournament. The Lakers fell 3-2 in penalty kicks, after a 0-0 stalemate in 120 minutes of play. It was only GVSU's second loss all year, in which the Lakers finished 11-2-6.
This season kicked off this past weekend with a 2-0 victory over Butler on Saturday, but ended with a 3-2 loss against Purdue on Sunday.
While they have some things to work on, the Lakers feel optimistic. They return several starters from a solid team last year and proved they can contend in a tough conference.
Success will hinge on the Lakers' ability to be consistent on both ends of the field.
"We have three really good goalkeepers, but if you don't play well in front of them, you could have the U.S. national team goalkeeper and you wouldn't look good," Crooks said.
The Lakers have an opportunity to make a statement this weekend. They host Central Michigan on Saturday at 2 p.m., and Michigan State on Sunday under the lights at 6 p.m. The Lakers defeated the Spartans, who finished first in the MASC regular season standings, 2-0 last year.
"Next weekend is an amazing weekend for us, it can make or break our season. That game Sunday night against Michigan State, it's very cliché, but they're going to be out to prove a point," Crooks said.
While the team is putting all of its effort into preparation for their biggest game and going one week at a time, Pastor admitted he has his sights set on something GVSU club soccer has never done.
"A national championship, that's the goal. Based on the team we had last year, we're better this year, and we just need to put some things together and we can do it," he said.