Lakers will take on Cincinnati in a shot at redemption from the 2014 tournament.
Last season, the Grand Valley State men's club soccer team had its heart broken by the University of Cincinnati in the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference (MASC) tournament, as the Bearcats topped the Lakers in a shootout to end the 2014 season.
GVSU (10-2-1) has a shot for redemption in the coming weekend in the first game of the MASC Regional Tournament in Indianapolis. Last year has been a thing of the past for a while now, but the Cincinnati game has stuck in the players' heads.
"We lost to Cincinnati last year and they're probably the best team in the league this year. They're undefeated and only gave up two goals this year, so if we can get by Cincinnati in the first game that would be huge," said midfielder Robert Klein.
GVL/Kevin Sielaff Noah Reiber dribbles around a defender. Grand Valley's club soccer team squares off against Central Michigan Sept. 12 at the intramural field.
Getting the opportunity for redemption has not been easy for the Lakers. The team started out the season thinking a national championship was not far out of reach, but after suffering two early losses and a later tie, GVSU's national championship dreams faded further and further into the distance.
"We just realized our position because we knew that we put ourselves in a bad position early on in the season and realized that we had to basically win. That's all we could do to get to regionals," said goalkeeper Alex Pastor. "We play every game with a sense of urgency like it will be our last game."
Head coach Jeff Crooks knows that, with soccer, sometimes the bounces and quirks decide the game. The better team doesn't always leave the field with a victory.
"This is going to sound amazingly arrogant, but we should be 12-0," Crooks said. "I don't usually say that lightly, we've got a really really good team, but what happened was that first weekend, we played down at Purdue and just had one of those days where we missed really easy goals and they scored a couple."
Crooks believes his team had no business losing to Purdue and Michigan State, and tying the University of Michigan, and knew it would be a battle to get to the position they're in now.
"We are in the spot we are in because we have good players, and we have good leadership and for the most part we play together well as a team," Crooks said. "You get good leadership, you have good players and you play together as a team. It makes me look like I know what I'm doing, so I think it comes down to the guys we have on the team playing well."
A couple of Lakers aren't entirely healthy, but are expected to play this weekend. Crooks said forward Nolan Berry has been nursing a thigh injury and he should be back. Freshmen Austin Lively and Noah Reiber, who play key minutes off the bench, are both expected to play after dealing with recent nagging injuries.
Pastor was also taken out of last weekend's game as a precaution due to a reoccurring shoulder injury. The sophomore goaltender is expected to be on the field for the Lakers heading into the playoffs.
"Our first game against Cincinnati, that's going to be our biggest test," Pastor said. "They'll be a good test right out of the gate, so if we can pass that test I think we can beat anybody else in the tournament."
The Lakers, who have not lost a game since Sept. 13, are scheduled to play Oct. 24 at 8 a.m. against Cincinnati, and at noon against University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.