Lakers lost 8-0 to GRFC is last year's exhibition.
Josh Peick-Grand Valley Lanthorn
For the second straight year, the Grand Valley State men's soccer club will square off against the Grand Rapids Football Club in an exhibition game. Last year's contest was GRFC's first competition in the club's inaugural season.
As last year's match marked the first game action for GRFC, fans from all over the Grand Rapids area flocked to GVSU to watch the game. The turf field in Allendale was surrounded by GVSU and GRFC fans alike.
"The thing that was great was the support (GRFC) brought to the game," said senior midfielder Ryan Markiewicz. "The atmosphere was unbelievable."
Both teams fed off of the energy from the crowd, but GVSU was no match for GRFC. Although GVSU is one of the top soccer clubs in the state, GRFC found and exploited the Lakers' weaknesses on defense.
In the spring of 2015, the Lakers were crippled with injuries. Many players were forced to play different positions, and GRFC took advantage. GRFC won the match 8-0.
While keeping the expectations of the match realistic, the Lakers are looking to make this year's match competitive with a healthier squad.
"Regardless of results, I think it's great," said GVSU head coach Jeff Crooks. "It's a nice warm-up for (GRFC), and it's a nice way for us as individual college kids to measure ourselves up against (professional level players)."
GRFC is a team that looks for local talent. Former GVSU player Nick Abdoo is currently a midfielder on GRFC. The idea of playing at the next level is in the back of some of the current GVSU players' minds.
"Living in the city and getting the opportunity to represent it on the pitch would be fantastic," Markiewicz said.
While the thought of playing after graduation is present, the Lakers still have their own season to worry about. The match against GRFC is as much a warm-up for the Lakers as it is for GRFC.
GVSU will compete in one more exhibition game in April before the season starts in the fall. After making it to the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference Regional Tournament in the fall 2015 season, expectations for next year's team are even higher.
"I think our expectations are really high because we have a lot of seniors who will be playing their last year," said junior midfielder Robert Klein.
The Lakers had a deep bench last season, and the team lost only one starter for the upcoming season. This year's roster is equally as deep, and the biggest problem will be deciding which players are worthy of a starting spot. The match against GRFC will shed more light on which players can compete at a higher level.
With only two games in the series so far, the GVSU/GRFC match is not a tradition yet, but Crooks hopes it will become one.
"We are looking forward to continuing the relationship (with GRFC)," Crooks said.
The match will be held on the turf fields on the GVSU campus at 7 p.m. on April 15.