Fifth-ranked Grand Valley State downs Panthers 2-0 on two second-half goals
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Women’s Soccer) – Florida Tech’s great season came to an end Thursday afternoon as No. 5 Grand Valley State defeated the Panthers 2-0 in the NCAA Division II semifinals at Frazier Stadium. Tech concludes its season at 10-7-5, and the Lakers advance to the National Championship with a record of 20-1-2.
“The result of this game is not a reflection of what has transpired since the first week of our preseason,” Tech head coach Fidgi Haig said. “We started a little slow today and were a little shy, but that can be expected when you’re playing the defending National Champions. They were full of experience and were less nervous than us. The plan was to survive the first half, which we did. In the second half, Grand Valley State put us under a great amount of pressure and we lost our rhythm a little bit.
“Ann-Marie (Helgestad) had an outstanding game, stopping their offense and preventing many chances. Both teams finished with the same amount of shots on goal, so it wasn’t like we were playing a defensive game. In the end, they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t. I’d like to congratulate Grand Valley State for the effort it gave today.”
The Panthers knew prior to the start of the game that Grand Valley State was a quality team. It had won the National Championship in 2009, only suffered one loss this season and allowed only five goals all year. Despite the facts on paper, Tech did not back down against the Lakers. It showed a lot of heart and the team left everything out on the field.
Midway through the second half, it appeared as if Tech was going to head to its fifth overtime in the last six games. Although Grand Valley State held the shot advantage, the visitors from Melbourne limited the number of quality chances the opposition had.
But with less than 13 minutes to play in regulation, the Lakers’ Alyssa Mira played a long ball to Ashley Botts. Botts received the rock with only goalkeeper Mist Eliasdottir to beat. The netminder came out of her goal to minimize Botts’ angle, however, she was able to sneak the ball into the right side of the net, giving Grand Valley State a 1-0 lead.
With the Panthers attempting to apply even more pressure on Grand Valley State’s defense following the goal, the Blue and White added one more tally, again from Botts in the 87th minute to clinch the win.
“We’re very fortunate to make it this far and thankful that we had a great run,” Haig said. “We’re one of the top four teams in the nation. I’m very proud of the girls. We did the best we could to represent Florida Tech, our conference and the town of Melbourne.”
Tech’s defense restricted the powerful and potent Laker offense to seven shots on goal. Ann-Marie Helgestad played a huge part in restricting Grand Valley State by taking control of the backline and preventing numerous scoring opportunities.
“(The game) was so big,” she said. “It was obviously the biggest game of our careers. Despite the outcome, it was a lot of fun. We came into the tournament as the underdogs and made it this far. We believed in ourselves and it felt so good to have an opportunity to play in today’s game. We fought hard and we don’t have anything to regret.”
Casey Lademann led the Panthers’ attack with five of the team’s eight shots, four were on goal. Eliasdottir gloved four saves on 14 shots.
With Tech not departing for Melbourne until Sunday, the Panthers have a few extra days to enjoy the National Championships Festival, Louisville and one another.
“We have three more days to enjoy each other’s company,” Haig said. “We also have some final bonding time with the seniors. The result is not always what it’s about. It’s about the things that happen behind the scoreboard, including the friendships and camaraderie the girls have and juggling it all with school work. The lessons we learn in this game are priceless.
“It’s privilege for me to be around such a great group of girls. You always want to see them go all the way and win the most games they can. But the pleasure they give me in my job is priceless. I really enjoyed this season and each season I’ve been at Florida Tech. This year, we were relentless, resilient and we didn’t give up.”