TAMPA – The look on Grand Valley State coach Dave DiIanni said it all, as did the first words out of his mouth.
“What a game,” DiIanni said.
DiIanni’s Lakers had just moved into the NCAA Division II Women’s championship game after rallying from a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2 overtime victory thanks to Kristen Eible’s goal five minutes into the first extra period.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” DiIanni said. “To fight and scrap, it’s kind of the way our year has been at times, we’ve been put in tough situations, and we’ve been able to fight out way out of it and build some character in the regular season, and you saw some character today with the way our girls kept scrapping and believing in each other. I’m very proud of their effort.”
Their effort was matched by Saint Rose, who appeared to be closing in on a berth in the final with a strong defensive performance in the second half. Golden Knights goalkeeper Shannon Murphy made a number of excellent saves as Grand Valley State controlled the bulk of the possession and created most of the chances after the break. But with seven minutes to go, the ball deflected out to GVS’s Jaleen Dingledeen on the right side of the penalty area, and she cut inside onto her left foot and fired a shot into the opposite corner of the net.
“I wasn’t doing my best crossing today,” Dingledeen said, “so I decided to pull it back and kind of take a glory shot with my left foot. I really don’t remember the shot, I lifted my head and saw it go in the back of the net, and right then and there, I knew we were winning this game.”
Dingledeen’s confidence in victory was well-founded, as the Lakers continued to press forward in overtime, and after a corner was only partially cleared, a ball into the area was controlled by Kayla Addison with her back to goal. Addison saw the run of Eible, who was overlapping into the right side of the penalty area, and Addison’s pass found her in stride for a first-time shot into the left corner of the net, sending the Lakers bench streaming onto the field in celebration.
It was a disappointing conclusion for the Golden Knights, who had caught the Lakers flat-footed to take a 2-0 lead within the first three minutes. Nicola D’Errico scored the first, combining beautifully with twin sister Gianna to open the scoring within the first minute, and goalkeeping error allowed the Golden Knights to double their lead on a shot by Brittany Godin that was initially parried up in the air, but then turned into her own net by GVS goalkeeper Chelsea Parise as she appeared to try to turn it aside for a corner.
“We knew that we needed to come out strong, come out fast and catch them off guard,” Nicola D’Errico said. “We were definitely all determined to get a quick goal in the first five minutes. I don’t know how fast the first goal was, the first minute maybe, but after that we just had an adrenaline rush.”
The Lakers were able to grab a goal back quickly as Erin Mruz capitalized after a good move down the right gave her an open opportunity on the left side of the penalty area, and she roofed her shot into the net. According to DiIanni, getting a goal back quickly helped the team greatly, and from then on the Lakers were able to dictate the pace and the rhythm for the rest of the game, leading their coach to believe they deserved their place in the final.
“I was relieved, I think that was the big thing,” DiIanni said of his reaction to the overtime goal. “I don’t say this very often, but I really thought we deserved to win that game.
“Now, soccer’s a weird sport, it’s probably the weirdest, where you can deserve a lot of things and you don’t get them, so the other thing we talked about in the last two weeks is (how) you’ve got to take it. People aren’t going to give you anything at this level any more, you have to take it, and I thought we took it from them, there’s no doubt about it. They came in and took it from us in the first three minutes and took it from us, and we took it back, and I’m very proud of them.”