Courtesy of Jake Levy - GVSU Director of Athletic Communications and Broadcasting
WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- The Grand Valley State Lakers are headed to a ninth consecutive NCAA Elite 8 after a 3-1 win over the Quincy Hawks Friday afternoon in the Midwest Regional Finals, hosted on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. Gabriella Mencotti, Tara Lierman and Ava Cook all found the back of the net for the Lakers in the win. Grand Valley State out-shot Quincy 31-15, including a 16-4 edge in shots on goal. The Lakers will face the winner of the Central Division final between Southwestern Oklahoma and host Central Missouri on Sunday.
"In the first half I think we left a couple of goals out there. I don't think we were as sharp as we could have been, but I was really proud of the way, especially our young players, settled in, in the second half and established our dominance," said Lakers head coach Jeff Hosler.
Mencotti now leads the nation in goals after scoring her 29th of the season in the 12' to give the Lakers (20-3-0, 9-0-0 GLIAC) the lead. Lierman took a pass from Gianna Parlove, made a beautiful move near midfield to split the defense, then found Mencotti for the finish in front of net. Mencotti would return the favor in the 35' when she crossed from the left side of the box to Lierman for a one-time finish, Lierman's 13th goal of the season.
"Tara made a great play and I made sure I popped off my defender and got an advantage in front of her, but I know they're very good at closing, so I decided to try it first touch and see what would happen and I was able to put it back-post," said Mencotti, describing her goal that broke the tie for the national lead.
"Our midfielders did a good job of finding themselves in dangerous spots. Attacking mids were on the ball a lot. Quincy does a good job and they close so quick. They're real organized and well-coached, so finding those moments can be difficult but we did and we capitalized," said Hosler.
Quincy (17-4-1, 13-1-0 GLVC) sliced the deficit in half towards the end of the first half after a deflected corner bounced to Natalie Quisenberry, who launched a shot over the head of a leaping Jennifer Steinaway for her second goal of the year. It was the first goal scored against GVSU in post-season play in 2017. Cook gave some breathing room to the match with a goal in the 81', dribbling through midfield to set up a left-footed strike into the right-side corner netting for her 13th goal of the season.
The match was physical throughout, with a combined 26 fouls called between 15 on Quincy and 11 on GVSU, and turned flat-out chippy in the second half, forcing the referee to go to the book four times. Quincy was booked three times including two yellows shown to Gabby Orlando, who was sent off in the 66' to put the Lakers up a player as well as a goal. Cassidy Foley was cautioned in the 75' for a swinging leg that clipped Madz Ham just above the eye before Mencotti was booked late in the match for stepping on the Quincy keeper's hand during a scramble for a loose ball in front of net.
"Our kids did a good job of keeping their composure and moving the ball," said Hosler. "When your opponent goes down a player, sometimes you can get tricked into pushing too far forward, but I thought our kids did a really good job of recognizing that and sticking to our game plan."
"You know every time you play Quincy, you're going to get their best," said Mencotti. "They're a physical team and we knew we had to step up to that challenge. We were able to do that and take advantage to draw some key fouls that worked in our favor."
Grand Valley State will play either Southwestern Oklahoma or Central Missouri on Sunday (Nov. 19) at 2:00 PM EST (1:00 locally in Missouri) with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The Lakers have been to eight straight final sites but could face the Jennies, who are the top-ranked team in the nation, on Sunday.