HOUGHTON - As a general rule, Michigan Tech soccer coach Michelle Jacob doesn't believe in moral victories.
But Friday night's 2-1 loss to Grand Valley State might just be the exception.
The Lakers, ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 12-0-1 record, had not given up a goal all year and had scored 48 total goals in their last seven games.
Michigan Tech’s Lindsey Van Rooy and Grand Valley State’s Charlie Socia vie for a ball during Friday’s match at Sherman Field. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Undettered, the Huskies lined up in their typical 4-3-3 formation and threw everything they had at the nation's top team. Grand Valley scored twice in the first 26 minutes, but Tech pulled one back in the second half and put the Lakers on their heels for much of the final 30 minutes.
There was no parking the bus Friday night for the Huskies.
"We are excited because we definitely competed with them and to be the first team to score a goal on them all season is a great thing," Jacob said. "We asked the girls to come out hard. We weren't going to play afraid of them, we were going to go at them. And that's what we did."
The victory clinched a ninth straight GLIAC title for the Lakers soccer team after sharing the crown with Tech last season.
Gunning for the trophy, the Lakers pounced early on a Husky mistake inside the penalty area, as a failure to clear after a free kick gave midfielder Marti Corby time on the ball. The freshman squared a pass across the area to a wide open Jenny Shaba, who tapped home for an early lead just over three minutes into the contest.
The Lakers struck again 22 minutes later, with Shaba dummying a cross provided by Juane Odendaal into the path of an oncoming Charlie Socia. The junior calmly slotted far post to give the Lakers a 2-0 cushion.
"Grand Valley is very good, that the moment you turn your head, they fade away from you and create space," Jacob said. "That is what happened on both of the goals, they snuck someone weakside and the ball came flying across. So it is just a matter of awareness for us, keeping it tighter."
The Huskies couldn't connect on a smattering of half-chances in the first half, but they broke a 13-game scoreless streak when forward Danna Kasom fired far post and saw the ball squirt through keeper Abbey Miller's legs. The strike kept Miller from setting an NCAA record for time without surrendering a goal, falling under 100 minutes short.
"We knew we were going to attack them all game long and we got rewarded," Jacob said.
Over the next 25 minutes or so, the Huskies controlled play for the most part, earning four free kicks in dangerous areas and watching a Mackenzie Jordon shot skim just a yard over the crossbar.
Compact defense and tired legs eventually won out though, as the Lakers held firm in the final 10 minutes, forcing Tech to chase and hurry.
"I think we definitley got some momentum and I think that (Grand Valley) started to get a little bit frazzled," Jacob said. "They are not used to having that happen to them. The pressure we put on the ball forced turnovers and gave us some chances and we created some opportunities that way."
"If we see them again we know what to expect," Jacob added of the GLIAC Tournament. "We are both very good teams and it's the team that has the fewest mistakes that will be successful."