The Ferris women’s soccer team’s historic campaign came to an end at the hand of rival Grand Valley State University (GVSU), as the Bulldogs dropped a 2-1 match.
The Bulldogs met the Lakers for the third time this season Nov. 16 in the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen, but this time it was for all the marbles.
The squad jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at 1:04 in the first half when Ferris junior defender Tia VanSuilichem ripped a shot past the GVSU goaltender. The assist came from Ferris freshman Pia Nagel and the goal marked the sixth of the year and third of the NCAA Tournament for VanSuilichem.
The Lakers soon answered to tie the contest at 1-1 in the first half when GVSU freshman forward Timia Robinson netted one in past Ferris junior goaltender Alison Chesterfield.
The scoreboard didn’t show it, but GVSU dominated the game, placing 34 shots on goal and finding the net at 69:48 off the foot of Laker freshman midfielder Chelsea Graves to end the match with a 2-1 victory.
“As we walked off the field, I was so proud of my team. We were the first team to score first on them and we did that in two different games. We put up a fight and didn’t let them have it easy,” Ferris junior forward Morgan Irwin said. “I couldn’t be prouder, especially for the seniors for putting four years into the program. We made a historical run and now we can’t wait to get back after it.”
While the loss stings for Bulldog players, coaches and fans, it doesn’t diminish what the program accomplished this season.
Under Ferris head coach Andy McCaslin, the Bulldogs finished the season with a 17-4-3 record and a 9-2 road record, the best marks in the program’s 20-year history. Ferris also reached the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time in school history and knocked off two straight wins in the first two rounds of the tournament before falling to GVSU.
The team finished second in the final Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) standings, which is the highest ranking in the 20-year history of the program. The Bulldogs were also nationally ranked for the first time in the program’s history. The squad got all the way up to No. 13 nationally in the 2018 United Coaches Poll.
“I think we definitely changed the standard to which we hold ourselves to in the future. Even though we had the most successful year in program history this year, now we’re focused on exceeding those standards from now on,” Ferris sophomore forward Bri Rogers said.
Ferris also was able to break several records this year such as highest winning percentage of .778, fewest losses with four, most goals scored with 50 and the most shutouts recorded with nine.
“This group has really propelled us into the next stage of Ferris soccer. We’ve got alums and recruits who are so excited about what this team has been able to accomplish and wanting to be a part of what we’re doing,” McCaslin said. “When we recruit we talk about doing things that have never been done before and this group accomplished so much this season. And they’re such great people and representatives of what Ferris Athletics is all about. We’re all really proud of them.”
The Bulldogs will return 31 players next season as the team looks to continue building on a historic campaign.