The MSU Women’s Club Soccer Team headed to nationals in Phoenix, Arizona from Nov. 19-21 and won the national title for the first time since 2012, but like their entire season, it wasn't as easy as it looked.
“We didn't do well for our standards,” head coach Dan Jury said. “We are one of the top teams in the region, we are one of the top teams in our division every year and this year we ended up losing two games and tying two others and for us that’s a really bad season.”
Their overall season wasn’t as great as they hoped, but the team pulled through regionals and semifinals and received an at-large bid to get themselves into the national tournament.
“We were the third ranked team in our groups so we were actually the lowest ranking,” packaging senior and team captain Meg Galea said.
Because the club soccer season is so short and the team is relatively young, the women had a tough time meshing well during regular season. As they entered post-season play, they started to come together as a team and that’s what helped them earn the national title.
“Going into nationals, I think our team just really started to click and our chemistry was better,” Galea said. “Everyone was having good games, everyone was working as hard as they can and I think thats really why we won because of our work ethic and our passion for wanting to win.”
As senior captain of the team, Galea led by example with her drive to win and to help her team to do their best and it showed in the post season.
“She drove them to be better in such a way that people could respect it like they weren't being just yelled at or put down, but being built up,” Jury said.
The team needed that kind of leadership through the national tournament of six games in three days in the dry Arizona heat, but every game the girls gave it their all and left everything on the field.
“Going into nationals, the focus was more on their passion, their heart, their desire and getting them to leave everything they had on the field, which is a tough thing to ask them to do when they’ve got six games in three days is to go out there and do that six different times potentially,” Jury said.
Nursing sophomore Dani Manning earned herself MVP for the entire tournament. Manning scored two key goals in the semifinal game against Virginia Tech, one to take it into overtime and the other to win it. Then during the final game against Colorado State, she scored the game-winning goal, with the help of her teammate Kathy Collins making a play on the goal keeper and sacrificing herself for the game.
“She got absolutely leveled by the goal keeper,” Jury said. “And a bloody nose and she's laying on the ground, the goal keeper’s laying on the ground and Dani (Manning) swoops in and hammers it into the back of the net for the winner.”
Manning was already extremely tired in that final game, but when she witnessed Collins sacrificing herself like that for the team, she knew she had to push through and take advantage of the opportunity her teammate had worked so hard to create.
“I could see that Kathy (Collins) had went and challenged the goalie and the ball was loose and so I made it my mission that I needed to get there, it was like a clear path to the goal all I had to do was stay composed basically and put it in the back of the net and I was able to do that,” Manning said.
The hard work didn't stop there. Computer science junior Katie Foss also was awarded all-tournament goal keeper and only gave up three goals for the entire tournament. She kept herself focused and in the game despite the heat and frequent dull moments and performed at her absolute best when her team needed her most.
“Telling myself, 'you're going to go hard for everything and you have to give it your all,' that’s how I prepared myself,” Foss said.
Although the season didn't go as planned the entire year, the team pulled it all together when the time came and was able to dominate and win the national title. Jury said he knows that this team worked especially hard to achieve the title and in this win they became defined by their teamwork and love for each other as a team.
“Their willingness to play for each other I think that the national championship winning goal says a lot about the entire team and really embodies what the team came to be about,” Jury said.
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