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Powerhouses headed to semifinals in Evans
December 5th, 2013 5:17AM

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[NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN: Preview] West Florida continues its NCAA Division II women’s title defense when it faces Western Washington in Thursday's semifinals at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga. Top-seeded Grand Valley State will make its fifth consecutive semifinal appearance against American International in the first game.

NCAA Women's Division II:
Semifinals
Thursday, Dec. 5
Game 1: #1 Grand Valley State vs. #13 American International - 11 a.m. ET
Game 2: #3 West Florida vs. #9 Western Washington - 2 p.m. ET
Final
Saturday, Dec. 7
Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 - 12 p.m. ET

WEST FLORIDA-WESTERN WASHINGTON. West Florida (17-0-3) is undefeated since winning the championship last season and is on a 14-game winning streak.

Four-year seniors Daniela Cruz, Marissa Love, Courteney Mincy and Alex Pickrell will wrap up impressive Argo careers this weekend. UWF has gone 70-6-8, won three GSC Championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times.

Chelsea Palmer was named the Gulf South Co-Player of the Year, leading the conference with 12 goals and 14 assists for 38 points.

Western Washington is on its longest postseason run in program history. The Vikings (20-1-1) advanced by defeating St. Edward's, 2-0, in a quarterfinal game to finish 12-0-0 at home. They opened their season with 12 wins and were ranked No. 2 nationally for four straight weeks before losing 1-0 on Oct. 19 at Monmouth, Ore.

Pacing WWU's offense is Kristin Maris, the 2013 Great Northwest Player of the Year with 10 goals and eight assists, and Catherine Miles, who leads the Vikings in goals with 15, five of them game-winners. Leading the defense for WWU are junior Brianna Jones, this year's GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, and senior Brina Sych, the 2012 GNAC Defender of the Year.

WWU is coached by Travis Connell, who scored for Seattle Pacific in one of the greatest NCAA postseason games ever. He had the tying goal with 65 seconds left in the Falcons' 6-5 win over Florida Tech in the 1993 NCAA DII semifinals.

GRAND VALLEY STATE-AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL. Freshman midfielder Marti Corby nailed a free kick from roughly 20 yards in Grand Valley State's 2-1 victory at Minnesota Duluth in the quarterfinals. She has scored in all three of GVSU's NCAA Tournament matches and notched five goals over the past five contests.

Junior midfielder Charlie Socia added what wound up being the game-winning goal for the Lakers (22-0-1) with some nifty footwork in the box.

Forward Jenny Shaba, the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, has 14 goals and 12 assists. Leading the defense is Kayla Kimble, the Great Lakes Defender of the Year. Goalkeeper Abbey Miller has a national-best 0.14 GAA.

"We have to do a really good job of possessing the ball, being really patient with it, opening it up and supporting one another along all three lines," Lakers coach Dave DiIanni said. "If we do that, we can stretch the game out a little bit and make [American International] chase it. We want to make them work."

American International comes into the match at 18-2-2. The Yellow Jackets boast the Northeast-10's goals leader and top three playmakers. Sonia Basma scored 19 goals and added 11 assists for 49 points, good for third in the nation in scoring. Senior forward Caroline Boyce has nine goals and 11 assists, while senior back Allie Fitzsimmons has eight assists.

DiIanni sees few weaknesses in the Yellow Jackets.

"They're the best team we have played [this year] for a couple of different reasons," DiIanni said. "They really don't have any weaknesses, have a very good starting 11 and some impact players we really have to pay attention to."


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