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January 14, 2014

Local soccer player, Shaba, part of an NCAA Division II national championship team

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Local soccer player, Shaba, part of an NCAA Division II national championship team
Grand Valley State University soccer player and Walled Lake Western graduate Jenny Shaba (11) was part of a Grand Valley State squad that won an NCAA Division II National Championship.

WALLED LAKE — Grand Valley State University soccer player Jenny Shaba has had a junior season she isn’t likely to forget.

Aside from helping her team win a Division II NCAA National Championship, Shaba, who attended Walled Lake Western, was also named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Offensive Player of the Year and, according to a release from GVSU, earned a Daktronics All-America first-team plaudit and was named to the NSCAA/Continental Tire All-America second team.

“I feel really grateful, and it’s really rewarding to get recognized for something like that,” said Shaba, who scored a team-best 16 goals.

While the Lakers’ national title was their third in the last five seasons, it was Shaba’s first since joining the program. For somebody who referred to signing her letter of intent to play at Grand Valley State as “a dream come true,” being part of a national championship team is only likely to enhance Shaba’s experiences as an NCAA student-athlete.

“Definitely one of my best soccer memories, so far, if not the best,” she said. “One of the bigger reasons I chose Grand Valley was for that opportunity. It’s a lot of fun. It’s proven to be rewarding. I’m excited for my final year.”

Shaba, whose hometown is West Bloomfield, has already given some thought to her senior season with the Lakers, and aside from expressing an interest in taking on an expanded role as a team leader, she also doesn’t want her first national championship experience to be her last.

“We understand not to be complacent,” said Shaba, who credited coach Dave Dilanni for continuing to rebuild each year. “At the beginning of each year, we have a team meeting, and we list our goals for the team. Every year, the goal’s to get to the national championship game and win it. Those goals are pretty consistent year to year.

“As far as individual goals for me, I think stepping up into that senior leadership role will be the biggest one. Being a good leader for my teammates, on and off the field, is something I look forward to trying to do for them.”

For as nice as individual accomplishments may be, experiencing success in a group setting can be even more rewarding, and Shaba cited relationships with teammates off the field as just as important as the ones on it.

“That was something we had going for us this year,” she said. “We worked really hard for each other — some completely unselfish players on the team. It’s just amazing what hard work can do when you really work as a team towards one common goal, and everyone being humble and unselfish. It’s an experience I will never forget.”

Shaba said she has been playing soccer since she was 6 or 7 years old, and while there may be opportunities to play after college, she seems to be leaving her options open.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “What I decide to do, whether I end up getting my master’s (degree) right away or whether I try to continue playing overseas — either or — it’s a new chapter, and it’s exciting.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.