Team of the Week: GLCC women’s soccer wins school’s first national title

Team of the week

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – In November of 2018, former St. Johns girl’s soccer coach, Sam Sibilski, walked into the office of Great Lakes Christian College athletic director Richard Westerlund with the idea to start a women’s soccer program at GLCC.

“When he came into my office, I had no intention of starting a women’s soccer program, but he laid out the entire plane and said this is what we’re going to do and I’m going to win it pretty soon,” Westerlund said. “And it was really hard not to believe in a guy like Sam Sibilski.”

Three years and two seasons later, the Crusaders are the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II national champions.

On Saturday, at Austin-Tindall Sports Complex in Flordia, GLCC defeated Arlington Baptist, 2-1, to win the school’s first national championship.

“It was unreal and honestly it’s still unreal. I haven’t come to terms with it,” GLCC second-year center back Morgan Chamberlain said. “Walking through the airport was kind of fun because everyone was congratulating us.”

“It honestly hasn’t hit me. I mean, it’s been weird, like crazy,” GLCC first-year defensive-mid Solara Sheldon said. “I think this is going to attack more girls to come here. It’s more exciting.”

Second-year forward Randi Fitzgerald took home the Gold Boot, for scoring the most goals in the tournament. Her third and final goal was the game-winner with 12:51 remaining in the title game.

“It felt crazy. I just wanted to cry because it’s like all the hard work from last year to this year has paid off,” Fitzgerald said.

Sibilski said,” As soon as the final whistle went off, I took my phone out of my bag and put it in my pocket and it was non-stop for four, five hours, and then the next day and the next day.”

In the program’s first season (2020), the Crusaders only played seven games and were the No. 3 team in the country with a chance to win the conference tournament. However, COVID-19 forced GLCC to withdrawal from the conference tournament, ending the Crusaders’ season in heartbreak.

Still, being the No. 3 team in the country last season and following that up with a national championship shows all the hard work that went into Sibilski building the program.

“Not many people know about us so it was tough year one,” Sibilski said. “Once we got that core group of players in, that are still with us now, they’re the foundation for our success.”

Westerlund said, “He started working to put his team together in 2018 and to see it all come to fruition, he put a lot of work in. He built that women’s soccer program from scratch. So, he deserves a lot of credit. To see our soccer field in the shape that it is, a lot of that is because of Sam and his assistant Marcus (Charlick) for all the work, and hours, that they put into the field and into the program.”

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