East Lansing native Jeff Hosler walked into a great situation when he accepted the women’s soccer head coaching position at Grand Valley State University in June. Actually, it was near perfect.
Before leaving to coach at the University of Iowa, Dave DiIanni led the Lakers to their third national championship in five seasons in 2013. The program had become a household name in Division II, and Hosler, who spent the previous eight years coaching at Alma College, was prepared to keep it that way.
“I knew a high level of expectations had been set, but I was excited for that,” said Hosler, who went 91-55-12 while at Alma and led the Scots to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. “At Alma College there were expectations, and I was excited about that challenge there. I really did embrace it. I’m very critical of myself, and I put a lot of expectations on myself.”
Hosler met those expectations in his debut season, leading the Lakers to another national title. Grand Valley finished 22-2-2 record, which tied for the second-most wins in program history, and claimed the national title with a 3-0 victory over Rollins College on Dec. 6.
“I knew it would be a good fit that way because I’m very hungry for success and that type of opportunity, and I was prepared for it,” Hosler said. “My first year, I felt like we had the talent on the roster to do it. It was the chemistry and getting the girls to know the staff that was important. Also, to get them to understand our expectations on a daily basis.”
Hosler knew the game. He was a 1997 LSJ Dream Team selection while playing for Nick Archer at East Lansing High School, and he even coached under Archer once he graduated from Alma — where he played four years under legendary coach Scott Frey.
His prior success as a coach, plus his knowledge of the game, is what made GVSU athletic director Tim Selgo believe the program wouldn’t suffer a drop-off with Hosler.
“When we were going through our search process, two things really stood out about Jeff Hosler for us,” Selgo said. “First, he was an excellent teacher, and I strongly believe the best coaches are the ones that can teach their sport the best. It was evident throughout the process that he was very good at teaching — it was in his DNA. Obviously, he had done a great job at Alma, which obviously caught our attention.
“Second, he had done a terrific job of recruiting to Alma. He had recruited some Chicago kids down to Alma, which is probably not an easy thing to do. He had done a great job of recruiting and building his program at Alma. I know he was well respected within the MIAA, well respected at Alma, and he’s very passionate.”
However, prior to the championship season, the girls who had already seen so much success were nervous about Hosler’s arrival — especially the seniors.
“There was a ton of hesitation, especially myself,” senior defender Juane Odendall said. “I had three years with one coach and had built a relationship with him.”
Winning the girls over was something Hosler was looking forward to.
“One of the reasons I coach is because of relationships and mentorship you can provide,” Hosler said. “One of the things that is important to me is getting to know players and getting them to know me.
“Your senior year is everything. Everything comes together at that time and you can go back and look at your growth. They had that part of that experience taken from them.”
From the jump, Hosler got the players to believe. His approach and understanding of the situation gave the girls the confidence they needed.
“It actually was a lot smoother than anyone anticipated,” senior forward Jenny Shaba said. “Dave and Jeff have very similar coaching values — what they expect out of their players. It made for an easy transition. Especially with the seniors, we only had four months with him, so we wanted to get that trust and respect, and he did that.
“He sat down with all the seniors, before preseason, and talked about having an opened-door policy. Constant communication and no missed signals. That was very helpful.”
Hosler left a lasting impression with his senior group. In just a short time, he won over a group that was recruited and nurtured by someone else and helped them continue their successful ways.
“Just him being so personable and wanting to be a part of your life, I want to stay in contact with him,” Odendall said. “He’ll always be remembered as an amazing coach. He’ll be integrated into everything I do.”