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Oct, 2018

Internationals SC Alums Face Off in Important DII Matchup

Two former Internationals SC players and teammates took the field when Ashland University hosted Grand Valley State University on September 16th.  The game was quite exciting, ending in a double overtime 0-0 draw. This was a unique opportunity for both Hillary Mihalik and Jessica Radice since they were used to playing for the same team and the same club. 

“I was really excited to play against Jess,” Mihalik commented. “It was a very intense game to play in where it went into double overtime and ended in a tie.  I knew coming into the game that Grand Valley is very good team and that we needed to play well.” 

Radice was also excited for the opportunity.

“It’s awesome being able to play against Hillary again.  She was always a great asset to our Internationals team.  She always showed
up and proved herself through her actions.  Being able to play against her and see her do so well and continue what she has been doing is just awesome.  It’s great to see how well she is doing there.  Just talking to her how much she loves the team and the comradery there.  I am glad that she found that.  It definitely showed on the field.”

Both players have absolutely excelled in the collegiate game.  Mihalik, a sophomore defender for Ashland, has made 10 appearances for the Eagles this season, registering one goal and one assist.  Radice, a sophomore goalkeeper, has made 14 saves in nine starts for the Lakers in 2018.  She has allowed just one goal in 798 minutes of play, giving her an absolutely incredible 0.11 GAA. 

Grand Valley State women’s soccer head coach Jeff Hosler has been thoroughly impressed with Radice’s performance.

"We offered Jess really late in her senior year and could not be more fortunate in the way this has turned out to this point.  She is a high character kid, great teammate and committed to our program philosophy.  Jess has worked tirelessly over the last nine months to improve her fitness level which has provided quickness, flexibility, range, and confidence. She is off to a great start as our full-time starter and I'm proud of her continued efforts."

Ashland University women’s soccer head coach Taylor Clarke has been very happy with Mihalik’s contributions to the AU program this season.

"Hillary has been excellent for us this year. She continues to grow on the field and has excelled as a member of our back line. We ask our outside backs to be aggressive in attack, while maintaining defensive cover on the wing and she does very well in both aspects. We will rely on Hillary's strengths as she continues her development."

Despite the pair’s impressive collegiate success, Mihalik and Radice were quite humble in describing themselves as players and members of the team. 

“As a player I would describe myself as determined and hardworking,” Mihalik said. “I always know that there is always room for improvement to do better.”

“I definitely am a possession-based goalkeeper,” Radice said. “I like to play out of the back as much as possible.  That what I grew up with at Internationals and with the team I am on now.  We definitely show that our passing percentages are very high in every game.   I’m a talker.  Communication is huge.  I remember Keri Sarver always told me that the best goalkeepers have no little action in games because they are able to communicate and organize and not allow a shot to happen.  That is something that stuck with me.”

Both credit Internationals SC for their success at the next level.

“Keri and Zdravko (Popovic) both made me the player I am today,” Mihalik commented. “Without the both of them pushing me to be better every day, I would not be the player I am today.”

Radice shared the same sentiments.

“I can wholeheartedly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Zdravko. I committed very late.  I was going into my freshman year of college, a few days before my grad party that I committed to Grand Valley.  It was not the ideal kind of story that most people want or picture.  Zdravko was so persistent and without him I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  I would have probably given up a lot sooner.  He kept pushing me.  I kept saying I would just finish out this game, this season with Internationals.  I felt like I was going to be done.  He told me that it wasn’t over.  I remember him saying ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings.’ Without him and Internationals getting me prepared I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been at Grand Valley.”

Radice pointed out that Internationals SC is about more than just soccer.

“They do so much outside of soccer.  They prepare you as an individual.  They are always open to have meetings.  Zdravko had all of these morning sessions in the summer for returning college players.  Once you are done with Internationals you are never done.  They always help you along the way with whatever you need.”

Both pointed out the value in playing for a club that plays at the highest level in leagues like the ECNL.

“I was a part of the club for seven years so the consistent competitive training environment at Internationals has definitely developed who I am as a player,” Mihalik added. “With competing in the ECNL it definitely prepared me for what playing college would be like.”

Radice mentioned that the ECNL provided excellent competition and extensive travel across the entire United States.

“The ECNL was very valuable, from actually playing to having to deal with travel.  Some of the girls here weren’t accustomed to the travel and it was weird for them.  Without the ECNL, I would have had a harder time adjusting when I did come here.”

Both Mihalik and Radice have a long collegiate season ahead of them and are looking to build off of their current success.  Ashland have started strong with a 7-0-3 record, while Grand Valley boast an 8-0-1 record and a current winning streak of three games.

“The biggest moment this season for my team is being undefeated,” Mihalik said. “It is a big goal of ours to remain undefeated and continue being a dangerous competitor in the GLIAC.”

“We have some very talented players and newcomers coming in so as a team we want to make it as far as we can,” Radice concluded. “Our goal is always to be the best we can be and a national championship is always on our mind as an end goal but we have smaller goals along the way.  We want to be the best Grand Valley can be.  Personally, I want to be the best I can be on and off the field.  Leadership wise just showing up for my team every game and put forth the effort I need to get us where we want to go.”

Internationals SC Founder, President, and Director of Coaching Zdravko Popovic shared his pride for the pair’s accomplishments. 

“It is so awesome to see the success that Jess and Hillary are having at the collegiate level.  These two grew up in the club and are similar in so many ways – amazing team players, good training habits, exceptional character, good students and just all around a pleasure to coach.  Hillary was quiet but focused and determined.  You could always count on her commitment, work ethic, and tireless effort for the team.  She has a good understanding of the game and her versatility was so valuable at the club level.  Jess really came into her own as a goalkeeper after her sophomore season – she grew into her role in many ways, including her confidence, leadership and shot stopping ability.  They are wonderful representatives of the club and we are so proud to call them Internationals alumni.”

With the success as individuals and as a team, it would not be a surprise to see these two Internationals SC alums facing off in the NCAA Tournament this fall.  They are just that good at the next level. 

Photo Credit: Tom E. Puskar/Ashland University, Scott Vander Sloot/Ashland University, and Ashley Cefali/GVSU Athletics Department

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