Freshman fuels Lakers in win at MBU

Steven Garber

Penalties plagued the Grand Valley State University men’s club lacrosse team at times in the midseason tilt, but its young playmakers did more than enough to account for the mistakes.

No. 4 GVSU racked up 15 penalty minutes but still came home with a 14-5 victory at No. 25 Missouri Baptist University on Friday night, as freshman attacker Erick Sundstrom led the way with a game-high five goals.

“Sundstrom did a great job and had a breakout game for us,” head coach Tim Murray said. “He started taking advantage of looks that he’s maybe passed up in games past.”

The rookie from Holt, Mich., has helped spark a more dynamic attack for the Lakers with 10 points (nine goals, one assist) in three games.

His offensive play has been key during that stretch, and GVSU has notched four straight wins since starting the season 0-3.

“Sunny’s a great finisher,” junior midfielder Zack Grusell said. “He’s really young, but he’s going to end up being amazing.”

The freshman class, which accounts for 23 of the team’s 36 roster spots, is up against a faster-than-usual learning curve in 2014 and is being relied upon to produce on both sides of the field.

Murray said he was also impressed by the play of his first-year goalie, Kyrn Stoddard, who made some nice saves and finished the game with a 73.7 save percentage.

Grusell, who has adjusted his role slightly to be more of a distributer, also played well as a set-up man in the win. He has orchestrated the offense to the tune of nine assists in two games.

“He’s a feeder, and his field vision is just tremendous,” Sundstrom said. “When the right people make the right cuts and get open for him — he’ll find you.”

The team seemed to shoot itself in the foot with penalties, but the silver lining for Murray was how his squad reacted when faced with shorthanded situations. The team’s ability to rotate and take away shooters was a big reason why the Lakers prevailed.

The experience to be gained in the coming games figures to provide his young team with a chance to correct its flaws in time for the MCLA Division II National Championships.

“Every week, the freshmen are making leaps and bounds to understanding the development in their game,” he said.

Their progression will be a crucial part of the team’s ability to make a deep run when the tournament begins in May.

Since opening the season against the top MCLA Division II teams (No. 1 St. John’s University and No. 2 University of St. Thomas), GVSU has taken down No. 7 North Dakota State University, Northwood University, Central Michigan University, Aquinas College and Missouri Baptist.

Murray said he is thankful for the wins any way he gets them and, as long as his team stays focused on fixing flaws, he applauds his freshmen and their commitment to improving.

GVSU will be in back in action Wednesday at Ferris State University at 6 pm.