Lacrosse team aims GLIAC title repeat

Adam Knorr

Last year, nine teams banded together to create a landscape for the first season of women’s lacrosse in GLIAC history.

Grand Valley State University was one of those teams. And, in typical GVSU fashion, it dominated.

The Lakers swept through the conference in 2013, annihilating opponents game after game before it ultimately finished 8-0 in conference play. GVSU outscored conference opponents 154-45 on its way to a GLIAC Tournament title with a 16-12 win against Tiffin University.

Unfortunately for the rest of the conference, the Lakers have similar plans for the 2014 season.

“A primary goal of ours is to win big games against big teams and to get recognized nationally,” junior captain Alyssa Neumen said. “We have the momentum and energy to win back-to-back GLIAC titles, and we want to get recognized for our hard work.”

GVSU will enter the spring campaign riding an 11-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Lakers will try to ride the lightning into this season, but they’ll have to do it without the 2013 GLIAC Attacker of the Year Allyson Fritts, who graduated last year after racking up an impressive 56 goals.

The team will attempt to curb the loss with a blend of returning talent and new players. Juniors Rachel Leibovitz and Sarah Lowe spearheaded a Laker attack that averaged more than 16 goals per game last season.

Leibovitz and Lowe accounted for 94 total points last year, including 68 goals.

Brianna Shefferly, one of just two seniors on the roster, will return to once again anchor the Laker defense. Junior Ashley Stoltenberg is also slated to return after starting all 18 games last season and earning GLIAC Defender of the Year honors.

In goal for the Lakers will be Sarah Zwilsky, one of seven freshmen expected to contribute this season.

GVSU’s roster, which features players from eight different states, will also return seven sophomores and ten juniors.

For some teams, relying on new talent to produce can be intimidating, but the Lakers have high hopes for their young roster inserts.

“Any of our freshmen can really play and contribute,” head coach Alicia Groveston said. “We have a lot of people who play quality minutes at multiple positions, which gives us flexibility.

“Our girls are finally seeing our potential and they’re starting to live up to it.”

Groveston, the 2013 GLIAC Coach of the Year, has brought immediate success to GVSU’s youngest varsity sport. When she leads the Lakers into battle for their first game on Sunday at Lindenwood University, she’ll be able to gauge how her geographically diverse roster can mesh against a top-tier opponent.

Lindenwood University is ranked 14th in the NCAA Division II lacrosse rankings.

“Our first game against Lindenwood is huge,” said Lowe, who is also a team captain. “They’re up-and-coming, a sleeper team. They’ve always been a big rivalry for us, so a win from them would put a lot of forward momentum going into our season.”

Following the action at Lindenwood, the Lakers will make a short trip east of the border where they will square off against McKendree University in Illinois.

The Lakers will then host their first home game of the season with an opportunity to take on No. 2 Adelphi University.