Sister duo becomes key piece to GVSU puzzle

GVL / Emily Frye
Gabriella and Alexis Mencotti (left to right)

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Gabriella and Alexis Mencotti (left to right)

Adam Knorr

Championships are simply part of life for Gabriella Mencotti. During her multiyear playing career with Michigan Rush Northville, Mencotti helped bring home a state championship. As a senior, Mencotti tasted glory again when the midfielder led Northville High School to the 2014 MHSAA Division 1 state championship.

The scintillating flavor of a championship was simply too alluring to Mencotti after her playing days in high school, and looks from NCAA Division I programs fell by the wayside in favor of perennial powerhouse Grand Valley State University. Mencotti wanted to win another title at the next level, and she figured GVSU gave her the best opportunity to do that.

The fact that her older sister, Alexis Mencotti, plays for the Lakers didn’t hurt either.

“It’s an unreal experience,” Gabriella said. “I get to see her every day. When we play against each other it’s competitive but fun. I’m super close to her.”

It all started in 2013, when the Mencotti sisters took a joint visit to GVSU. Alexis, maimed by an ACL injury, was a late commit, vowing to go to GVSU following her visit as a senior. Gabriella, a junior, followed suit, verbally committing after the same visit.

In her freshman year, the elder Mencotti was tagged with a medical redshirt following a second ACL injury. In 2014, the younger Mencotti came to campus.

This season has been a coming out party for both – particularly Gabriella on the offensive end of the pitch.

The freshman has posted elevated stats all season, notching 31 total points, while starting all 17 games for the Lakers (14-2-1, 9-1-1 GLIAC). Her seven helpers rank third among NCAA Division II freshman, while her 31 points and 12 goals rank first within the same criteria.

She notched the first hat trick of her career in GVSU’s Sept. 20 win against Ferris State University, a game in which she accumulated seven points.

Gabriella, ever modest, claims that her success as a freshman has come as a surprise. Alexis, however, displays textbook older sister knowledge, saying that Gabriella’s feats shouldn’t shock anyone.

“I definitely thought she was going to come in here and play, if not start, going into her freshman year,” Alexis said. “She has a lot of talent, and she’s extremely fast. From the beginning, I thought she could make an impact.”

From the first minute to the 90th, Gabriella’s production has remained steady, and a clutch aura seems to have manifested itself around the freshman. She leads the team with four game-winning goals.

She showcases speed, upperclassman-like poise and a rocket shot from either foot.

Early in the season, opposing defenses knew to focus their efforts on offensive standouts like Jenny Shaba and Kendra Stauffer. Quickly, however, GVSU’s challengers have realized they have a new attacking stud to worry about.

“She’s someone that can take over the game, and has taken over games for us, at any given moment,” said coach Jeff Hosler. “She keeps her opponents honest. If they don’t, she’ll make them pay.”

The switch from high school and club ball to the collegiate level clearly has not affected Gabriella, and neither has her newfound forward position. As a prep athlete, Gabriella was a mainstay at midfield, making occasional forays to forward.

Now, at GVSU, forward is the only position she plays, and she has quickly proven she belongs.

With just one game left in the regular season, GVSU is making a push toward a 10th consecutive GLIAC Championship. The Lakers have won three national championships in the past five seasons, and the team’s upperclassmen know what it takes to win another.

Gabriella Mencotti may not know exactly what it takes to win on such a big stage. But then again, with the way the freshman is playing, she may be the key.