High school phenom adapts quickly at GVSU

Courtesy / GV Sports Info
Freshman Lacrosse player Ryan Skomial

Courtesy / GV Sports Info Freshman Lacrosse player Ryan Skomial

Steven Garber

Joining a new team as a freshman can be a lot like being thrown in a cool pool: you’re left there to get warm while those around you have already gotten used to it.

First-year midfielder Ryan Skomial of the Grand Valley State University women’s lacrosse team has had to adjust in a similar way so far in 2014 — but she is certainly warming up to the level of NCAA Division II play more quickly than most.

Skomial, who has found the back of the net nine times in 2014, is GVSU’s leading goal scorer through seven games.

“She’s trying to adapt where her style fits our style,” head coach Alicia Groveston said. “But the future is very bright for that kid.”

Before she was recruited to play at GVSU, Skomial had quite the career at Hartland High School in Howell, Mich. She scored 277 goals while at HHS — more than any other girl’s lacrosse player in Michigan history. Perhaps rightfully so, she earned a first-team all-American accolade as a senior.

“I knew she was destined for something really great,” Groveston said. “She’s dedicated to the sport. She’s dedicated to getting better, and being able to put that time and effort outside of the field is exactly what we want to have from our student athletes.”

When time came for Skomial to make decisions about where she’d be playing at the next level, she admittedly relished the opportunity to play with a coach she had known and respected for years.

“She’s a fabulous coach and that’s what really drew me here — her personality is very magnetic,” Skomial said.

Skomial’s drive and determination stem from her competitive nature.

She said she hates losing, even in Jeopardy games in class. On game days, music helps keep her focused. Real focused.

“Don’t mess with me; I’m in game mode,” she says.

Skomial is also learning new ways to make an impact. She is currently focusing on other aspects of the game, like draw controls and 50-50 balls. She has the most draw controls on the Laker squad with 19, accounting for more than 29 percent of the team total.

However, GVSU (2-5) is still looking for ways to consistently click so far this season.

The Lakers came in with high expectations after winning the first-ever GLIAC Championship in 2013. The main goal at the beginning of the year was to be nationally recognized, but those aspirations have since been adjusted.

The team has dropped each of its last three games. Another loss would equal the longest losing streak in its three-year history.

“We need to play as the sum of 25, versus the 25 individual parts,” Groveston said. “That’s the vision we’re changing. We’ve played brilliantly at moments. We’ve seen what we can do, we’re just not doing it consistently.

“The expectations are high here, and they’re high for everyone.”

The team has since simplified its aspirations: just win. Cohesiveness, not talent, seems to be the issue. The problem is not the ability of the team, but the team’s ability.

As Skomial grows more comfortable in her role and with her team, the focus for her is trust. Not only in her abilities, but also the abilities for her fellow players.

“I have absolute trust and faith in my team, and I can guarantee we are going to click,” she said. “Grand Valley has absolutely become my family.”