Junior attacker blossoming into star for GVSU

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Ryan Skomial (1) looks for an opportunity to take a shot on net. The Lakers defeat the Bearcats of McKendree University with a final score of 23-11 Friday, March 25, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Ryan Skomial (1) looks for an opportunity to take a shot on net. The Lakers defeat the Bearcats of McKendree University with a final score of 23-11 Friday, March 25, 2016 in Allendale.

Brady McAtamney

Imagine a beautiful car—maybe a Lamborghini or a Bugatti.

Think of its brilliance. What makes it so beautiful? Its sleek design and aesthetics simply set the car apart from the rest of the pack.

Now, what would that car be if it did not have an engine to set it up to perform to its high standards? It would still be beautiful, yes, but it would not be complete. Not by a long shot.

The Grand Valley State lacrosse team is the car. The Lakers’ talent level is something the rest of the GLIAC simply cannot match. It’s the Lamborghini of the conference. No. 8 GVSU is currently 4-3 (2-0 GLIAC), and is barreling towards its first ever national tournament bid.

So, who is the engine? It’s Ryan Skomial of Howell, Michigan.

Skomial is not the type of player who seeks to put up flashy stats or score highlight-reel goals. Her focus is on winning games and letting her teammates shine.

“I always have my head up and I want to do what’s best for my team,” she said. “I want to set picks for people, I want to feed people and I’ve always loved getting assists over goals. That’s always been exciting for me.”

This sentiment does not quite echo her season statistics, though, as she leads the team in points (27) and assists (11), and is second in goals (16). This is due to the fact that the offense runs heavily through Skomial, as she is relied upon to feed her teammates the ball across the entire attacking end.

“She’s leading in points so (she’s) getting the ball in the back of the net. Her role is being smart on offense, knowing when to feed or when to shoot,” said teammate Carolyn Kraus.

Skomial has not always been such a force on the field at GVSU, though.

“She didn’t go to DI so she could come here and win,” said GVSU head coach Alicia Groveston. “She wanted to be a part of a winning program, one that would do something bigger than maybe a conference championship or two. She has elevated her game to something we need to be successful.”

Without Skomial, Groveston pinpointed what her Lakers would be wanting for.

“We’d be missing that fire that she brings, the effort on the re-defend,” Groveston said. “Before I can tell her what she did wrong, she’s telling me what she did wrong. She’s the conscience of our team.”

Before this season, Skomial primarily played midfield, but coming into this year, the team was quite deep at the position and shallow on attack. To solve this, Groveston made the decision to move Skomial to attack from the position she has played her whole life.

Skomial has not disappointed.

“I definitely feel like I’m trying to fit into (former Laker) Sarah Lowe’s role from last year,” she said. “I had to adjust from midfield to attack, but I’ve embraced that attack. (Lowe) was such a leader and she knew how to get everyone going and get the attack. I think that’s my major role.”

Her teammates acknowledge the horsepower that Skomial provides, from working her tail off in practice to setting others up for goals, to pointing out the flaws in teammates’ plays.

“It’s something that’s not taught. You can teach skill and IQ to a point, but you can’t teach someone to work that hard to be that great,” Kraus said. “When you’re getting tired, you can look over and see her working so hard and it makes you want to work harder.

“It was cool to watch how Ryan became someone who is in it for the whole team. She’s become a player who is willing to put it on the line not just for herself, but for the girl next to her on the field, and she’ll do it to make her teammate look better.”

There’s no such thing as a perfect athlete, and so is the case with Skomial. She admits that she tends to overthink situations and is sometimes a bit critical of herself, but Groveston has noted that she is seeing a great improvement in that area.

“She’s been able to move on and focus on the next game,” she said.

For someone who is the engine of a beautifully crafted car, it’s no coincidence that her drive is what makes her great. At this point, it seems like no mistake that the point-leading attacker wears No. 1.