GVSU box lacrosse gears up with new league

GVL / GVSU Club Sports

GVL / GVSU Club Sports

Alex Eisen

A handful of lacrosse players gathered on a campus athletic field because it was the only place where they knew they could hang out and shoot on a net.

Five years later, the Grand Valley State indoor box lacrosse club has developed into something those founders never could have imagined, doing so now in the honor of their lost teammate, brother and friend Alexander Aninos.

Last October, Aninos, founding member and respected team leader, was killed in a car accident. It was tragic loss for the program.

“His legacy will never be forgotten,” said Kevin Scheiber, former club president and current first-year head coach.

“He helped found our program, and at the same time he was a leader on and off the field,” Scheiber said. “Each practice we continue to push ourselves to achieve the level of dedication that he showed to our program and our team.”

Some of that perseverance has already started to pay off for the box lacrosse club as they have been accepted into the Continental Indoor Lacrosse League (CILL) for this upcoming season. The CILL is a semi-professional league featuring eight other teams based in the Midwest region. Many of them are familiar opponents for GVSU, as the Lakers have played them in exhibition games during their previous three seasons.

Being included in the league is a huge landmark for the program as it’s the Lakers’ first chance to compete for a championship.

And they have expectations to do so.

Nate Holstege, one of the club officers, is also pleased they won’t have to worry about teams dropping them from their schedule anymore.

“Last year we kind of lost out on some games because they were just exhibitions,” Holstege said. “Some of the team would be like last minute, ‘We can’t field a team right now, so we aren’t going to play you.’”

While having that scheduled stability can help any club team continue to grow, the team understands that the quality of the product on the field is what will aid them in building a fan base for a sport many students don’t know anything about.

Cody Desero, senior defenseman, gets why people might question the idea of driving 20 minutes away from campus to see them play, but says it’s at least worth giving a shot.

“It’s fast-paced and there is never a dull moment,” Desero said. “There are big hits, nice goals and the cellys are nice too.”

Box lacrosse is a modification of field lacrosse. It is played in an inline skating rink or indoor soccer field with boards and no out of bounds – save for when the ball goes over the glass. There are five runners and one goalie per team with no stick regulations. Cross checks and body checks are seen more in box lacrosse than in field and transitions between plays move much faster.

“If you enjoy football, soccer, hockey or basketball, lacrosse and box lacrosse are amazing sports to watch and play as it includes skills from all of those sports,” Scheiber said.

Since box lacrosse is much quicker and more physical than field lacrosse, being able to anticipate passes and body checks in a short period of time requires a high lacrosse IQ and exceptional team chemistry said Holstege and Desero.

Having those strong bonds between players can make the tragedy of losing a teammate so difficult to cope with. Yet, it’s the camaraderie that is comforting in the healing process and can motivate someone like Scheiber to come back to the program after his playing days to become the head coach.

“I have been lucky to watch these players grow together as a team and develop their skills as players and I’m confident in their abilities to have a very successful season this year,” Scheiber said.

The Lakers’ season begins Aug. 29 with league games against the Detroit Coney Dogs and the Lansing Hot Rods at noon and 6 p.m. respectively. On Aug. 30, they will face off against the Grand Rapids Dragonfish at 3 p.m. All games are played at Rivertown Sports in Grandville, Michigan.