Lakers look to defend MCLA crown

Mark Washburn

Last year’s storybook season ended with a championship in the 2014 Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) Division II National Tournament for the Grand Valley State men’s lacrosse club.

GVSU was talented, but inexperienced, heading into last season. The Lakers lost their first two games, but won 15 straight en route to a 12-11 victory over St. Johns in the national championship game.

The Lakers – ranked No. 1 in the 2015 MCLA poll – bring back 38 players from last year’s 15-2 squad, but coach Tim Murray is bringing a fresh mentality as they begin the 2015 campaign.

“This actual (2015) team is not the defending national champion,” Murray said. “The program won, but the 2015 team didn’t win anything last year…This is the approach we must take.”

GVSU at a Glance

Key Addition: D Mike Meshinski

Key Losses: A Brenden Austin, D Jake Seiler, M Jesse Gilbert

Key Returners: M Charlie Farmer, A Zack Grusell, M Seth Kuehl, D Peter Treppa

MCLA National Championships: 1 (2014)

MCLA Final Fours: 4 (2008, 11, 12, 14)

Head Coach: Tim Murray – 5th Season (63-11)

Scouting Report

Every year since Murray has been coach, the Lakers have been hunting for the national championship. Now that they’ve won, the hunters become the hunted.

Team leadership will help the Lakers maintain their vision.

“We need to make sure our mentality is on the attack for another championship,” Murray said.

Offense Preview

This year, tempo is the name of the game for GVSU. The Lakers hope to be faster than any team on their schedule, and have been conditioning to carry out that goal.

With multiple lines at the midfielder and attack positions, the offense is also about developing relationships and learning the styles of play for each line. The Lakers lost goal-scoring production in its 2014 senior class, but solid midfield play could help to make up for it.

“We don’t have much of a drop off at any line,” said senior midfielder Charlie Farmer. “Our lines have the ability to rotate and stay fresh.”

Zack Grusell, a senior attack, led the nation with 56 assists last year. Grusell quarterbacks the offense with a high IQ, and finds ways to distribute the ball exceptionally well. GVSU is at its best when the ball goes through him because his anticipation, game control and decision-making ability set the tone.

Defense Preview

Defensively, the Lakers look to up their defensive consistency in all four quarters of the 2015 season.

Junior Peter Treppa, transfer Mike Meshinski, and sophomores Chris Bosscher and Joey Seiler will anchor GVSU’s aggressive back line. Their consistency, containment and communication will be huge for GVSU.

“We are also looking to create more possession,” Treppa said. “We need to press up, make them work for the ball and create turnovers.”

Goalie Preview

Sophomore goalie Kyrn Stoddard is known for his consistent play and work ethic. Last year, Stoddard played in 14 games, making 159 saves with a 0.633 save percentage and a 6.57 goals against average.

He might not be a flashy player, but Stoddard’s ability to make timely saves was often a difference in 2014. If the team is going to defend its title, he’ll have to do just that once again.

Godekeraw Potential

Senior midfielder Charlie Farmer returns after winning the Godekeraw Award, the highest individual honor in the MCLA, in 2014. Farmer was named the preseason player of the year, and he brings an added dimension to the Laker offense because he is a threat to score from just about anywhere on the field. Farmer scored 23 goals to go along with 15 assists in the 2014 campaign.

Freshman to Watch

Dalton Reiche (Hartland, Mich.) has the potential to make an immediate impact for GVSU. Reiche, an attack, was a skilled lefty in high school, but he will play midfielder for the Lakers. He brings energy, a non-stop motor and a full-speed mindset to the Lakers offensively.

Telling Number: 38

Of the 41 players on the roster on last year’s team, 38 are returning. The Lakers didn’t lose much in quantity, but they did lose some quality with leading goal scorer Brenden Austin (42 goals) graduating.

Key Games

GVSU plays three games in three days at the end of March against three preseason top-five opponents: No. 4 St. Thomas, No. 2 St. John’s and No. 5 North Dakota State. This stretch of games is critical for the Lakers in terms of setting the tone for the remainder of the season.

The Lakers will also take on MCLA Division I Davenport in April. This is an intense rivalry that pits former high-school teammates against each other – and they’re familiar with each other’s style of play.

Bottom Line

The Lakers are searching not to defend their national championship, but to hunt for another.

In order to repeat as national champs, GVSU needs to develop chemistry and camaraderie. The team has the talent and ability to outplay its opponents, but it won’t be easy.

But if the Lakers can grow as one unit, focus on the little things and approach the season one game at a time, they will find themselves back in California in search of another national crown in 2015.