Headline: Feeling lucky in Louisville

By: Jay Bushen

By: Adam Knorr

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From the minute the Grand Valley Sate volleyball team hit its first serve on Thursday, you could tell it was going to be a special weekend.

The words on the wall of the gym read “Bellarmine University,” but anyone there could see right through it. Any time the Lakers were in the gym, they had home court advantage.

But I guess that’s a perk of having some really, really good athletic programs at GVSU.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams and the women’s soccer team led the charge. “L-A-K-E-R-U a Laker?” chants were screamed no matter what the circumstance.

Last weekend in Louisville displayed what sports — and specifically GVSU sports — are all about.

Sports are about emotion.

See: The volleyball team nearly falling to the floor after each big point.

See: A mass of about 100 Lakers screaming, jumping and singing after Kendra Foley, Allyson Winchester and Jess Janecke swept the podium to help GVSU women’s cross country threepeat.

See: GVSU goalkeeper Andrea Strauss roaring after making a diving save in the second round of the shootout in the Lakers’ semifinal win.

But every school that participated last weekend could have picked out any number of emotional moments.

Only one school, however, can boast the level of support and camaraderie that GVSU displayed in Louisville.

See: GVSU fans erupting with the loudest cheer of the day when Foley, Winchester and Janecke walked in to the national championship soccer game.

See: Soccer forward Jenny Shaba darting around the GVSU volleyball cheering section, urging athletes and parents alike to cheer louder. It might not help, but then again, it might.

See: Injured volleyball player Nicayla Joyce moving through the muddy, swampy cross country terrain on crutches. The rubber pieces on the bottom kept popping off of her crutches, but guess what? Joyce — and the rest of the volleyball team — were there at the finish line, screaming at Foley, Winchester and Janecke to keep pushing, even if it was 30 degrees on a Saturday morning the day after the volleyball team was eliminated.

In sports journalism, you’re taught to remain objective. There’s no cheering in the press box — ever. Even at GVSU home games, Lanthorn and Sports Info members have to remain quiet.

But I can’t pretend like these teams didn’t grow on me. Maybe that’s why, when covering soccer, I stayed out of the press box, leaning against the fence to get as close to the action as possible.

Maybe that’s why I pumped my fist and let out a yell when Shaba scored the first goal of the national championship game. Maybe that’s why I was grinning like a fool throughout the whole press conference following the victory.

Or maybe that’s just what ONE GV means. 


During my three years as a Laker, I’ve been lucky enough to cover everything from record-breaking home runs to NFL players — and I’ve never covered a losing team.

So I’ve often wondered: What makes GVSU Athletics a perennial powerhouse?

If you ask me, there’s a lot that attracts first-rate recruits to the house that Selgo built — academic pedigree, first-rate facilities, winning tradition — but those don’t necessarily yield year-to-year results. So where does the success come from?

I found the answer in Louisville this weekend.

It’s not just about the powerhouse, it’s about the family inside. These coaches, players, teams, alumni — you name it — back each other. Apparently “WE ARE ONE” isn’t just a marketing campaign.

From press row, I watched as pre-game volleyball routines were interrupted because the pep band marched its way into the second-level bleachers. The Lakers ushered the band in with raucous cheers, their way of saying thank you. In turn, the band brought down the house with funky-fresh cheers and chants all weekend.

And it wasn’t just the band. The soccer and cross country teams formed a de facto cheering section at both matches, basically giving GVSU home-court advantage. The volleyball team returned the favor by attending soccer and cross country events, spurring the teams on to a pair of national championships.

It was an impressive dynamic, and pretty cool to be around. It was one of the first things coaches and players referenced in post-game interviews — the support.

The celebration after the women’s cross country race was unlike anything I’ve covered in sports. A lot of that had to do with the emotion following GVSU’s unprecedented one-two-three finish, but it sure looked like one great big family at the finish line.

My fellow Lanthorn representatives and I may not have been cheering in Louisville this weekend, but we couldn’t help but recognize the camaraderie. We were thankful to be there, and for a chance to see the program up close.

Thankful for the chance to watch four GVSU teams compete for national championships. Thankful that people within the program are so welcoming and generally easy to like. For us, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

And we enjoyed the hell out of it.