Dangerous goalscorer fuels Laker attack

GVL / Archive
Junior Rachel Leibovitz

GVL / Archive Junior Rachel Leibovitz

Adam Knorr

As a freshman in high school, Rachel Leibovitz had never played an organized sport. She decided to try out for lacrosse, which didn’t have cuts and seemed like a safe bet.

Leibovitz was promoted to the varsity squad as a sophomore at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., and her ability to consistently find the back of the net in the next few years resulted in a number of accolades.

Grand Valley State University coach Alicia Groveston came calling shortly thereafter in an attempt to fill the new program’s roster. What began as a safe bet turned out to be the career starting point for a dangerous goalscorer.

“It was really interesting to be on the first (team) and build a program,” Leibovitz said. “It was cool knowing that maybe we wouldn’t be successful at first, but we could help bring it to the future.”

The program found success in a hurry, and she was a key contributor from the moment she took the field in Laker Blue.

After switching from her familiar midfield position, she started all 17 games as a freshman at attack. She led the team with 38 goals, scoring in all but two contests.

The first season of GLIAC women’s lacrosse took place in 2013. Leibovitz and the Lakers made it clear they were the team to beat. GVSU ran the table, winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles.

She tallied 48 goals and dished out six assists (54 points) for the second-highest single-season point total in the program’s infancy.

“She has developed some serious lacrosse IQ,” Groveston said. “She’s become a much smarter player throughout her three years here. She has all the tools to go with that. She can be a power shooter or a finesse shooter.

“She’s extremely good at the draw.”

Occasionally Groveston will move Leibovitz back to midfield to give her opportunities to take key face-offs. It’s a part of the game she’s excelled at since her junior and senior seasons in high school when she would target a trusted teammate with the same last name — her younger sister, Kelly.

The sisters were dynamic together and could often make eye contact from across the field before accurately predicting the upcoming play.

After a two-year hiatus, the duo has been reunited.

Kelly, a freshman at GVSU, takes her position at midfield while Rachel spearheads the attack. When the two get a chance to compete head-to-head in practice, they go at it like sisters. Maybe because Kelly is the one opponent Rachel can’t read.

“She told me that she picks out the weakest defender on the opposing team within the first five minutes,” junior captain and fellow attacker Sarah Lowe said of Kelly. “Once she gets the ball on her stick, she knows she can take that defender one-on-one all day long.

“She’s growing a lot as a player.”

Perhaps growing into a player with the offensive capabilities of her big sister. If that’s the case, the GLIAC could be dealing with a double dose of danger from this dynamic duo.