Women’s Lacrosse coming back with a new momentum in 2022 spring season

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GVL / Annabelle Robinson

James Herrick , Staff Writer

At the break of the 2022 spring season, the women’s lacrosse team is getting ready for a fresh start, with the latest surge of COVID-19 finally easing up. The Grand Valley State University lacrosse team is hoping to leave behind all the obstacles they faced, and with an experienced and talented roster, they’re looking to come back swinging as repeat-GLIAC champions and push for a national championship. 

Coach Mackenzie Lawler is coming on her fourth season with the Lakers, hoping for the same for all her players. Throughout her tenure, Lawler has changed the culture at GVSU, establishing a winning mentality peaking this season.

“Most of the players who are on the roster were recruited by our staff or have stayed through the changes in our coaching staff and have really bought into our new standards and what we expect of the team,” Lawler said.

Under Lawler’s watch, GVSU has been successful; however, every time they have gained momentum, COVID-19 has prevented them from seeing their season all the way through. In 2020, GVSU was off to a 3-1 start that included a win over a respected Lindenwood team. Shortly after, the pandemic began and the remainder of their season was canceled.

In 2021, GVSU had a similar start. They were able to play a full regular-season schedule, which ended for them as GLIAC champions with an overall 12-2 record and a perfect GLIAC record of 8-0. Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck again. The NCAA national championship tournament consists of 16 teams and GVSU was scheduled to be a four seed, but when the field was cut to 12 teams, GVSU and the other four-seeds were removed from the tournament. 

“I think that was a very special season to me,” Lawler said. “Despite the COVID bubble our team had to play in, everything (the team) sacrificed in order to continue playing the sport, to come out undefeated in the regular season for the GLIAC and winning the GLIAC Championship in the tournament was something that hasn’t been done for a couple of years here at Grand Valley, so it was nice to get back on track and finish the season strong.” 

The roster for the 2022 season will be headed by a pair of graduate students. Attacker Sophie Conroy and midfielder Olivia Esposito will be returning for their fifth year after receiving an extra year of eligibility. The pair started in all 14 games of the 2021 season, Conroy receiving First Team All-GLIAC honors as she scored 43 goals with 18 assists. Meanwhile, Esposito received Second Team All-GLIAC honors with 31 goals.

“I think this team has a lot of potential for a lot of success,” Esposito said. “I wanted to finish out on that. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity for success with the team, so I came back.”

Along with Conroy and Esposito, the rest of the team are all bought in on their goals for success this season. 

“We’re such a fast team this year,” Conroy said. “We should be able to fastbreak the ball all the time. I don’t think teams will be able to keep up with us on offense because we have such quick players. We have such a diverse group, people can pass the ball quickly, we have quick dodges, our midfielders are really fast. I think pushing the speed of the game will be big for us this year.” 

For this team, they have big aspirations and the talent required to see them through. 

“(Our) overall goal is to win a national championship,” Conroy said. “Making it to the final four is huge, and then executing that and finishing it out. I think that if we do the game plan, we take it game by game and we win our first three games, that will set the time for the rest of the season.” 

The case for a national championship will begin next week as the GVSU women’s lacrosse team takes a trip to Florida to take on Saint Leo University on Feb. 17, and the University of Tampa on Feb. 20.