Neumen anchors stingy back line for Lakers
Offense wins games, defense wins championships. The phrase has been repeated ad nauseam in the sports world, but it often holds true.
Grand Valley State University lacrosse head coach Alicia Groveston knows this as well as anyone and has built a rapidly successful program around the principle — and it all starts with junior midfielder Alyssa Neumen.
Neumen, a Rockford High School product, has had quite the career so far with the young program, and Groveston saw it coming all along.
“She has the best footwork I’ve ever seen of a defender at any level,” Groveston said. “She’s naturally gifted and very smart. She goes out there and does her job. She just works.”
Neumen, a competitive gymnast growing up, must have been subconsciously working on her lacrosse game for years prior to picking up the sport in sixth grade.
Luckily for the Lakers, Neumen picked up on the transition to defense almost as naturally as she did with as the sport, itself. As a freshman in 2012, she started 17 games and was named to the NCAA Division II All-Independent Second Team.
She continued to impress in 2013 on her way to earning All-GLIAC First Team honors and was nominated by Groveston for the 2013 GLIAC Defender of the Year award.
GLIAC coaches were equally impressed.
“Everyone said my face was priceless when I found out I won,” Neumen said. “It was definitely an honor to get it, but it’s a team award. I couldn’t have done it without everyone else on my unit.”
She is one of four GVSU captains in 2014 and said she is beginning to find her vocal side after two years of leading by example with her intuitive defending.
Neumen has shown the ability to see plays develop before they happen, which allows her to get an early jump on attacking offenses time and time again.
In addition to her obvious skill set, she uses what Groveston described as “small cheats” to constantly remain a step ahead of her opposition. Neumen takes full advantage of her prestigious “lacrosse IQ,” taking calculated risks and making plays in unique ways.
“When she’s with you, you’re more comfortable and confident out there,” said Brianna Shefferly, another staple of the Laker defensive core. “She’s become very good at communicating.”
Groveston has been able to implement multiple defensive strategies due to the high level of defensive play on the squad in the program’s short lifespan — a pleasant surprise to the Laker head coach.
As the Lakers look to capture their second consecutive GLIAC title this season, they will once again lean on the defensive unit to anchor the team and, if the back line plays to its full potential, it’s a back line that could guide the talented Laker team to new heights in 2014.