GVSU lacrosse gears up for stiff competition
Lakers begin 2015 with arduous non-conference schedule
In three short years, Grand Valley State women’s lacrosse head coach Alicia Groveston has built a reputation for winning.
Groveston owns a 36-17 record in that span, which includes the first two GLIAC Women's Lacrosse Championships in league history. Yet, despite its conference dominance, GVSU has struggled against teams from outside the region.
The team’s goal this year is to be a top contender for the NCAA Tournament, and, to be the best, the Lakers plan to compete against the best with a challenging slate of non-conference opponents leading up to GLIAC play.
“As one of 92 Division II women’s teams, we want play the tough teams from the East," Groveston said. "We want to build our strength and have them want to come play us."
Having earned a spot in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll, GVSU will be tasked with holding on to its No. 20 ranking by facing off against four of the other top teams in the country to kick off the season.
The Lakers play at No. 9 Florida Southern on Friday, at No. 5 Limestone (S.C.) on Monday, at Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) on March 3, at No. 7 Le Moyne (N.Y.) two days later, at No. 16 Indiana (Pa.) on March 9 and at Urbana (Ohio) on March 20 before hosting a single game in Allendale.
It will be up to the team’s mix of veterans and incoming players to retain a spot in the poll as competition continues to grow.
“We aren’t afraid of anyone," Groveston said. "We believe this is our year and we’re hungry for success."
The team will be led by four captains; senior attacker Sarah Lowe, senior midfielder Alyssa Neumen, senior midfielder Niki Jacobs and junior midfielder Jordan Luberto.
Offensively, Lowe led the team last year in points (60) and assists (43). Standout midfielder Ryan Skomial, now a sophomore, led the way in goals with 38 as a freshman.
Meanwhile, first-year goalie Sarah Zwilsky made a number of big plays in net.
Zwilsky returns for her sophomore season after finishing with 89 saves, a save percentage of .449 and a goals-against average of 7.27 between the pipes in 14 starts.
“Our defense is stronger than it ever has been,” Zwilsky said. “Our defense pushes our offense in practice, and our offense pushes them as well.”
Leadership is a key pillar of success for any team, but, with 15 new players, one might assume there is tension between experienced and incoming players.
For GVSU, however, summer camp and fall training sessions have helped all players come together, get used to the team environment and find their role on the roster.
“The seniors have grown together over the past three years but there’s a lot of new talent this year,” Lowe said. “We know that there will be competition for spots on the field, but the best players are the least selfish and the seniors understand what’s best for the team.”