GVSU men's lacrosse club reloaded for 2016
Lakers eye return to national tournament
GVL/Kevin Sielaff #10 Jesse Gilbert
After an early exit in the 2015 Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national tournament, the Grand Valley State men’s lacrosse club is primed for a big year. With only four seniors leaving from last year’s team, a conference championship and a return to the national tournament is expected.
Since head coach Tim Murray arrived at GVSU six years ago, the team has not lost in the conference tournament, winning five straight championships. After a shaky start last season with a 2-3-1 record, the Lakers still managed to win the conference tournament, besting Dayton, the eventual MCLA national championship winner, in the title game.
“Last year taught our team that you can’t win on talent alone in the MCLA,” said junior Alec Bain. “Some games we lost last year we knew we were the better team but we just weren’t executing the way we should have.”
Some of those losses came against St. John’s and Davenport, two teams the Lakers will get another crack at in the 2016 season. The biggest loss, coming against Western Washington in the first round of the MCLA national tournament, is only extra motivation for this season.
“The loss in the first round last year was a much-needed wake up call for the returning players,” said senior co-captain Seth Kuehnl. “It was heartbreaking at the time, but has brought more focus to this season."
While the loss, as Kuehnl put it, gives the returners a wake-up call, it also gives those same returners a reason for extra tenacity heading into the new season.
"Last year ended with the overtime loss at nationals has given us a chip on our shoulder and we’re just excited to get back out there and competing again,” Bain said.
The Lakers were a young team last year, and the experience that the young players received will only benefit the team this season. Two returners in particular, attack Erick Sundstrom and defenseman Peter Treppa, are set for big seasons. Sundstrom, a junior, led the team with 45 goals last season, and Treppa led the team with 44 groundballs.
Treppa made the preseason players-to-watch list in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association conference. Along with Treppa, GVSU was ranked second in the conference in the preseason rankings, only behind Dayton.
Although the team was filled with youth last season, it did lose a few seniors that were top contributors in the 2015 campaign. Three seniors had over 25 points, including Zack Grusell who had 59, leaving some definite gaps to fill, but GVSU is confident it will live up to expectations.
“Our team has adjusted very well so far with returners filling roles and freshmen stepping up,” Kuehnl said.
“This year our team has bought into the systems the coaches are implementing,” Bain said. “If we stick with the game plan, we can accomplish some big things.”
This team is looking to win a national championship just as the 2014 squad did. With expectations as high as they are, staying focused is vital for this team to succeed.
“It’s a long season and we’re just going to take it one game at a time and not look ahead to anything,” Bain said. “That’s what hurt us last year.”
The Lakers will open the season at Adrian College on Feb. 20.