GVSU star looks to lead Lakers to NCAA tournament
Junior Neumen set GVSU record with 75 goals last season
GVL/Kevin Sielaff Erika Neuman
The lone word sums up Grand Valley State star lacrosse player Erika Neumen as well as any could.
“I made mistakes on plays last year and learned from them. I’d try to get better. My word was resilient. I do this with academics too – with getting grades. If I’d do poorly on a test, I’d make sure I do better next time,” Neumen said.
Before transferring to GVSU after her freshman year, Neumen, now a junior, began her collegiate career at Hofstra University in New York. There, she struggled with balancing lacrosse and schoolwork. She quickly learned she was not where she needed to be.
A native of Rockford, Michigan, Neumen was uncomfortable with the distance between herself and her family, and her affinity for GVSU head coach Alicia Groveston, the campus and the already-present team drew her to Allendale.
“I saw my family maybe three times freshman year, and now I see them all the time," Neumen said. "I get to watch my three younger sisters grow as people and as athletes. It’s great."
Since arriving in Allendale, Neumen’s game has evolved. Though natural talent abounds, nothing keeps Neumen from being hard on herself and pushing to improve. When she makes a mistake on the field or the classroom, she corrects it and promises herself she won't make the same mistake twice.
The self-disciplined pushes her to become better and better, on the turf and in the classroom, every day.
During her sophomore year, Neumen netted a GVSU-record 75 goals and dished out 16 assists in only 19 games, good for nearly four goals per game. So far this season, she has three goals through two games.
“(Lacrosse) is a big part of my family. My dad played in high school in Long Island (New York) and he introduced the sport to us when my sister was in seventh grade," she said. "We loved the atmosphere, how it was a mix of all the other sports we played, and it was just a huge part of our family. We all bonded over the sport."
Erika’s sister, Alyssa Neumen, played at GVSU from 2012-15, as the sisters' paths crossed as Lakers in Alyssa's final season. The older Neumen left big shoes to fill, and little sis has all but overflown them.
For Groveston, it's a privilege to watch her star perform.
“Erika brings an innate lacrosse IQ," Groveston said. "She pushes herself incredibly hard and in turn helps to push her teammates. She isn’t afraid to put the team on her back and do the things to get us the victory. When she is on, she is something to watch and very few can stop her.”
Neumen was named an IWLCA Third Team All-American following her performance last season, but Groveston believes her star midfielder has room yet to grow.
“I know we haven’t seen her best yet. She is just getting started. She is a big-time player, who shows up when her team needs her," Groveston said. "Erika realizes what the team needs and does it. I cannot wait to see exactly what that means. I expect her to be one of the premier players in Division II.”
This would be a welcome sight for a team that has yet to appear in the NCAA tournament despite illustrious seasons in the past.
“Because she started at a Division I school, she knows how a lot of these top-tier teams play. She comes with a lot of knowledge and drive and she’s huge on offense and defense," said junior Ryan Skomial, who has played with Neumen since middle school. "She’s going to be a massive part of our offense and guiding us moving forward."
Neumen’s goal is to inspire her team into postseason play, which the Lakers feel is attainable after knocking off No. 5 Florida Southern on Feb. 18. The Lakers are 1-1 on the season, and, to reach the proverbial Promised Land, the standout from Rockford figures to be the main focus of that objective.