Two Lakers selected to compete with US Women's National University Team
Dawning the red, white and blue of the United States is an honor most athletes can only dream about.
That dream became a reality for the first time for Grand Valley State women’s club hockey goaltender Lauren Allen and a second time for forward Kendra Myers.
The two Lakers were selected as members of the U.S. Women’s National University Team which will compete in Almaty, Kazakhstan from Saturday, Jan. 28 to Wednesday, Feb. 8 as part of the 2017 Winter World University Games.
“I’ve been playing hockey for nearly 16 years now and I’ve always dreamed of having a U.S.A. logo on my sweater,” Allen said.
Myers will be representing GVSU for the second time on the international stage. She was selected as part of the 2015 U.S. Women’s National University Team along with fellow Laker Corey Robison.
“It’s a big honor to go again,” she said. “We’re playing for our country and we’re going overseas with 22 of the best (American Collegiate Hockey Association) players.”
Having been in a similar situation before, Myers felt she had an advantage at the tryouts.
“It helped for sure,” she said. “I know coach Shelley Looney and coach Scott Hicks because I worked with them two years ago, so that was comforting.”
Myers, Allen and GVSU defenseman Brelin Tasker were called to training camp from Dec. 28-30 in both Chicago and St. Louis to try out for a place on the national team. All 28 women at the camp were from the ACHA.
“More than half of the girls were from the CCWHA, which is this league that Grand Valley plays in,” Tasker said. “So we knew most of the players, give or take a few from Minnesota or Massachusetts.”
The women participated in several training sessions as well as two exhibition games against the Lindenwood University women’s NCAA Division 1 team and the Chicago Mission U19 team.
After the few days at training camp, Allen, Myers and Tasker headed back home and awaited a phone call notifying them if they had made the final 22-woman roster.
Allen and Myers got the news they had been hoping for.
“In all honesty, I cried a lot when I figured out,” Allen said. “I was on my way home from Grand Valley and I had to pull over because I couldn’t even see. I was just so excited about it. I’m proud to represent all my friends and family in the sport I love.”
Tasker was chosen as an alternate and could still make the trip to Kazakhstan, but only if there is an injury or illness to another player.
“I wasn’t heartbroken, but it was still a little disappointing,” she said. “It’s still a cool opportunity to do the camp and be invited as an alternate. Most players didn’t even get an opportunity to try out.”
This was a training camp for a national team and people took notice. Many spectators showed up to watch practices and the exhibition games. Seeing all the people look at her as a top hockey talent blew Allen away.
“Walking through the hallway with all the kids, they were staring at us, and I know I’m kind of larger, but they were just staring at us and their parents were telling them to take a glimpse at the U.S.A. hockey players,” Allen said. “I was awestruck at the whole experience because I’ve never had anything like that happen.”
GVSU head coach Sean McKernan is proud to be able to say his players were chosen to represent their country.
“I’m proud of each and every one of the girls that were invited and I’m happy for Kendra and Lauren, two vital parts of our team,” he said.
Mckernan said the U.S. Women’s National University Team will flourish with the offensive skillset of Myers and the puck-stopping ability of Allen in net.
“On any given day, Lauren can be the top goalie in the nation and Kendra can be one of the most dominant players in the nation, offensively and defensively,” McKernan said.
McKernan and the GVSU team will miss Allen and Myers for an important weekend series against the University of Michigan while the U.S. Women’s National University Team is in Kazakhstan. The Lakers will have to rely on depth to get them through two tough games without two of their top players.
“We have a deep enough roster,” McKernan said. “Obviously those players will be missed for that weekend series, but we have other players that are more than willing to step up and we’re going to need them to step up.”
Allen and Myers feel a bit torn leaving their teammates while the GVSU season is still in progress, but they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent the United States.
“That’s always the tough part,” Myers said. “We’re going to have to go back after break and break the news, though I’m sure most of them already know. Missing a few games for Grand Valley is going to be hard, but I think our team is strong enough that we can do it without Lauren and I.”
The U.S. will face Russia and Japan in the first round of the tournament on Sunday, Jan. 29 and Tuesday, Jan. 31, respectively. Myers expects each game to be a test, but looks forward to the opener against Russia.
“From what I experienced last time, I think Russia is a very strong team and I think that will be our toughest game,” she said. “We have overall great talent and I think we’re going to do really well in Kazakhstan.”