2017 GVSU lacrosse squad looking to build off last year's early postseason exit

The Lakers' season begins Feb. 16 at Florida Southern

By Brady McAtamney | 2/15/17 10:58pm

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Meghan Datema (18) takes a face-off at mid-field. The Lakers take the victory over Tiffin University Friday, April 1, 2016.
by Kevin Sielaff and Kevin Sielaff / The Lanthorn

Picture a flower pot. Inside lies fine soil and even deeper rests one small seed. With enough time and care, that seed will bloom into a ripe, green stem. From the stem blooms a flower.

The stem is Grand Valley State’s women’s lacrosse team and the inaugural flower on the branch was its 2016 season where the team made its first ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Lakers lost in the first round to No. 4 Dowling College by a single goal.

“I don’t think it was a disappointment, it was a taste. Now we’re really, really hungry for the next step,” said GVSU coach Alicia Groveston. “It’s a really short season when you’re one-and-done and we don’t want to be that team anymore. We want to be the team that goes all the way.”

This year, the Lakers are ready to turn wins into another tournament appearance, and turn that appearance into a national championship. That is how the Lakers expect their “plant” to bloom.

The No. 8 ranked GVSU squad carries an immense amount of talent over from last year’s team into the new season despite losing a few valuable members to graduation.

Senior goalkeeper Sarah Zwilsky is ready to make her presence felt between the pipes after suffering an ACL tear late last season, forcing her to miss the end of the regular season and postseason play.

Midfield play will be a heavy focus for the team, as many of its leaders and top talents are most comfortable at the position. This gives Groveston an abundance of different lineups to tinker with as she takes advantage of the versatility her players possess.

“What I told everybody is that what’s going to get them on the plane and on the bus is versatility,” Groveston said. “If you can play anywhere on the field, you’re kind of invaluable. I can plug you where I need you. It’s been important.”

The midfield attack figures to be headed by a trio of seniors in Ryan Skomial, Kira Dosenberry and Kelly Leibovitz. They will be joined by junior Meghan Datema and freshman Abbi O’Neal.

Watch for junior attackers Ashley Bailey and Chelsey Bishop to play a pivotal role in netting goals.

Of course, no team can improve on new players alone. The Lakers expect to take a stronger mindset in their matchups this season and will look to win the close games that might have gone another way last year.

“I think playing a full 60 minutes this year will be the key and not taking those (conference) games so lightly and using them to push ourselves to become better, especially with the early games too, using those to prepare for the later games,” said senior Erika Neumen. “I think having our mentality and the will that we have and that each person on this team thinks that we will be the next national champions will push us towards becoming the national champions.”

Additionally, Skomial believes that more wins are on the horizon as long as the team can do one specific thing better than they did last year.

“I think generally taking care of the ball is something we want to do better, I think there were a lot of times where we got a little ahead of ourselves or got a little frantic,” Skomial said. “Being smarter with the ball is probably our biggest thing. We have the talent, we have the speed, we have the athleticism, and it’ll just come down to if we can collaborate and come together as one and make sure we take care of the ball.”

The improvement will have to come quickly, as the Lakers will begin their season with a gauntlet—as has become the norm for GVSU in recent seasons.

Thursday, Feb. 16 will see the Lakers take on the No. 1 ranked, defending national champion Florida Southern Moccasins in Lakeland, Florida with a quick turnaround before their matchup with the No. 2 ranked Adelphi Panthers Feb. 18 also in Lakeland.

Last season, the Lakers defeated the Moccasins in the season opener, making them one of two teams to beat the eventual champions before dropping their matchup to Adelphi. This time around, they will not settle for a 1-1 trip.

“I think we were so excited to win that first game we were content to come home 1-1 and that’s not the mindset this year,” Groveston said. “We want to earn those victories and come home 2-0 and set ourselves up for success. When you have victories you have confidence, and confidence in your abilities, confidence in your team, confidence in your coaches, confidence overall, and confidence goes a long way.”

GVSU will have time off following the Florida trip before they head to Sparks, Maryland during spring break to face three more ranked teams: No. 12 Bentley Falcons March 6, No. 3 Le Moyne Dolphins Thursday, March 9, and No. 20 Pace Setters Sunday, March 12.

The Lakers also have dates with the No. 5 Lindenwood Lions in Allendale Thursday, March 23, and the No. 6 Rollins Tars Sunday, March 26 in Sparks, Maryland.

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