GVSU men's lacrosse gears up for season with batch of young players
The Grand Valley State men’s club lacrosse team has been one of the most successful programs in the school’s recent history. Last year, GVSU lost in the final four of the MCLA against Saint Thomas University, losing 13 seniors to graduation in the offseason.
So what now?
“We’re very talented, but we’re very young,” said GVSU head coach Tim Murray. “But as long as you have talent, you can be successful, and we have the talent.”
Murray is excited about this season because things have dramatically changed, both within the team and with the conference. GVSU will be competing in a conference that includes six out of the top seven teams in the country, according to the preseason national rankings. The inexperience could be seen as a handicap, but Murray is excited about it.
“We’re playing the best, day in and day out,” Murray said. “It’s a gauntlet, but our inexperience may be an advantage because our kids will just go out and play.”
It’s hard to fear something you're unaware of, and Murray is banking on the innocent mindset of his team to play without fearing their opponents. His team may be young, but Murray knows the potential of his players, including freshman Blake Rankin, a natural-born athlete, according to his coach.
The young Laker recorded three goals along with three assists in his first game wearing the blue and white uniform. Rankin may become a focal point of the system, and Murray is not afraid to give responsibilities to his freshmen.
"In the past we had a lot of upperclassmen, whereas this year we rely more on underclassmen,” Murray said. “That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different. It’s encouraging—we’re not anywhere near close to (playing) our best lacrosse right now.”
Senior Cade Butch acknowledged the immediate contribution his younger teammates made right from the start, but he knows there is a long way to go and they may need some guidance along the way.
“We have five seniors spread out all over the field,” Butch said. “So, we can provide leadership at every position we’re at.”
Beyond leadership, the Lakers need to learn how to work together. They all logged in a lot of miles before the start of every practice to get up to speed on their conditioning level, but team chemistry takes longer to build than five or six minutes.
However, the conditioning is what got GVSU their first win of the season against Siena Heights. Down by 2 early in the first quarter, GVSU slowly woke up and started to pick up the pace in the second half. They never looked back, winning 16-10 on Saturday, Feb. 3.
A win is always a great feeling, but Butch knows this is only the beginning and the Lakers have some work to do in order to compete in their conference.
“We need to do a better job at clearing the ball," Butch said. "We gave them (Sienna Heights) a couple goals early on by not clearing the ball efficiently."
As Murray said, GVSU is far from playing its best lacrosse, and May is a long ways ahead, but paying attention to detail and learning how to play with one another is what will ultimately make the difference for the club.
GVSU will compete against Florida Gulf Coast in a month, giving them plenty of time to get acquainted and forge their own identity on their quest for the ultimate trophy.