SVSU's 'fastest game on two feet'
February 6, 2006 —
All cliches aside, they only have each other.
There are no former players providing guidance, no coaching staff to motivate them when they get down. Late at night, they run the track in the Ryder Center after practice, not because they have to, but because they need to; it will make them better. Each player holds the other accountable and this is how it has been for over a year. No games. No scrimmages. Just practice. And despite the old saying, they know they will be anything but perfect. But what else can you expect from a team composed mostly of players who had never picked up a stick before last year? What types of expectations can you have for a team that learned to play the game by watching video tapes of other teams?
Still, somehow, they exude a confidence in knowing they can only get better and have much higher expectations than anyone could expect. They are pioneers of SVSU's version of the fastest game on two feet. This is SVSU women's lacrosse.
The first ever women's club lacrosse season is just over a month away. The team of 17 women has been practicing three nights a week for the last year in preparation for their March 19 tournament at Ball State.
But despite the preparation, nerves are running high. The Ball State tournament will be the first time many of these women have ever played lacrosse competitively and they will be doing it against the likes of Iowa, Western Michigan and other Division I schools.
Despite the challenges, they have no regrets. Go down the line and many will list similar reasons for playing. They miss competing or being with teammates, or were bored and wanted something new and exciting to do. Still, they all share the same goal: get better.
"I just hope that we will make progress on our team," says Paula Fluegee, 21, of Cass City. "If we do, then a lot of people will come out next year."
Part of that progress has already been made. They've learned the rules and basic fundamentals required to play the game, which can be a daunting task considering only three women have previous lacrosse experience. But many of the members believe that not knowing is what will help them bond and bring the players on the team closer together.
"There's a couple of girls on the team that have played and they make it look so easy," says Corinn Marciniak, 19, of West Branch. "But since everyone's learning together, it's a lot more fun and might make our team come closer."
Kelly Stewart echoes those comments. The 20-year-old Perry native had also never played lacrosse before joining the team last year.
"If I was the only girl who hadn't played yet, it'd be a little bit harder," she says, "But for the majority of the team, it's new and fun to just feel it out with everybody else."
Even the president of the club, Lauren Wall, has no previous experience. Since the team is an official club rather than a varsity team, they require a president. When fellow teammate Ashley Verner had to step down because of other responsibilities, Wall was voted president. She does a great deal of work away from the game, like organizing practices and attending meetings. All the while, the 22-year-old Swartz Creek graduate still has to learn the game herself. Fortunately for Wall (and her fellow teammates), her teammate, roommate and fellow Swartz Creek graduate Kara Chiano, is one of the three women with previous lacrosse experience.
"It's not really as hard as people would think because we all started out the same way they are," says the 20-year-old Chiano, who has several years of game experience from playing lacrosse for her high school. "Most of them are athletic and have played sports before so it's coming easy to them. Everyone is coming along real well since we started."
Starting from scratch
"This is my baby," says Campus Recreation Coordinator KJ Foster.
Foster is one of several people who have put significant time and energy into forming a women's lacrosse team. It has taken the combined efforts of many individuals to get to this point. There have been out-of-state conferences, proposals and countless telephone calls. They've recruited, held meetings, and raised money. And because of this, Foster has high expectations for the group.
"This club sport is going to push the envelope," he says. "I am putting everything I have into making sure lacrosse is successful."
One way he has done that is by contacting established programs to find out how their teams operate. Foster called coaches from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Oregon for help. They were supplied with game tapes and practice schedules to help the players know where they need to be and what they need to do.
Meanwhile, the women continue to practice and recruit.
"They're doing it by going and recruiting the average student," Foster says, "and making them a player."
One element that Foster hopes will make women's lacrosse compelling is the competition. Unlike varsity sports where teams only play within their own division, SVSU women's lacrosse will have the opportunity to play bigger schools such as Central Michigan, Michigan, and Ohio State.
"There is a different level between Division I and Division II," Foster says. "But in club sports, those levels are a little closer together."
Also closer together is the talent level on the team today versus what it was when the team started practicing a year ago.
"They didn't understand how to scoop up the ball," Foster says, "now they're throwing it sixty miles an hour."
The women are also excited about what SVSU women's lacrosse could mean in regards to high school girls selecting a college. Lacrosse is very popular in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing areas, and an SVSU team could draw students from those schools when they may not have been interested before.
In the meantime, the addition of the team has already affected the future college plans of one student.
Jessica Ostroski, 19, has considered transferring to another school. But now that she is involved with the lacrosse team, the Standish-Sterling native is beginning to change her tune.
"Personally, I am thinking about transferring to Central Michigan next year because I want to go into physical therapy and they don't offer it here," she says. "But because I'm playing here, I have this urge now where I want to stay and play next year. I want to stay just to play."