Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist — Pete.Barrows12@gmail.com

Archive for August 2013

Reload, not rebuild

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GVSU soccer searches for new leaders

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

No Division II women’s soccer program, or perhaps any program, has experienced more quantifiable success over the last four seasons than the program housed at Grand Valley State University. From 2009 through 2012, GVSU netted an undefeated season, back-to-back national championships and a runner-up finish, four straight NCAA Final Four appearances, and broken records and accolades that rained in with every goal, scored or disallowed, by the Lakers.

Those four years are up, but expectations for the eight-year straight defending GLIAC champion and conference power Lakers, ranked No. 2 in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll, haven’t shrunk a yard.

“The message needs to be consistent,” GVSU head coach Dave Dilanni said. “The expectations have to be high and unwavering and that goes through your staff, through your players and trickles down from seniors all the way down to freshmen. When you have a competitive environment, not only do we support one another, we challenge and push one another to being better, to being great.”

In 2012, forwards Ashley Botts and Kayla Addison accounted for a combined 30 goals, 10 assists and 70 points. Midfielder Alyssa Mira led the Lakers with nine helpers, and keeper Chelsea Parise maintained a .881 save percentage to go with 15 shutouts. Their names are prominent in GVSU record books and all four have since graduated from the program.

“I don’t think you’re going to replace players like that—they have their own originality and what they brought to the program, they set their own standards,” Dilanni said. “We’ve been successful the last 10 years because we’ve had lots of players like that come in and go through, players that have been successful both as leaders and on the field. Having a young team, I know there’s going to be a hiccup or two, but I also know we have some leaders that are going to help us right the ship, stay consistent and send the right message.”

What the Lakers might lack in known star power, they anticipate compensating with synchronization. Like a constellation, it’s the connections between stars that help to map out the bigger picture.

“We lost a great senior class this past year, but honestly our team is coming together better than I think I’ve ever seen it,” senior Sam Decker said. “The chemistry is great this year—everybody gets along and being able to have chemistry off the field is just as important as having it on the field.”

With five starters, four from a defense that tallied 18 shutouts in 2012, and 14 letter winners returning, the Lakers plan to pick up right where they left off, competing for regional and national tournament titles, filling the empty crease left by Parise with senior and first-year starter Abbey
Miller and infusing young, offensive talent like freshman Erika Bradfield with a ‘money ball’ approach to fill the offensive void left by Botts, Addison and Mira. Instead of two 15 goal scorers,
Dilanni hopes to produce multiple eight to nine goal scorers.

“We’re going to replace those kinds of players not maybe by individuals, by group of players,” Dilanni said. “It’s not that we don’t have talent in our program to replace those kinds of players. It’s ‘Are those players ready? Are they able to handle to an expanded role, a little more responsibility?’ We’re still really young and it’s still very early to know who it’s going to be.”

The season opens Sept. 6 at home against No. 5 NSCAA ranked Atlantic State. The Lakers’ early schedule doesn’t get any easier from there with three other top 15 opponents and a tournament to be played in Savannah, GA, with the No. 1, 2, 5 and 6 ranked teams scheduled to attend, penciled in for a 10-day span.

“That was by design,” Dilanni said. “We’ve had this motto with scheduling for a long time – ‘we’re not going to know how good we are unless we play the best teams we can’. And if we lose those games, we better find out why we’ve lost them and we’re going to improve and move on. There’s no better time to do that than the beginning of the year.”

With only one more Friday scrimmage separating GVSU from the onset of another season, the obstacles facing the 2013 squad are known. That doesn’t mean they will be heeded or limiting.
“I think there are a lot of people that don’t think we’re going to be as good this year because we lost so many players and that’s been really big motivation for us to outdo everyone’s expectations,” said senior defender and returning all-GLIAC performer Kayla Kimble. “We’re just going to work for each other and everyone seems to want to play for each other instead of individually.”

Eleven years into his tenure, Dilanni, who is first among active Division II coaches with a .886 winning percentage, has helped construct something undeniably great, something that has survived the test of time and beaconed its own success. As the program moves into the 2013 season and a new era, it’s worth noting that there’s always room to expand the project; day by day, goal by goal, brick by brick.

“The goal for us, with this group, is to focus on the journey—the day-to-day aspects of our season,” Dilanni said. “Preparing properly, not only physically, but mentally. To come to practice and be able to give your best effort. To improve for yourself, but also for your teammates. I think if you can do those kinds of things and focus on the journey, then the end result is often a success.”

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Reload, not rebuild, ”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

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August 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Golf plans to improve through experience

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

Courtesy / Doug Witte  Senior Chris CunninghamIn golf, the lowest score— not the lowest age—wins.

Last season, between the 18 combined student athletes comprising the Grand Valley State University men and women golf teams, seven were true or redshirt freshman and four more were underclassmen. Both squads still managed to capture GLIAC championships despite their collective youth, yet it’s no secret that a little seasoning can go a long way.

“With Kelly (Hartigan) and Gabrielle (Shipley) both being underclassmen last year, as good of a year as they had, I’m looking forward to them coming back,” said GVSU head women’s coach Rebecca Mailloux. “They’re both really hard workers, they’ve had pretty good summers — I’m looking forward to see what they can do.”

Hartigan, now a junior who last spring became the sixth Laker to be named GLIAC Women’s Golfer of the year, spent 10 days of her summer in Scotland perfecting her stroke. Hartigan went on the trip with her coach, teammate Cassady Kauble, the team’s lone senior, two graduates from last year’s program, six other Division II women and 12 Division II men, The touring Lakers competed against the Scotland club team across a challenging barrage of venues, including the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“It was an amazing experience,” Mailloux said. “To take that (playing at St. Andrews) off the bucket list at their young age is something to be proud of.”

Shipley, now a sophomore who last year joined Hartigan as a member of the All-GLIAC first team, didn’t make it across the pond, but did spend time attending a leadership seminar hosted by the GVSU athletic program, maturing as both a golfer and a teammate.

“Gabrielle’s got her freshman year behind her, she’s more experienced, she’s gained a tremendous amount of yardage and I think she’s going to be a more mature golfer,” Mailloux said. “She’s really been working her tail off this semester.”

With three new freshman set to join the ranks this fall, providing the women’s side with a fully stocked eight-golfer roster and plenty of depth, the growth is thought of as a cycle and not a destination.

“It kind of just works,” Mailloux said. “We don’t necessarily put anything in place that says ‘here’s what you’re going to do,’ but we do have a big sister-little sister relationship that we establish – one underclassman paired with an upperclassman. We kind of use that as our training grounds for the underclassmen, especially the freshmen, to kind of learn the ropes and what’s expected.”

On the men’s side, returning all-GLIAC first team performers seniors Chris Cunnigham, Joel Siegel and junior Jack Rider lead the charge. The trio hold three of the GLIAC’s top five stroke averages, which gives confidence to the Lakers to be contenders in virtually every tournament they enter.

“Last year between myself, Jack and Joel we had a pretty solid top three pretty consistently throughout the year,” Cunnigham, an All-American Honorable Mention last season, said. “Last year we had a couple freshmen who were in and out of the lineup so there were quite a couple of rounds where we were looking for that fourth scorer. Those freshmen are now a year older, they’ve had a chance to get a little better, so hopefully that starts to become a little more consistent where we can have four of us perform at a high level.”

Neither the men or women have had much formal team interaction yet this year, but with invitational opportunities on the horizon, there’s no time to stand unchanging like manicured blades on a well-groomed green. With sights set high, the time for GVSU golf to grow is now.

“The goal every year is always to win a GLIAC championship, to be competitive at the regional level and advance to the national championship, but I focus more on the day-to-day things and taking things one process at a time,” Mailloux said. “I’m always looking to develop team chemistry and improve everyday that we go out there. Keep it simple that way.”

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Golf plans to improve through experience”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

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August 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm

GVSU majorette twists perception of ‘national champion’

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Pete Barrows

GVL Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University varsity athletic programs have won a collective 15 national championship titles since the university’s inception.

Mariah Muscaro, GVSU’s baton yielding majorette and Laker marching band feature twirler, took home 10 titles in a single summer.

Traveling nearly every weekend since the 2013 winter semester concluded, Muscaro, who often practices upwards of six hours a day during the summer and has committed 10 to 12 routines to memory, has little familiarity with downtime—or, lately, losing.

Competing in events as far west as Las Vegas, as far east as Maryland and as far south as Florida, Muscaro has consistently placed tops in the nation among BIG 10, PAC 12, ACC and SEC college twirler peers, leaving her mark and expanding GVSU’s growing legacy everywhere she travels. It’s an opportunity to act as an ambassador that she does not take lightly for herself, her school or her sport, competing exclusively in herGVSU garb and putting a positive spin on relatively unknown GVSU and baton twirling worlds.

“I think it’s really fun to get to, as I call, it ‘spread the good news of Grand Valley,’ tell people what a little hidden gem we have and all of the really cool things about Grand Valley,” Muscaro said. “I get to show that by my twirling, so I twirl and wear my Grand Valley uniform and it makes it really fun. We’re going to put it (Grand Valley) on the map in the baton world.”

It hasn’t always been easy—Muscaro didn’t take home her first Miss Majorette of Michigan title until she was in the sixth grade and spends what little free time she has volunteering at nursing homes and shadowing doctors in hopes of one day becoming a physician, but her dedication to her craft has never floundered. A twirler from the age of five, Muscaro wasted little time in pursuing lofty aspirations.

“It’s something that I did in college and high school, introduced it to her and she picked it up at age five,” said Rhonda Muscaro, Moriah’s mother and coach until fifth grade. “Her first contest was in August the summer before she went to kindergarten, and she’s always worked very hard at it. Now through nothing more than hard work, she’s reached the top of the sport.”

Muscaro returns to Allendale from what she notes as her “most successful summer” to date with a treasure trove of accolades including NBTA World Open Strut two-baton and three-baton championships, Miss TU World Majorette, TU International Solo Champion, WTA National Miss College Majorette, Senior Women’s Grand National Solo, Collegiate Halftime Women’s Champion, Congressional Cup All-Around Champion and College Miss Majorette of Michigan and the Great Lakes honors, among other distinctions, designating her twirling prowess.
Muscaro isn’t quite finished yet, either.

A runner-up to win the college Miss Majorette of America two years straight, Muscaro is decidedly inclined to end her second place streak in the event. When Muscaro isn’t performing at GVSU football and basketball games, marching with the band, keeping her skills sharp at the Recreation Center, or applying to medical schools, she works to qualify next year to compete as a member of the American team in world competition.

“I would just like to go out on a high note,” Muscaro said. “I’m going to be applying to med school next summer, so I really only have one more summer and two years left of twirling. I just want to go out knowing that I gave it my all.”

GVSU and Muscaro, both accomplished in their own right and spinning in upward trajectories, have yet to experience championships on a world stage. If both have their way, that lack will be shortly remedied—no stage left too daunting to conquer.

“Moriah’s great and she just came out of nowhere, really, over the past three years because she has the desire,” said baton coach Joe Rowe, who has worked with Muscaro for several years now. “She really decided that she wanted to do it and has great fortitude and perseverance—she knows exactly what she wants. She did a routine five times at Notre Dame University and only one time did she have a drop. She just turned in flawless performances and that’s what makes her great.”

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “GVSU majorette twists perception of ‘national champion’”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

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August 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm