Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist —

Archive for April 2014

GVSU falls 2-0 in spring exhibition at MSU

leave a comment »


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

A Miley Cyrus fueled playlist blared on the bus ride home from East Lansing after a final game of the spring season – a season where last year’s NCAA Division II national title counts little – in which the Grand Valley State University soccer team was defeated 2-0 by Michigan State University.

MSU broke a scoreless tie minutes after returning to the pitch for the second half, and broke the game open with a second goal less than 10 minutes later. Although at the end of 90 minutes, a daunting spring schedule and a historically successful season in the fall that was crowned with a championship, GVSU found plenty of victories off of the scoreboard.

“One of the biggest challenges this spring has been playing for 90 minutes without taking mental breaks, knowing the game plan and then executing it,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “But aside from the two goals we allowed – which were mental mistakes – I thought we controlled the majority of possession against a Big Ten team, got strong efforts from our center mids and backs in terms of quality of play, saw our forwards be active both on offense and defense, and between the boxes, we were the better team.

“Unfortunately, that’s not what wins you games, and you never like to lose, but winning games is not our focus in the spring season. We’re disappointed with how we gave up those goals, but the score was not indicative of what we got out of the game.”

After a 2013 season of nary allowing a goal, the Lakers have uncharacteristically had a few scoring lapses this spring; two on Saturday.

In both cases, GVSU turned the ball over in the midfield, and allowed MSU forwards to run on and get the ball behind the defense. In both cases, GVSU was unable to get either goal back.

“I thought that our midfield, in general, played better than MSU’s, and that our girls played to the whistle for a good 88 minutes – that’s all positive,” Dilanni said. “I’m really pleased that our best game and our best quality of play as a team came in the last game of the spring against our best opponent.

“We gave up more goals than we’re accustomed to giving up, didn’t score at a clip that we normally score at and need to continue to improve, but we got better throughout the spring season, ended on our highest note and for that, I’m proud of kids.

“What we need to do now is understand that it is our job as individuals and as a team to create a foundation for next season. A solid foundation based on work-rate, team chemistry and knowing our roles so that we can take on seven or eight more players next fall with a tone already set.”

Unimpeded by the loss, several student-athletes on the team took a well-deserved reprieve after the game to enjoy a Miley Cyrus concert.

Some of the girls in attendance held starting roles on last year’s team, while some are being asked to step into new roles with a new season on the horizon. But for GVSU – as it was for Hannah Montana – change is inevitable, and not necessarily less fruitful.

Cyrus has evolved from a family-friendly, tweenage icon with Disney ears to a tabloid regular who helped put GVSU’s now restrained pendulum on the map, players – like All-Americans Kayla Kimble, Tayler Ward and Abbey Miller – come and go, but not without leaving an indelible impact on the esteemed GVSU women’s soccer program first, and where as Dilanni and his players acknowledge that with a new season comes a new team, neither party anticipate a divergence from past success – even if that success looks a little different than it did in the past.

“It’s been a very long, very successful year, yet we’re still asking ourselves how we can still improve,” senior goalkeeper, and likely replacement for Miller, Andrea Strauss said. “Our goal this spring was to improve, to make progress, to build on our future and to be ready for August – we’ve done that.

“Now we have to ask how much can we improve on the base? What do we have to work with now, and what are we adding in the fall? What do we need to do so that we can reach our peak at the right time?

“We’ve all learned a great deal for past players and experiences, myself included, for instance how to be a leader, how to stay humble, be there for your teammates and perpetuate what we learn, but we need to continue to improve everyday, to better ourselves everyday, to stay motivated to recreate experiences like we had last year, and to get the freshmen to buy into everything we tried to do this spring so that they can have those kinds of experiences too.”

Heading into the summer – a segment of the offseason where personal growth is emphasized – GVSU will have officially closed the book on the 2013 season that was and focus instead on turning the page to the 2014 season that will be.

With an understanding that 2013, as tremendous a season as it was, does not solely define Laker soccer, and that when making a transition to a new look within the same entity, it’s alright to hope for the best of both worlds.

“I think we played hard as a team, did a lot of the same things that helped us to be successful in past years, and in a lot of ways dominated the game, but we are still learning what this team is going to be all about,” redshirt sophomore forward Olivia Emery said. “It’s a cool process building a team – from the spring season where we’re still transitioning from the previous year, to the preseason, where we add new girls and get to work meshing.

“Seeing what everyone brings to the table on the field and in personality, what everyone’s weaknesses and strengths are, and then working to make those collective weaknesses strengths. To see it all and put it together; one new team.”

To read the original post “GVSU falls 2-0 in spring exhibition at MSU”, click here at the Lanthorn online.


Written by peterdbarrows

April 15, 2014 at 2:09 am

For the love of the game…until further notice

leave a comment »

GVSU AD: ‘College sports are an extracurricular activity’

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor12718_featureoA rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but what about a sweat-drenched student-athlete?

Across NCAA Division I and Division II collegiate athletics, more than $2 billion in scholarship funds are distributed to more than 126,000 student-athletes, but in an industry where there are more than 420,000 student-athlete participants and more than $11 billion in revenue generated — despite the fact that only about the top 10 percent of athletic programs turn a profit — the equity of the student-athlete to school relationship might be questioned.

For years, it has been, but on April 25, football players at Northwestern University will put it to a vote. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officially recognized and approved the Northwestern players as employees, and pending the vote by the team, might have opened the door for the first authorized union in the landscape of college sports.

While other recently arranged legal filings, for instance the O’Bannon class action suit, a suit that attacks the NCAA’s use of student-athlete’s likeness in merchandising, and the Kessler antitrust lawsuit, a suit raised against the five power conferences — the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 — that would allow student-athletes to be paid beyond their athletic scholarships, if approved, could have an immediate and wide ranging effect on the scope of Division I college athletics, the Northwestern vote would pertain only to Northwestern…at least for now.

The question remains, though, if one domino is tipped, how many others will tumble? How far will the proverbial Rue Goldberg machine reach? What exactly is a student-athlete – are they participants in extra-curricular activities or service providers for the institutions that they represent? And how should they be classified?

“I would personally disagree with the National Labor Relations Board, and I would say student-athletes are not employees,” Grand Valley State University Director of Athletics Tim Selgo said. “I have a hard time with what little I know about unions and unionization of how you could declare student-athletes as employees, but the question at the heart of all of this remains are they employees or not?

“From my viewpoint, college sports are an extra-curricular activity. It’s a voluntary activity, distinct from employment. Any student-athlete could choose not to participate if he or she didn’t want to do it, and if you want to be successful at it, you must be dedicated and you must be committed, because it is highly competitive.”

It has also been argued that as much revenue and attention a high-profile student-athlete can bring to an institution, that a signed scholarship, an agreement to play for a team and a program, is every bit as binding as a monetary contract.

That college sports are a business, even if we would choose to perceive them as the last frontier of pure, unadulterated amateur sport. That no matter how much money an institution stands to make from merchandising, player branding or advertising, that the student-athletes that sign on know the rules of the game just as well as the schools do and agreed to play by them when they enlisted their services.

“Anytime there is a unionization, it’s usually because there are a few at the top getting wealthy on the backs of others, and I’m sure that’s what those student-athletes are looking at,” Selgo said. “They’re watching people in college athletics getting wealthy, while they’re doing all the work, and so it’s understandable that we’re at this point.

“At the same time, I think that the concern Mark Emmert (NCAA CEO) is expressing – that our current model of collegiate athletics, and keep in mind, we’re the only nation in the world that has this model that has worked extremely well, has a high-degree of interest in our society and has benefited a lot of men and women, is going to be impacted in a negative way – has always been a legitimate concern.

“Regardless of the complaints one would have with this model – and everything in sports is up for debate — a governing body like theNCAA – whether you call it the NCAA or something else – is still needed, and it has served both the schools and the association, and this country very well.”

Under the current construct, Division II programs like GVSU are allotted 36 scholarship equivalencies for football, generally divided amongst the team in quarter and half-ride denominations and funded both directly by the institution, and through ticket sales, sponsorships and fundraising generated directly by the athletic program.

Other GVSU teams, as well as other Division II athletic programs, are funded similarly, although in most cases on a lower scale; there are not many Division II programs that generate more funds than GVSU football.

And under the current construct, even if a union deal is reached, Division II athletic programs are not likely to be heavily affected…for now. That could change if the student-athlete label of “employee” sticks around to stay.

“It’s something I figured would eventually happen because of how much players invest into what they do everyday, but it’s been interesting to watch it develop,” GVSU football and baseball standout Jamie Potts said. “Eventually, there has to be something done – a lot of these big-time players are making so much money for their schools that not doing anything is going to become problematic – and I think in some capacity, this movement is going to gain a lot of steam.

“I think sports can teach you a lot, especially in college, and can help you grow as a person, but I also think that there are athletes making their schools more well-known and bringing attention to their schools that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It’s a symbiotic relationship in a lot of ways, but with everything athletes do, I tend to lean more towards the players side of the perspective.

“Playing sports, all the trips and all the workouts and all of the practices, it all consumes a lot of your time – it’s like a job, honestly – but I do see where both sides are coming from.”

In labor law, whether an employer is actually making money isn’t particularly relevant, either; the only thing that matters is the employee label, and whether an individual is working for someone’s benefit. Employer profit margins aside, employees, by law, still must be compensated – and empowered with the right to negotiate.

On a Division I level, that right could lead to a proposal including terms like more advanced injury prevention, guaranteed medical coverage for sport-related injuries and full-cost, five-year scholarships – and a complete rejection of pay-for-play, which at the moment, has not even been formally proposed at Northwestern.

On a Division II level, or even a Division III level where there are no formal scholarships endowed, if a union is made available to join, that right could lead to a proposal of more comprehensive scholarship funding for a wider population of student-athletes, albeit at a greater, potentially limiting cost to the university.

“Even if joining a union were an option for me, it’d be tough to decide,” Potts said. “I understand the concerns, but I think there are better ways to solve them than what they’re going for right now.

“Instead of paying players or deciding who gets what, I think if they’re going to do anything concerning money that they should generate more scholarships. There are a lot of athletes that spend a lot of time, and aren’t getting paid very much to go to school. They’re getting $1,000 or maybe their books paid for, but I think with the funds schools have access to and the amount of time the athletes put in, more could be done.

“There are so many kids, here at GVSU even, that commit so much of their time and energy to their programs. You know we have guys on the football team that are considered walk-ons who aren’t getting any kind of scholarship or financial aid, that are helping our team get better and playing just because they love it. And as a scholarship athlete, it’s tough to see that because you’re there and are getting a lot more than they are to do the same thing.

“It’s just one of those things that needs to be changed, and I think at most any school, it’s something than can be changed. For most schools and athletic programs, it isn’t a lack of money that’s the problem, and I think if you’re going to have these sports teams, you should be able to take care of your players, at least as far as school is concerned, for their contributions.”

In the struggle to create balance in college sports, perhaps the problem is that there is no true balance to be found. If athletes are to be one day paid, or more acutely, granted a bigger piece of the pie they help bake, who gets what?

For every Johnny Manziel, that as reported by TIME magazine in 2012 helped Texas A&M generate an estimated $72 million in branded merchandise in a year, there are hundreds of other student-athletes that cost the university to keep – should everyone get an equal cut? Do all athletes get treated equally? How would athletes be proportionally compensated without creating factions amongst teams, without destroying college sports as we know them?

Perhaps the answer is they can’t. That a rose by any other name is just a stick with thorns.

For now, Selgo and the rest of GVSU Athletics are content to wait and watch for the dominoes to fall – if they fall at all – while concentrating instead on matters at hand. Like a spring sport season that is finally getting a little spring weather, and hosting NCAAnational champions in men’s golf and outdoor track and field in May.

Although as long as there’s (absorbent amounts of) money in college sports, the questions will continue to be asked until all the rose pedals have been picked off – even if it takes years before GVSU has to answer any of them.

“I think anytime that you’re getting school paid for, even if it’s not a full ride, to do something you love, is worth it, but I think, maybe not so much on the Division II and III levels, that there are players on the Division I that get so little of a reward in proportion to what they provide,” Potts said.

“The NCAA, the BCS, college sports will all be affected in some way, and it’ll be interesting to see what the scale and range of that impact will be. Good for college athletes if they get more out of the school-athlete relationship, but if not, it is what it is; at least you get to do something you love a few extra years.”

To read the original post “For the love of the game…until further notice”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

April 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm

It takes two

leave a comment »

Taylor twins win innovation contest, reflect on careers

 Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor9494471-large

After four years (sometimes more) of hard work and dedication, students will twist tassels while carefully trying not to trip on graduation gown hems as they walk across the stage at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

Each graduate will earn a rolled up paper, a brief moment on camera, and a handshake with Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas, with many restless nights and days without naps paid as a toll to cross a proverbial bridge.

Briauna and Brittany Taylor understand this as well as anyone. Inseparable multi-sport athletes since the days of AAU, Briauna and Brittany took their talents to Allendale — instead of Eastern Michigan University of the NCAA Division I — so they could continue to play both softball and basketball, and together, they’ve made the thing go right and excelled on every platform they’ve traversed.

Since they enrolled at GVSU as wide-eyed freshman in 2009 until now, when they jettison the athletic program as seasoned veterans of 15 varsity seasons, together the Taylors have combined to supply 2,177 points, 975 rebounds, 280 assists, 206 steals, 29 blocks and 110 3-pointers in 4,004 minutes on the hardwood, as well as 237 runs, 305 hits, 200 RBI, 26 doubles, 18 triples, 38 home runs, 481 total bases, 66 walks, 24 hit-by-pitches and 41 stolen bases and counting on the softball diamond in 836 at-bats.

“It’s bittersweet,” Briauna said. “It’s crazy to think back on how we were as a freshman, and it’s a weird feeling to be almost done. That said, right now, we’re matured to the point where were about ready to go out and enter the real world — to go onto the next thing.”

On the basketball court, Briauna played on the ball and inside, Brittany from the perimeter, and both played with high energy on defense. On the diamond, Briauna centers the infield at shortstop, while Brittany has assumed command in center field; both are potent at the plate and on the bags, even when they occasionally covertly switch positions Parent Trap-style and trade pop flies for groundballs in practice.

Both have set individual school records during their tenures at GVSU, but counted together, they’d have rewritten every mark in the book. Both have made their mark in both sports — a rare feat to begin with — but not even Bo Jackson brought a twin sibling along for the ride.

Both are also leaders — and good ones.

“They’re both very, very talented, athletic individuals that have done very well on the field, but the intrinsics – they’re both exceptionally good team players that create a great moral for the other girls on the team – make them special,” softball coach Doug Woods said. “It’s been our pleasure to have them in the program, not only their athletic skills, but their character and what they bring to the team in regard to leadership skills.”

Both have also put an arsenal of skills gleamed from and sharpened by sports to use in other venues, and what little free time they’ve found away from the games has not been left to sit idle.

As members of the diverse, three-product design and manufacturing engineering students and two-business-student Team Fluition, a limited liability company (LLC) that designed and marketed a unique sit-to-stand hospital device, the twins have helped win $35,000 in prize money — $15,000 of which was won on Friday in the MWest Challenge. The prize will be used to consult a patent lawyer, manufacture prototype devices, commercialize the product and fund the company’s future endeavors.

“GV swept all of the top three places (in the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize competition), and we were proud to have not only contributed to our team, but to have helped represent the school in a positive light,” Brittany said. “The whole process – from getting a patent to designing logos, websites, prototypes, animation videos of the prototype, keeping in touch with old contacts and creating new ones – is all very entailed and expensive, but we’ve made great headway as a team and have grown a lot through the process.”

Almost halfway through softball’s regular season, the Taylors’ time as GVSU athletes is nearing a conclusion. Both hope to extend their careers with another deep playoff run, after which they plan to attend nursing school.

Brittany, a finance major, and Briauna, a marketing and human resources major, have backgrounds in health sciences, as well as aspirations of working in hospital administration.

Both plan to further the growth of Fluition toward funding start-up expenses, estimated at less than $100,000 just six month into the venture, and new projects with high expectations before selling the company in five to seven years to a major medical device producer.

Yet as talented as they both are together in both sports, as much as they have accomplished, it isn’t the “both” that defines the Taylors.

Briauna and Brittany room together on the road, share a contact prescription, have traveled similar paths — including a joint a trip toGVSU’s inaugural Twin Day hosted Sunday — but are fraternal twins with personalities as distinct as their games.

They are different people, even though they do a lot of things together a lot of the time.

As similar as they are, they’re complements as opposed to replications. Both are ambitious, willing to use their extensive experience to take charge and help others along. They set lofty goals and work hard to achieve them, and they hold each other accountable to stay competitive, but both do so in a way that is their own.

And as complements, GVSU will not soon forget the impact the Taylor twins have made during their tenure.

“We’ve been around for a while here, so I like to think that we have it all figured out,” Briauna said. “We have a real young team, and it’s nice to have someone look up to you, to ask questions regarding life, school, work or what happens next after classes.

“Over the years, we’ve both played a lot of seasons and have really come to realize what’s important. I don’t remember our record in softball or basketball my sophomore year, the games we won, the stats, but I do remember the life experiences we’ve had, the bus rides, the teammates, and the lifelong relationships we’ve built.”

Right on cue, Brittany extends the thought. “Five years from now, people won’t remember what your batting average is, but they will remember, ‘Oh you’re the one that did this or helped me out with that,’” Brittany said. “It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you impact those around you. We really believe that it’s about how people remember you, not what you accomplished, and that’s something that I hope we can instill with everyone we come in contact with, sports or otherwise, along the way.”

To read the original post “It takes two”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

April 7, 2014 at 5:14 am

GVSU outscores Lake Erie 15-0 in twinbill

leave a comment »

Cold weather, not bats for GV swingers

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports EditorGVL / Archive Briauna Taylor at batFrost clung to grass tips and chain links in the backstop as senior shortstop Briauna Taylor stepped to the plate in the second inning of Monday morning’s double-header matchup with Lake Erie College, but not even a forenoon chill could keep Taylor’s motor from running.

After weeks stored inside, most mechanisms require time to warm up, but the entire Grand Valley State University softball team roared to life with 15 runs scored to only seven hits allowed in back-to-back wins – a 4-0 win in game one, and a 11-0 win in game two – overLEC (3-13, 0-4) with relative ease. It was Taylor that twirled the crankshaft.

“Going into that game, we had talked as a team about how we needed to get the bats going a little bit more, so that was a focus against Lake Erie – to get some runs and put them together any way that we could,” Taylor said. “We needed a little warm-up period coming back from inside, which we got against Walsh, but we have people setting in, contributing and hitting when we need them to hit.

“So when I went up to the plate, I just went there to do my job and get on base – nothing more – so that the people behind me can hit me in.”

After legging out an infield single to lead off the inning and start the pistons firing, Taylor promptly stole second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored the game’s opening run on a RBI single from senior teammate Miranda Cleary. Next time up, Taylor bunted on to advance freshman Jenna Lenza into scoring position, again stole second and then came home on a sacrifice groundout supplied by senior Tanya Calkins.

In the second game of the double-header, Taylor opened up the throttle and slugged out a two-run homer – her seventh of the season and 29thof her career – over the left field fence, and then got on base for the second time in the third inning with hustle on a fielder’s choice.

Running at top form, GVSU (14-5, 3-1) scored 11 runs in the game, and between the two starts, Taylor tallied three hits on five at-bats to help manufacture six total runs.

“There are sometimes when we have some people on base that I want Briauna to hit and drive them in, but mostly I let her do what she wants to do,” GVSU skipper Doc Woods said. “That tater she knocked out was pretty deep, that bunt her next time up was well-placed, well-timed, and baseball-smart, and we have a lot of confidence in her making the right plays at the right time.”

On the other side of the mound, the pitching tandem of sophomore Sara Andrasik and junior Lauren Gevaart threw back-to-back shutouts with 12 combined strikeouts to just two combined walks, and allowed only a combined seven hits in 14 innings to help ignite the Lakers. Combined, GVSU’s pitching staff has surrendered only three runs in the last four games.

Andrasik’s complete-game one-hitter, the 11thshutout of her young career, in the day’s first game came packaged with five strikeouts, and was supported by small-ball tactics. Along with Briauna Taylor, Lenza also went 2-for-3 from the plate in the victory, while Cleary drove in a pair of runs.

Returning from a three-hit, 1-0 victory against Walsh Universityon Sunday, Gevaart, now 5-0 on the year, once again pitched well enough to win in the Monday’s second game, but was assisted much more thoroughly by Laker bats. Giving up just six hits, Gevaart dealt seven strikeouts, allowed only one runner to reach third base and rode a tidal wave of runs, the Lakers’ second-highest scoring output of the season, to victory.

“We’ve been working on mixing up our pitches more and showing batters different looks every time up to keep them off balance, and it’s been working,” Andrasik said. “After a three week break, we got off to a slow start with the bats, but come the fourth game of the weekend, we finally got them going, and when you get run support, that’s pressure off the pitcher’s shoulders.

“It makes it a lot easier to win the game, and as we regroup as a team, everything – from the batting to the pitching – feeds off of each other.”

Following Taylor’s lead, the young Laker bats sprung to life, too, in a kinetic chain reaction of offense. Freshman outfielder Kelsey Dominguez went 3-for-3 in the second game with two RBI, fellow freshman outfielder Chelsea Horvath scored twice, as did sophomore Taylor Fris, once with a lead-off solo blast to left field.

Another positive sign, like Taylor’s offensive production, GVSU’s pitching and a second outdoor practice in a rowon Wednesday as the Lakers drive into the bulk of their season. A season that is seemingly making a clean break at the right time, and will continue this weekend with two games scheduled against rival Ferris State University (7-8).

“They always want to beat us, we them, and in a rivalry, you always want to play well,” Woods said. “We have a very busy schedule upcoming in the next couple of weeks, and when you play that many back to back, you hope you’re playing well.

“Confidence carries over, and when you’re struggling and playing that many games, it’s not a fun situation, but I feel good about where we’re at – finally outside and playing good ball.”

To read the original post “GVSU outscores Lake Erie 15-0 in twinbill”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

April 2, 2014 at 5:05 am