Young laxers set to kick off upcoming season

Alex Skinner

With the end of February fast-approaching, the NMU Women’s Lacrosse team is anxiously awaiting to hit the pitch to start the 2019 spring season.

Entering its third season as a varsity sport, head coach Emilia Ward is looking to guide her young squad up the GLIAC conference standings.

“Coming into year three, we’ve kind of expected this to be the year we start to take shape, both with having some players who have played two years at the Division II level and last year’s freshman class playing significant time,” Ward said. “We’ve brought in a very talented group of freshman this year.”

Projected to finish in sixth place in the GLIAC Coaches Poll, Ward sees this as the time for Wildcat team to finally put together a run and challenge top contending teams.

“Our ultimate goal is to make the conference tournament, and we haven’t done that in our first two years,” Ward Said. “The top six [teams] make it, and being preseason rank six puts us in a good spot. Our ultimate goal is to battle for that four or five spot. If we have a great season, maybe even that third spot.”

The Wildcats retain much of their roster from a season ago after only losing three seniors to graduation and bring in a highly competitive freshman class.

“We were expecting to start our upperclassmen, but it looks like it’s going to be the reverse,” Ward said. “The freshman have really pushed the envelope and it looks like we’re possibly going to start seven or eight of them in our opening on Saturday. It’ll be nice because then we can bring in veterans off the bench if the freshman are really nervous.”

Offensively this season, the Wildcats return their top two goal scorers in junior Graison Ringlever and sophomore Emily Dvorak. Dvorak led NMU in goals during the 2018 season after scoring 39, while Ringlever finished just behind her with 37. Ringlever finished the season as the first Wildcat to finish all-conference in program history. The two players also finished tied for first on the team in assists with seven apiece.

Sophomore goalkeeper Emily Karbaum returns in net this year after splitting time in net last season with departed senior Brianna Bangle. Karbaum led the Wildcats last season in saves after stopping 128 shots and recording two victories.

Some of those freshman that will challenge for a starting role to start this season include Jess Daniels and Jessica Close.

“Daniels is a really great addition to our midfielders,” Ward said. “She’s really good on both ends of the ball, she attacks the cage and hits really hard. Close on defense was just named captain as a freshman and she’s brought a very vocal leadership to our defensive side. She’s really physical and she’ll help us shut down some of those top attackers in our conference.”

The Wildcats will look to improve in the standings with a veteran heavy lineup this season but still sit well behind GLIAC leaders Grand Valley State University and Indianapolis University, according to Ward.

“The top two, Indy and Grand Valley are definitely still the top two teams to beat in the conference and in the region. Our two biggest rivals in terms of recruiting, Concordia-St. Paul and Davenport University, our games are really competitive and I don’t see that being any different this year.”

The Wildcats kick off their season this weekend from the Superior Dome when they face off against Albion University at noon on Saturday, Feb. 23.