“Those first couple years, we had to learn so much, from how to hold onto the stick, to the rules of the game, to the different lines on the field,” she said. “It was tough because a lot of the girls had never played before and they had so much to learn.”
“I remember our our freshmen year, there were just two of us who had any kind of experience,” said Bucs’ senior Mackenzie Yoas. “Our first game, there was a group of us standing together, and we had no idea what was going on.”
Like many of those rookie players who were just getting their feet wet, the program has matured. Now, three years after becoming a varsity sport at Grand Haven, Vincent will soon graduate a core group of seniors who have been instrumental in transforming the program from a “Bad News Bears” type of team to one of respectability in West Michigan.
Three players who have led the way are the team’s captains, Yoas, Sandy Fredricks, and Sarah Shaw. They’ve led the Bucs to a 10-6 record this season, including two key wins over rival West Ottawa and an upset over Lowell. Their biggest test will come on Monday, as they square off against a much-more established program in East Grand Rapids during the Division 2 regional on the Pioneers’ home field. The contest begins at 7 p.m.
“We just need to come together as a team,” Shaw said, the Bucs’ starting goalie.
“All the expectations are that (EGR) is the favorites,” Yoas added, the Bucs’ leading goal scorer with 73. “But we need to put it in our minds that we can compete with anyone.”
A positive for the program’s future has been the seniors’ desire to spread their knowledge to younger girls just getting started in the sport. Several have helped out with middle school practices and Yoas has shared her knowledge with elementary children in a lacrosse progam set up by the Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority. Yoas grew up with the sport, as her older sister, Andrea, one of the few experienced players when girls lacrosse was still a club sport at Grand Haven.
“Hopefully, we’ve helped prepare the program for years to come,” Shaw said, who improved her skills last summer at a camp at Northwestern. Fredricks and junior Mackenzie Klingenberg also camped at Syracuse, one of the top collegiate programs in the country.
“That’s what these girls never had,” Vincent said of the upperclassmen leadership. “Our middle school program is now in its third year. The first year, it struggled, the second year was pretty good and now, it’s flourishing.
“This was the first year that we’ve had freshmen come in who had played before. Next year, we should have about five or six, which will be so nice.”
Before looking toward the future, the Bucs hope for one more inspired effort against the Pioneers. Offensively, the Mackenzies — Yoas and Klingengberg — need to contribute greatly, much like they have all season. The duo have combined for 128 goals, and are often set up by the strong passing from Fredricks, who leads the team with 14 assists.
Vincent said the program has really taken a step forward defensively, which is aided by the communication of Shaw in goal, as she often directs the action when a ball is in play. The Bucs’ top defender has been Megan Van Doorne, who Yoas calls “a brick wall.”
Win or lose on Monday, the Bucs’ captains are proud of what they’ve established, and eager to expand on their talents. Each will play the sport at the college level: Yoas at Grand Valley State, Shaw at Olivet College, and Fredricks at Lake Forest College.
“I’m so proud of them all,” VIncent said. “They’ve come so far.”
BUCS BOYS DRAW HOWELL
Grand Haven’s varsity boys team will battle visiting Howell in the Division 1 pre-regional today at Buccaneer Stadium. The action gets underway at 2 p.m. The winner faces Rockford on Thursday at 7 p.m.