ROCKFORD – As a player from East Grand Rapids’ first girls lacrosse championship team in 2012, it means everything to Meggan Lloyd to uphold the Pioneers’ rich tradition.
She’s off to one heck of a start as the Pioneers’ head coach. She’s 1-for-1 in guiding her alma mater to Finals titles.
It wasn’t easy, but East Grand Rapids got it done Saturday in the MHSAA Division 2 championship game with a 12-11 sudden victory in the third overtime against Detroit Country Day at Carlson-Munger Stadium.
Senior Lizzie Lundeen’s goal 18 seconds into the third OT period secured the Pioneers’ eighth Finals championship over the last 10 years, not counting the 2020 season which was canceled because of COVID-19.
“I feel like being on some of the first teams that started the tradition, it’s really important that I see it through,” Lloyd said. “I feel like the team is kind of my baby in a way. I don’t ever want to see it dwindle or go away, so I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that we’re coming out strong every single year, no matter who’s on the team.”
Saturday marked the second thriller that East Grand Rapids (20-2) and Country Day (16-3) played this season. The Pioneers needed overtime for a 15-14 decision over the Yellowjackets on April 19.
The championship match was a dandy as well, featuring four lead changes as momentum swung back and forth.
Senior Eliana LaMange scored four goals for EGR. Sophomore Vivian LaMange had two goals and two assists for the Pioneers, who built a 6-3 halftime lead. Lundeen netted a hat trick. Senior Caroline Potteiger made seven saves.
Sophomore Emma Arico, daughter of University of Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico, tallied three goals and an assist to lead Country Day. Senior Ainsley Schilling had two goals and a pair of assists for the Yellowjackets, while freshman Mary Pavlou had two goals. Senior goalie Clara Yuhn made five saves.
“Flip of the coin in that game; flip of the coin. Hats off to EGR. They’re a fabulous program. The amount of depth that they have in their ranks is really something,” Country Day coach Emma Kuehl said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my team. You know, I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be here this year and they have worked tirelessly to get to this point, and I couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s almost worse going out like this,” Kuehl added with a grin, “because we were so close – so close. But, you know, we’ll use it as motivation for the future.”
The future is now for the EGR seniors, the core of whom won their third Division 2 title in as many opportunities.
Some do have lacrosse futures, such as Lundeen and Eliana LaMange, who are both Division I-bound athletes. The former is headed to Kent State and latter to Robert Morris. They’ll be rivals in the Mid-American Conference.
Before that, they wanted to leave a legacy at East Grand Rapids. Mission accomplished.
“At the end there, once we won the draw, I knew someone had to take charge. Once I popped out and got that pass, I went past my girl and I knew I had an opening so I just ripped a shot and it went in,” Lundeen said. “I was trying to make (Yuhn) think I was going to shoot low, but then it kind of went near her hip side, so lucky it went in.
“It was overwhelming when it went in. I couldn’t believe it at first,” added Lundeen, who immediately found herself at the bottom of a pile of teammates 10 yards from the goal where she scored the winner. “It was amazing. I was at the very bottom, crying like a baby.”
Eliana LaMange watched as Lundeen won the draw to start the third OT period and split four defenders. LaMange called it “awesome” on Lundeen’s part. Kuehl said it was a breakdown on her defense’s part.
LaMange said the match was intense, but she believes the Pioneers performed well under pressure.
“It’s pretty awesome to end our senior year like this,” LaMange said.
Lloyd said her team needed to put the ball away and eventually did. The rookie coach was proud of the Pioneers’ defense for stepping up and shutting out the Yellowjackets in overtime.
Winning state titles never gets old for EGR and Lloyd.
“Well, not for me – not quite yet,” she said with a laugh.
PHOTOS (Top) East Grand Rapids goalie Caroline Potteiger (43) stretches for the save during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Country Day’s Emma Arico (16) looks to make her move. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Alyssa Shaver has made a habit of getting women’s lacrosse programs off the ground.
Her first year in the sport was the first year of the program at Flint Carman-Ainsworth. Her collegiate career involved playing in the inaugural seasons for both University of Detroit Mercy and Lawrence Tech University.
As a coach, she led the first team at Urbana University in Ohio.
When she left Urbana for Lincoln Memorial University, a Division II program in Tennessee, she had an opportunity to take over an established – albeit still relatively new – program.
Two years in, another chance to start a program arose, and she once again stepped up.
However, this was not a different school – but in a different sport.
The 2008 Carman-Ainsworth graduate recently finished her third year in charge of the LMU women’s lacrosse program, and is now preparing for Year 2 in charge of the women’s field hockey program at the school – coaching a sport she had never played and rarely seen.
“I had not watched ‘Ted Lasso’ but when people figured out what I was doing, they told me about it,” Shaver said. “Last fall I started watching it and I was like, ‘Oh God, this is my life right now.’”
Starting with a new sport was how Shaver’s athletic career got jump-started in the first place.
She was a volleyball, basketball and softball player prior to high school, but when her basketball coach brought up the idea of starting a lacrosse program at Carman-Ainsworth, she decided to give it a try. The connection was almost immediate.
“I didn’t know what (lacrosse) was,” she said. “But I put a stick in my hand, and it felt like the most natural thing. I was a point guard in basketball, and I had played basketball since I could walk. I think in lacrosse, the footwork, defense, concepts and ideas are similar to basketball. But when I picked up a stick, it was like, ‘I get to carry this ball around? I don’t have to dribble it?’ From there, it kind of clicked.”
Shaver was a remarkable scorer at Carman-Ainsworth, racking up 226 goals during her four-year career. That included 81 goals her senior season.
While at Carman-Ainsworth, she also continued playing basketball and volleyball.
“As a point guard in basketball, I didn’t really care about scoring,” she said. “In lacrosse, I was really good at offense and scoring. I was a setter in volleyball, so my other sports I was always setting other people up.”
Her success at Carman-Ainsworth and at the club level led to an opportunity to play for U-D Mercy’s new program, led by coach Mary Ann Meltzer. Shaver was an academic all-conference selection during her time there and played for two years before coming back home.
While she was no longer playing, she continued to coach, something she had started while a freshman at Mercy.
It was while coaching a club team that the opportunity to return to playing at Lawrence Tech presented itself.
“It was terrifying,” Shaver said of returning to the game after two years away. “I would play in summer league, and I always had a stick in my hand because I was coaching, but I hadn’t really played competitively. I was 23 and most of my teammates were 18-year-old freshmen. I always joke with them now – some of them are my best friends – but the first couple years, they didn’t want to talk with me and I thought they didn’t like me. It turns out, they were scared of me.”
Shaver played three seasons at Lawrence Tech, earning All-America honorable mention from the National Women’s Lacrosse League in 2014 and first-team NWLL All-America honors in 2015 and 2016. She also was named an All-American by the NAIA as a senior.
Prior to her third season, with Lawrence Tech in need of a coach, Shaver reached out to Meltzer, who had recently retired from U-D Mercy. The two were reunited at LTU, and Shaver and her teammates reaped the benefits, reaching the NWLL championship game, which they lost 9-8 in overtime. Shaver was the NWLL National Offensive Player of the Year.
In 2017, with Shaver on the coaching staff, Lawrence Tech advanced to the NAIA national title game.
“She’s pretty much responsible for a lot of our program at Lawrence Tech,” Meltzer said. “She was the driving force in recruiting kids. She had taken a couple years off, and I think when she came here she was that responsible and was kind of the go-getter in getting players and getting people interested in LTU for quite a while. Fortunately, we’ve done well.”
In 2018, Shaver took over at Lourdes (Ohio), leading the program to its first winning season in her first year.
After two years at Lourdes, she took over Urbana, building the program from scratch. She took over the LMU program prior to the 2021 season. The Lady Railsplitters were 2-5 her first season, but have gone 12-7 and 10-9 in the two seasons since.
Shaver taking over the field hockey program alongside her lacrosse duties wasn’t the original plan. But after things fell through with the coach originally hired for the job, and with some of her lacrosse players signed on to play both as well, the LMU administration turned to her.
“I have a lot of experience with new programs with lacrosse, and the girls were so great and super appreciative,” she said. “My lacrosse players have some experience, and a lot of the field hockey girls were just awesome and understanding, and helping me learn.”
Shaver is learning the game and was able to get some help from volunteer assistant Khotsofalo Pheko, a former runner at LMU who played field hockey in South Africa before coming to Tennessee.
Meltzer has faith in her former player to navigate all of it and find success, even if she told Shaver she was crazy for taking on the field hockey job initially.
“Obviously she has the work ethic, and she’s going to do what she needs to do to be successful,” Meltzer said. “As coaches, especially younger coaches, when things aren’t going well they think that more is better when sometimes less is better. I think she just needs to be patient; we all do. That’s the biggest thing. With her, starting so many programs – we’re all competitive, we all want to be successful really quick – it is going to take time.
“She’s an incredible person. She has a heart of gold.”
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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Alyssa Shaver takes the field for Flint Carman-Ainsworth, and at right she coaches at Lincoln Memorial University. (Middle) Shaver just finished her third season leading LMU women's lacrosse. (Below) Shaver (bottom row, fifth from left) was a four-year player at Carman-Ainsworth, including on this 2007 team. (Photos courtesy of Alyssa Shaver and Lincoln Memorial's athletic department.)