By: Ruby Arani/ GCU Staff
The vote was made, and the Lopes are in.
In October, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Lacrosse program was unanimously voted to become Division I of the Southwestern Conference of the Western Women’s Lacrosse League (WWLL). The Lopes will open their inaugural Division I season on January 26 at Grand Canyon University’s Prescott Field against the University of California, Santa Barbara.
So how did the GCU women’s lacrosse program get to this point?
Since the program’s beginning in 2012, the Lopes have competed and dominated in the WWLL. The Lopes have been back-to-back WWLL Division II champions and finished third in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (WLCA) in DII in the spring of 2017. The vote for the GCU women’s lacrosse program to become DI was easy to make, but now the Lopes must maintain the strength and mentality for tougher competition.
The Lopes have practiced twice a week during the off-season on fitness, stick skills, full field movement and game knowledge.
In November, the Lopes participated in the annual round robin hosted by Arizona State University. The round robin provided the game experience the Lopes needed. “We were able to gain some game experience, especially against (conference rival) ASU,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Tracy Gallihugh.
Now with winter break underway, the Lopes’ senior leaders have created a winter break workout for the team to stay on top of their fitness. “They have the Nike Running app, and the girls are having a competition on who has the most miles during winter break,” said Gallihugh. “The work-outs and the little competition the girls are having will help maintain their fitness during the break.”
The Lopes’ will resume practice on January 8, three weeks before their season opener.
A Look into the DI Competition
New division with tougher competition.
The Lopes compete in the Southwestern Conference which is comprised of the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, San Diego State University and the University of San Diego.
“I am really looking forward to playing ASU,” said Gallihugh. “We lost to them at the round robin back in November and I want payback. They are one of the program’s and the university’s biggest rivals. Especially being so close (to us), it will be a good game.”
Early in the season, the Lopes will compete in the annual Santa Barbara Shootout, competing against two of the higher-ranked schools in the nation. The Lopes will take on Brigham Young University, who finished the 2016 season fifth in the nation in WCLA Division I. “This will be a really good game for us. It will show us where we are as a team and how we compete against top teams,” said Gallihugh.
The Lopes will also face Saint Mary’s College of California, who is new to the WWLL. Saint Mary’s women’s lacrosse program was originally NCAA Division I but now are competing at the club level. “This will be a good way to see how our players compete and match up against players who were recruited and played at the NCAA Division I level,” said Gallihugh.
Players to Watch
Peyton Van Allen (Freshman)
Allen is new to the program, and has already clinched a starting midfield position. “Allen is an all-star,” said Gallihugh. “She has natural talent with a hard work mentality.” Allen will join returning all-star midfielders, Lopes’ sophomore Casey Friel and WCLA DII All-American Lopes’ junior Alexis Ortt. “I think those three playing together will be unstoppable as a midfield line,” said Gallihugh.
Amanda Lens (Senior Captain)
Last season, Lens was out due to a knee injury. Despite that, Lens has been a strong leader for the program and is ready to lead the Lopes to victory. “I am beyond excited to see how her mental and physical strength motivates and strengthens the team on and off the field this year,” said Gallihugh. “I believe having her talent and leadership back on the field for this season will be a great asset to the team’s morale and success.”
The GCU women’s lacrosse team has multiple goals in mind, including win their conference, dominate in playoffs and bring home first DI national championship. Gallihugh and her team are looking beyond those team goals, though, towards goals for the sport itself.
“I hope the interest will grow for women’s lacrosse, especially now that the GCU program has become more established,” said Gallihugh. “We want to show girls in Arizona that there is plenty of opportunities to play women’s lacrosse in college. “We will market our home games to showcase college level games which we hope will continue to motivate and gain more interest for the sport.”
“Got to play the best to be the best.”