By: Ruby Arani / GCU Staff
Being a college freshman is scary.
Not to mention there are brand new expectations of performance both on and off the field.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Lacrosse team was made up of nine freshmen from across the nation, who received their first taste of Division I college club lacrosse. Out of those nine, SulaiPili Samante took on a much larger role. She was the team’s stand-alone goalie.
Samante is a Psychology major from Scottsdale, and has been playing lacrosse for four years. Lopes’ Head Coach Tracy Gallihugh recruited Samante during her senior year of high school.
“What stood out about Samante was her athleticism in the goal,” said Gallihugh. “She would performed the best under high pressure games. It’s very important-especially for such a mentally tough position-that she can keep her cool, focus and confidence.”
Samante instantly knew she wanted to attend GCU.
“I chose to come to GCU because during my first visit, I could immediately picture it being my home for four years.” Samante’s decision to attend GCU came hand in hand to continue her athletic career. “I wasn’t ready to let go of the sport after high school because the level of play allows me to still fully focus on my academics,” Samante said.
As one of the nine incoming freshman on the team, Samante knew she had to not only play both a large role for the Lopes but also fill some pretty big shoes.
“I knew the goalie before me was very successful so I was anxious because I felt like I had big shoes to fill,” said Samante about replacing Caitlin Paine who was awarded First-Team Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (WLCA) Division II All-American as well as WCLA Division II Goalkeeper of the Year honors for the 2017 season. “I was also nervous about being the only goalie because the game can get mentally tough on keepers, and it is hard to go through it alone. But knowing I was going to be playing at a higher level, I expected to build my mental toughness and improve my skills on the field.”
“I feel that I’ve definitely accomplished that since the beginning of the season.”
And Gallihugh agrees.
“What impressed me the most this season with Pili (Samante) is her total mental strength,” said Gallihugh. “When goals are scored against her, she didn’t let it get to her. She learned from it, adapted to the team, and she used it to drive her to save the next one. She is a very strong, adaptable, persistent, smart, hardworking player, which describes the perfect athlete any coach would want in that high pressure position.”
As the season pressed on, Samante and the Lopes endured tough losses in their first season of DI. Samante played total of ten games and had 260 shots taken on her, the most in the Western Women’s Lacrosse League. Samante saved a total of 119 shots, and firmly earned her coach’s respect.
“I have the highest expectations and promise for Pili in the future,” Gallihugh said. “Having such a strong freshman year gives her endless potential to become the best in the league. She is the type of player that is humble with her ability, which is a huge strength for her.”
Samante saw her first year of college club lacrosse as a physically and mentally building opportunity.
“One thing I’ve taken away from this season is how to better deal with losses,” Samante said. “After a loss, Coach Tracy would always remind us that if we learned something from it, then it wasn’t a loss. I learned that I could either be upset about losing, or I could learn from it and improve.”
A loss is a loss, but there is more to that.
“Using a loss is crucial to player development,” Gallihugh pointed out. “If you analyze why you loss, you can overcome your weaknesses, making you a stronger player and stronger team. Eventually, you will have every few weaknesses, making you a hard team to beat.”
Though the Lopes nor Samante had the season they wanted, there is promise for the future.
“I’m looking forward to watching our program grow. I am already seeing it grow from transitioning to Division 1, so I can’t imagine how far it will be by the time I graduate.”
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