Falling in the final: Northern Michigan University women lose to powerful Grand Valley State 13-3 in GLIAC Tournament lacrosse title game

Northern Michigan University goalkeeper Lauren Esposito, left, makes a save on a Maryville shot during their college lacrosse game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Feb. 23. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

ALLENDALE — The Northern Michigan University women’s lacrosse season is apparently over as the Wildcats lost in the championship game of the GLIAC Tournament on Sunday.

Regular season champion Grand Valley State defeated NMU for the third time this season, 13-3, in the tourney finals at the Lakers’ home field in Allendale.

With the NCAA Division II Tournament in women’s lacrosse including just 16 teams nationwide, the most the GLIAC could hope to get is one berth. And with GVSU rolling to records of 17-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference regular season, the Lakers would leave behind Northern with its still excellent 14-5 and 4-2 marks.

NMU reached the conference championship by defeating conference No. 3 seed Concordia-St. Paul 15-6 in the semifinals on Friday, also in Allendale. In the other semi that day, GVSU knocked off No. 4 Davenport 16-4.

Despite the loss in the finals, it was a banner season for the Wildcats, who rolled to a 10-3 nonconference record with four of its five losses overall to teams that made the NCAA tourney in 2023 — three losses to Grand Valley and one to Maryville (Missouri).

Northern Michigan University's Laine Stanton, front, looks for a teammate to pass to during a college lacrosse game played against the College of St. Benedict at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Feb. 24. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

Here are details from each GLIAC tourney match:


NMU 15, Concordia-St. Paul 6

On Friday, the Wildcats steadily built their lead, scoring three goals in the first quarter and four in each of the other periods.

All-time Northern scorer Minnie Bittell was joined by teammate Josie Lakosky in scoring five goals, with Bittell adding four assists for nine points and Lakosky a single assist for six points.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ defensive group of Maddie Bast, Dayna Carlson, Natalie Thomas, Kaitlyn Bridger and Krista Pascavis combined to force 11 caused turnovers, while NMU goalkeeper Lauren Esposito made 11 stops for a .647 saves percentage.

“We did a really good job of setting pace and intensity from the start, and we stuck to our game plan,” Wildcats head coach Lindsey (LeMay) Majkrzak said in an NMU Sports Information release about this game. “We were able to play through the physicality and have success on both sides of the ball.”

C-SP actually opened the scoring just over three minutes in on an unassisted goal by Anna Fisher.

And that goal held up for more than eight minutes. But once the ‘Cats started scoring, they didn’t stop until halftime forced them to hang up their sticks for a few minutes to take a break.

NMU tied it with 3:33 left in the first quarter on a Bittell goal assisted by Lakosky, then took the lead 38 seconds later on a Lakosky unassisted tally, making it 3-1 before the period ended when Carlson scored unassisted with three ticks left in the quarter.

“It was such a cool moment for Dayna,” Majkrzak said. “She was a midfielder for us last year, so she hasn’t scored a lot for us (this year), and for her to bring energy like that throughout the game … she lifted us when we needed to be lifted.”

Despite trailing for a majority of the opening quarter, Northern allowed the Bears just three shots while causing seven turnovers.

“The defensive play in the first (quarter) was awesome,” Majkrzak said. “(We) did a really good job of coming out with the pace we needed to play this team. There are a lot of specific things you have to do to guard Concordia, and (we) were ready for that.”

While C-SP again scored the first goal of the second quarter, Northern answered with four of the next five goals before halftime to make it 7-3 at the break.

Bittell scored three of the second-quarter goals as she reached the 100-point plateau this season in the process.

“(Minnie) is so important to everything we do, and everything good we do is because of her willpower, heart or actual skill,” Majkrzak said. “She’s a huge contributor everywhere.”

Majkrzak also lauded Esposito, who played a huge role between the pipes in the second period, making six saves.

“Lauren is such a tough, tough girl,” her coach said. “She did such a great job of owning the moment, handling stress and stepping up. She’s really composed in the cage, and that’s why she does so well.”


Grand Valley State 13, NMU 3

On Sunday, the Wildcats kept the GLIAC Championship game close until the final three minutes of the first half, when the Lakers scored three times to take a 6-2 lead at intermission.

Until that point, the teams were trading goals. After GVSU’s Maddy Champagne scored a little more than five minutes in, NMU’s Avery Lorinser tied it about six minutes later on a goal assisted by Bittell.

After the Lakers made it 3-1, Northern’s Camryn Mayer pulled her team within 3-2 with an unassisted tally with 5:08 remaining in the second.

But after that, Grand Valley goals by Hailey Crittenden, Maddy Champagne and Sydney Stone gave the hosts a four-goal lead at halftime.

NMU scored just once in the second half, an unassisted tally by

Bast with 1:12 left in the third, but by that time, the Lakers had amassed a 10-3 lead.

Bittell had six draw controls as Esposito played most of the game in the Northern net, stopping six shots. Brigid Fornek also got in 96 seconds in the Wildcats net.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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