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Michigan State women’s club lacrosse seeks to beat Michigan

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Cameron McClarren
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Head coach Brent Hiner instructing his players what he wants from them during a drill.

It sounds obvious that any Michigan State team wants to defeat Michigan, but the women’s lacrosse team has special incentive to take down the Wolverines: history

East Lansing, Mich. — It was a hot October afternoon as the Michigan State women’s club lacrosse team was down by a goal against bitter rival Michigan with one minute remaining in the game.

Senior midfielder Kelly Humes had one final chance to spring an attack as she launched the ball 20 yards to the front of the Wolverine net where a teammate was waiting.

“It was a fine pass, but it was hot and sunny … and she ended up missing the ball as she tried to catch it and they [Michigan] ended up winning,” Humes said. “Even though we lost, we had an opportunity to win, and they were so upset by that game that this season is the first time they will ever come to East Lansing and play us.”

The Spartans fell 10-9, but it was a completely different result than their previous meeting during Humes’ freshman year, when the Wolverines thrashed MSU 20-1. MSU had lost by 10 or more goals in every meeting since 2013.

“This year was just something different,” senior defender Grace Topoleski said. “To come so close and know that we had left everything on the field … It was kind of a wake up call for the new players and the returning players.”

The result was instant gratification for a team that consists of experienced and inexperienced players that cite the love for the game as their reason for playing at MSU. Topoleski’s love for lacrosse began in high school after she learned how to play after years of competitive dancing.

“I ended up quitting dance my junior year … and took up some offseason training and did what I could to run faster than everybody … be coachable … and I ended up making varsity,” Topoleski said. “The fact that I liked it so much made me work so much harder at it. All of the things I thought about when I was looking at it from the outside came true when I started playing.”

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Cameron McClarren
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Coaches and players look on as those in the drill work towards collapsing on the ball carrier.

She will be pursuing her master’s degree in market research next fall and use her extra year of eligibility to play one more season for the team.

Topoleski, a Rochester, Michigan native, is one of many who picked up lacrosse after spending most of their childhoods playing other sports. Ashleigh Ricci played soccer for 14 years and began her lacrosse journey after her older sister picked up the sport and asked her to help her practice while they were growing up in San Mateo, California.

“I was actually scared to pass with her because of how hard the ball was and I didn’t want to get hit,” Ricci said. “She was the reason I started playing because once I started practicing with her, I realized I actually really liked it.”

Spartans Anna Grace Agro and Danielle Colucci both had experience playing lacrosse even before high school. They both knew they wanted to play lacrosse in college, but did not know where or what that would look like until they settled on the club program at MSU.

Agro, a senior midfielder, wanted to find a school where she could play lacrosse and get a good education. She was recruited by other colleges coming out of high school but decided to play at the club level so she could focus more on earning her degree.

“I had talked to a lot of girls who had been committed too, and they didn’t seem really passionate about the sport anymore … and it also didn't seem like they were getting the best education they wanted,” Agro, a kinesiology major from Pontiac, Michigan, said. “I was really attracted to [Michigan State] because I could be as committed as I wanted to be but also focus on my school because that was my main priority.”

Colucci, who plays attack, knew she was going to play in college after her first lacrosse practice in fifth grade but did not know she would end up at MSU until she visited her cousin here during her senior year of high school and met some members of the women’s club lacrosse team at a football tailgate.

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Cameron McClarren
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The team works on its defensive sets during a seven-on-seven drill near the end of their practice at the IM West indoor turf field.

“I heard about the club lacrosse team through my cousin because she was friends with one of the girls. So I met her at the tailgate and they seemed awesome so I was like, ‘I want to do this and I want to play club,’” Colucci, a native of Victor, New York, said. “I wanted to play lacrosse in college, but I decided that it would be too much for me because I did not know if I could balance that … and I thought club would be the perfect fit for me.”

The team has been busy since the beginning of the spring semester at MSU. Players have had to balance classes and practices while finalizing their trip to Carpinteria, California for a string of games in the Santa Barbara Shootout on Feb. 18 and 19. After winning three out of four games, the team starts its Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League schedule this month.

The Spartans will had their first home game since the 2018-19 season on March 16 when they hosted Grand Valley State University; their rematch against Michigan will occur on March 23.

“Now we have all of fall practice and half of spring practice,” Humes said. “You can best bet that we are about to be ready for that.”

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