Grand Valley State Season Preview

Tim Murray enters his 13th season as the head coach of Grand Valley State University.

The Lakers have never had a losing record under Murray and won the 2014 MCLA D2 National Championship.

Murray has won nearly 75% of the games he’s coached and was named the 2017 Coach of the Year.

Grand Valley State is located in Allendale, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids has emerged as a lacrosse hotbed in Michigan.  Murray grew up and played for perennial power East Grand Rapids High School. After graduating from Butler, he coached for four years at Rockford High School before taking the job at GVSU in 2011. 

Murray has seen lacrosse expand and grow in Grand Rapids since first starting to play in elementary school.

I remember back in the day, I was part of the first fifth and sixth-grade team in Grand Rapids. We combined East Grand Rapids and Forest Hills together to get enough kids to play. Every weekend, we had to drive to the east side to play Country Day or Catholic Central. Now, there are so many teams and programs throughout the Grand Rapids area. You can have a full season and not even leave the Greater Grand Rapids area.

Some of his former Ram players have gone on to have their own successful programs: Andy Shira (FHC), and Mike DeWitt (Rockford).

Shira’s team is one of the top programs in the midwest and has won multiple Michigan state championships.

I sat down with Coach Murray to learn more about his success at GVSU and preview the 2023 season.

Roadmap for Success

Murray has had tremendous success as the head coach of the Lakers. He has won double digits games six times, never had a losing season, and made ten MCLA tournament appearances.

I asked Murray what contributed to his team’s success. He was quick to defer from himself and instead focused on the Laker lacrosse community.

We’ve had a lot of talented and smart players and coaches that have been involved throughout the years. My role is to get everyone on the same page, and to make sure that we’re all going in the same direction.

Murray wants the Lakers to set the tone when they walk on the field. He wants his team to be the fastest, loudest, and most physical team on the field. 

If you do those three things, you’re doing an awful lot. Before you even get into the Xs and Os, we want to play fast and be physical at the point of attack both offensively and defensively. One thing that is undervalued is communication. Everyone talks about their offensive and defensive system and transition, but there’s a whole lot of emphasis on the communication system.

Murray shared his Mic’d up drill he does with his team to work on communication.

I will be sure to add this to my drills this spring.

Prepping for the MCLA Tournament

Murray’s team has been successful in the MCLA tournament. Unlike the NCAA Tournament which is played over a month. MCLA teams have to win four games in six days to win the championship. The games are also held in Round Rock, Texas where on-field temperatures can reach upward of 130 degrees.

With a 19-9 record, I asked Murray what it takes to be successful and prepared to play and win in the tournament. Murray said it all starts with your roster.

A 40-man roster is our magic number. We’ll take as many players who are going to make us a better team, you know, so if that number is 41, or 42, or if that number is 37, then so be it. Our lacrosse team isn’t one of those things where you’re a fish that can attach yourself to the whale in order to see the ocean. We need everybody contributing whether that role is to make a team better during practice, or if your role is to contribute during the games.

If you don’t have two or even three strong midfield lines in the MCLA, you’re not in the real mix for a national championship. It’s not about having the top end of your roster that’s capable. It’s about your fourth or fifth attackman. Can you rely on your fourth or fifth close defense? Can you put your third LSM on the field consistently and not have that big of a drop-off?

Fall Ball Recap

Turning the page to 2023, I asked Murray to provide a recap of the fall. Being located in the  Grand Rapids area, it provides Murray with a great opportunity to use his relationships in coaching to give the Lakers a strong fall scrimmage schedule.

This fall the Lakers played Davenport (D2), Hope (D3), Calvin (D3), Aquinas (NAIA), and Siena Heights (NAIA).

In the MCLA, you don’t have any requirements for fall. We’ll play anyone. I’m not afraid of any level of competition. We have 22 Freshmen on our team this year. They don’t know what they don’t know. So we’ve got to get them on the field and they’re gonna make tons and tons of mistakes. I’d rather have it be in the fall against Davenport and Hope than in the spring against St. Thomas, Missouri State, and Dayton. Let’s get them on the field, play, and see where our strengths and our weaknesses are. It helps formulate our approach to our spring installs, our spring practices, and the points of emphasis.

2023 Preview

Murray’s team will be young in 2023. They graduated their starting close defensemen and starting LSM. They also welcomed 22 freshmen in the fall. Expectations and a challenging schedule await the Lakers in 2023. Murray said the key to success will be on how their players handle adversity in 2023.

We have a very inexperienced team and we’re playing a very tough schedule. So we’re gonna have some adversity, there’s no question about it. If you look at the MCLA preseason poll, there are three teams that received first-place votes, St. Thomas,  Rhode Island, and Dayton. We play all three of them. The amount of success we achieve this year will be a direct result of how we handle that adversity. I’m excited to see how our kids respond throughout the course of the season.


Finally, I chatted with Murray about recruiting. What does his “sales pitch” look like to recruits? Grand Valley State is a public university. Murray stated how he can push the value of a Grand Valley education to prospective players.

Grand Valley nickel for nickel is the best educational value. It offers an elite level of education and the in-state tuition is reasonable. As a result, I don’t feel like I need to trick kids into coming to Grand Valley. They’re gonna get a quality lacrosse experience and an unparalleled level of education.

When looking for players, Coach Murray wants to recruit what he calls “lacrosse rats,” guys who love lacrosse.

Our fall season is typically five or six weeks of practices and I cram in as many games as possible during that time. We usually have like seven or eight games. We want guys that want to fall in love with the sport or have fallen in love with the sport. We started practice on January 9 in our turf building. Our season goes through mid-May. So we have a four-month season. It’s a little bit of a grind and if you don’t love the sport, you’re gonna struggle with that kind of setup.

It’s not all about lacrosse for players though. Coach Murray encourages his players to take full advantage of what Grand Valley can offer his player and enjoy their time as college students in Allendale.

I don’t want them to come to Grand Valley just for lacrosse, I want them to come to Grand Valley for Grand Valley. I want lacrosse to be an ancillary benefit of the well-rounded education that they’re going to receive there. I don’t want lacrosse to be a job. I want them to go to concerts on campus and go to the home football games and be college kids.

Grand Valley State opens its 2023 season on March 9th at Central Connecticut State University. 

Editor’s Note: Follow Craig on Twitter.

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Craig McMichael

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