With Michigan as a hotbed for the single fastest-growing U.S. sport of lacrosse, Grand Rapids is an ideal home for the 2018 NAIA Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational May 9-12, hosted at Aquinas College in the first of a two-year bid. For added excitement, three of the 11 participating institutions are Michigan universities, including Siena Heights University (Adrian) in Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse, Madonna University (Livonia) in Men’s, and Lawrence Technological University (Southfield) in Women’s.
With lacrosse in its third year as an invitational sport in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), this is the first NAIA Lacrosse National Invitational held in Michigan and the first NAIA national event ever held in West Michigan. It’s also the first national NAIA event in the state since 1989 when Midland hosted the NAIA Softball National Championship and Bay City hosted the NAIA Men’s Golf National Championship.
“We look forward to welcoming top-rated lacrosse athletes from across the country to West Michigan where lacrosse is very popular as evidenced by the three Michigan universities competing,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) who won and will co-host the event with Aquinas College. “The student athletes, coaches and fans will enjoy the fantastic athletic facilities of Aquinas College, and our local community will love watching extraordinary lacrosse athletes in action.”
The WMSC and Aquinas College won the bid last September to host both the 2018 and 2019 NAIA Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse National Invitationals. The event is expected to draw 450 athletes and an estimated 2,000 spectators who will book 880 hotel room nights and spend $579,361 in economic impact.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to host the NAIA Lacrosse National Invitational at Aquinas the next two years,” said Nick Davidson, Aquinas College’s director of athletics. “We value our partnership with the West Michigan Sports Commission and the NAIA as we bring the Invitational to Aquinas College. Hosting an event of this status is a huge undertaking, but we are excited to show off our facility and campus while providing a great opportunity for students to compete at the highest level of lacrosse. This will be an outstanding event.”
Eleven institutions were announced April 29 as qualifiers, including:
Benedictine (Kan.) – Women’s
University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) – Men’s and Women’s
Georgetown (Ky.) – Women’s
Indiana Tech – Men’s and Women’s
Keiser (Fla.) – Men’s and Women’s
Lawrence Tech (Mich.) – Women’s – third NAIA Lacrosse National Invitational
Madonna University (Mich.) – Men’s
Missouri Valley – Men’s
Reinhardt (Ga.) – Men’s
Savannah College of Art and Design (Ga.) – Men’s and Women’s
Siena Heights University (Mich.) – Men’s (second NAIA Lacrosse National Invitational) and Women’s
This year includes four automatic qualifiers and four at-large bids each for the Men’s and Women’s Invitationals. The automatic qualifiers were determined by the conference/group tournament winners or the highest ranked team in the conference/group depending on the league. The remaining at-large bids were determined by the final regular season Men’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Top 10 Poll announced April 29. Among Michigan teams, in Men’s Lacrosse, Madonna University is competing as a conference winner with a 20-0 record, and Siena Heights is competing in an at-large bid with an 11-4 record. In Women’s Lacrosse, Lawrence Tech is competing as a conference winner with a 13-4 record, and Siena Heights is competing in an at-large bid with a 13-4 record.
“The growth of NAIA lacrosse excites our members, as it is the single fastest growing sport in the United States,” said Dustin Wilke, NAIA’s associate director of championships and the tournament director. “We are thrilled to bring the Lacrosse National Invitational to Michigan and partner with the West Michigan Sports Commission and Aquinas College for the next two years. Lacrosse is a popular sport, gaining much traction in the state – and to see numerous Michigan schools that sponsor lacrosse is awesome. The association is looking forward to the future and the benefits lacrosse will offer our universities and colleges.”
Schedule and Ticket Information: Both the men’s and women’s national competitions will feature an eight-team single-elimination tournament field over four days. The tournament features four quarterfinal contests, a pair of semifinal matchups, and the National Invitational championship game on Sunday. Following is the tournament schedule (also available here):
Wed., May 9 – Women’s Games 1-4: Game 1 starts at 10 a.m., Game 4 starts at 7 p.m.
Thurs., May 10 – Men’s Games 1-4: Game 1 starts at 10 a.m., Game 4 starts at 7 p.m.
Fri., May 11 – Semifinals - Games 5-6: Women’s at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Men’s at 4 and 7 p.m.
Sat., May 12 – Championship - Game 7: Women’s at 3:30 p.m., Men’s at 7 p.m.
Attendees can purchase a daily pass for $10 or an All-Tournament Pass for $25 ($30 on site). Tickets can be purchased in advance at https://aquinas-college.mycloveronline.com/.
About the West Michigan Sports Commission: The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 664 sporting events and tournaments that attracted more than 1 million athletes and visitors, generating $307 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit westmisports.com and Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and follow @WestMiSports.
About NAIA: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs dedicated to championships in balance with the overall college educational experience. Each year, more than 65,000 NAIA student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports, earn more than $600 million in scholarships, and compete for a chance to participate in 25 national championships.