Story by DJ Foster, Aquinas College Assistant A.D. for Communications & Marketing
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Aquinas College (Mich.) has come to an agreement with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to host the 2018 and 2019 NAIA Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational in Grand Rapids, Mich. Aquinas will partner with the West Michigan Sports Commission to host the two-year national tournament at the AQ Athletic Field on May 9-12, 2018 and May 8-11, 2019.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to host the National Lacrosse Invitational at Aquinas the next two years,” said Nick Davidson, Aquinas Director of Athletics. “We really value our partnership with the West Michigan Sports Commission and the NAIA as we move forward to bringing the Invitational to Aquinas College. Hosting an event of this status is a huge undertaking, but we are very excited to show off our facility and our campus while providing a great opportunity for students to compete at the highest level of lacrosse. This will be an outstanding event and we’re eager to get started.”
Both the men’s and women’s national competitions will feature an eight-team single-elimination tournament field over the four-day periods. The tournament schedule will be released at a later date, but the men’s and women’s tournaments will run concurrently, with all games taking place on campus at the AQ Athletic Field. Both tournaments will feature four quarterfinal contests, a pair of semifinal matchups, and the National Invitational championship game.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for Aquinas College to not only host a national tournament, but to bring fans, parents, and of course the student-athletes onto campus to experience what Aquinas is all about,” commented Dr. Kevin Quinn, president of Aquinas College. “We are very proud and honored to host this tournament and we'll work to put together the best environment possible for the competition. Grand Rapids is a tremendous area and we're very excited to show off the city and our beautiful campus."
This is the first time in school history that Aquinas College has hosted a full national collegiate tournament on campus.
The NAIA sports of Men’s Lacrosse and Women’s Lacrosse will enter the third year of “National Invitational Sport” status, which means that at least 25 institutions currently sponsor either of the two sports at an intercollegiate varsity level.
“As we head into the third year of Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational status, we are thrilled with the quality and increased number of bids received,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President & CEO. “The NAIA and the NAIA-Lacrosse Coaches’ Association are excited about Grand Rapids welcoming our 2018 & 2019 National Invitational events and are confident the community will offer all participants a first-class championship-type atmosphere.”
After the completion of the 2018 National Invitational, the sport will be reviewed by the National Administrative Council (NAC), which governs the NAIA sport status. If approved at that point by the NAC and if the sport meets a minimum of 40 institutions sponsoring the sport at an intercollegiate varsity level, then the two sports would become a NAIA National Championship sport beginning with the 2019 season.
“The West Michigan Sports Commission has a great partnership with Aquinas College and the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference as we prepare to host the NAIA Championships,” noted Mike Guswiler, President of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “We look forward to the NAIA Lacrosse Invitational in 2018 & 2019. I am confident that the student athletes, coaches, and the spectators will enjoy their experience both on and off the field with all that Aquinas College and the Greater Grand Rapids region has to offer.”
The mission of the West Michigan Sports Commission is to promote Michigan's West Coast as the premier venue for hosting a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events, enhancing the economy and quality of life in the region. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, the West Michigan Sports Commission has booked 600 events or tournaments in West Michigan since 2007, with 900,000 athletes and visitors cumulatively attending those events. The WMSC has hosted numerous amateur, collegiate, and professional championships, including the annual Meijer State Games of Michigan, which featured over 10,000 athletes in 2016.
Aquinas athletics sponsors 24 sports, including 12 women’s sports, 11 men’s teams (with men’s volleyball beginning competition in 2018-19) and a coed cheer team. The 2016-17 athletic campaign saw Aquinas finish 22nd in the NAIA Directors Cup standings, which was the second-highest of any WHAC school and the fifth-best finish in school history.
In 2016-17, the Aquinas men’s lacrosse team finished 10-5 overall, which included a five-game winning streak. The Saints men also advanced to the WHAC championship game last season and finished eighth in the country. Last year, the AQ women’s lacrosse team went 8-8. Both teams will be looking to make their first appearance in the National Invitational next May on their home field.