Since bursting onto the scene two years ago, Lily Koslowski proved she belonged at the varsity level, playing well beyond her years on the attack for Grand Island girls lacrosse.
Using a shifty style of play to maneuver through the offensive zone, Koslowski turned into a shining star across all of Section VI, scoring a team-high 63 goals and passing 2017 graduate Alyssa Maxwell to establish a new program scoring record of 126 and counting, as of Wednesday morning.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Koslowski was a major contributor behind the Vikings clinching their first Niagara Frontier League and Section VI championship hardware in program history — the latter coming in the Class C title game against Williamsville East last May.
One year later, Grand Island is looking to fill the holes left by five seniors, including fellow attacker Olivia Fox and Lily’s older sister, Ella, who are both playing at Division II Slippery Rock. The departures now leave Lily going into uncharted territories as the veteran leader — a role she has quickly embraced on a 2023 team that includes 13 total freshmen and sophomores.
In fact, Koslowski is excited to pass on her knowledge gathered from years of playing the sport before she continues as the program’s first Division I commit in women’s lacrosse at Canisius College starting this September.
“It’s definitely crazy because I’m so used to always being one of the younger kids on the team, so now being a senior and being that person that they’ll come and talk to is really huge,” said Koslowski, who has scored eight goals for a 1-1 Grand Island team entering Wednesday. “And, I’ve really enjoyed helping all of them. It’s been exciting seeing how everyone develops.”
But in the eyes of Grand Island head coach Jen Chowske — who has known the Koslowski sisters since they first joined youth lacrosse camp in grade school — Lily’s leadership skills didn’t just develop overnight. The approachable demeanor and positive attitude is shown around the clock by Koslowski for the Vikings, even well before she was selected as one of Grand Island’s three co-captains in 2023.
Koslowski always had the talent — starting with a 59-point campaign in 2021 — but it was her jump as a leader last spring specifically that made her stand out to Chowske as a potential future captain. The skill-set and the desire to see Grand Island continue growing makes Koslowski “just one of the best players” in program history, according to Chowske.
“Last year, you could really see her taking players to the side and talking to them and trying to help them out and encourage them,” said Chowske, who is now in her 10th season coaching the Vikings. “That’s one of the great things about Lily. She always tries to be positive. … She’s always that one (player) that’s like, ‘Guys, we got this, we can do this.’ Or, if we’re having a bad practice — or maybe it’s snowing — she will try to be positive.”
Learning to help others in and out of sports will continue to be a part of Koslowski’s next step of her life at Canisius College starting this September. Koslowski hopes to help the Golden Griffins’ return towards winning MAAC championships, a goal accomplished six times in eight years from 2011 to 2018 and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.
More importantly, Koslowski is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sports Psychology with hopes of becoming a sports psychologist in the future and helping athletes struggle with mental-health issues — a major concern for all Americans since the start of the pandemic.
One of the first steps toward this field for Koslowski came through being a student representative for the “Morgan’s Message” organization, which the Grand Island program honored before Wednesday night’s contest versus Clarence held at Gene Masters Stadium in Grand Island. Focusing on ending the mental health stigma in athletes, “Morgan’s Message” is named in honor of the late Morgan Rodgers, a former Division I women’s lacrosse player at Duke who died by suicide on July 11, 2019 at the age of 22.
For Grand Island, the team’s slogan this season is “Play Happy,” which goes hand-in-hand with the organization’s symbol of a butterfly, which was displayed on their warm-up shirts before the Clarence game along with wearing “END THE STIGMA” silicon wristbands on their wrists.
Repeating as sectional champions and beyond is a main goal while also having fun and loving the game is what truly matters for the Vikings, especially for Koslowski.
Koslowski was only a freshman on Grand Island’s varsity team in 2020 when the season was canceled due to the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. Although the team only had a couple practices before everything was shut down, Koslowski remembered feeling “super, super excited” she had made the team yet “very intimidated” by the older and more experienced players.
Now as one of the co-captains — along with junior Juliet Chadima and senior Sarah Grover — Koslowski is determined to make sure the underclassmen know they deserve to play on varsity by establishing a family culture. Even with her and the team’s past success, Koslowski noted it’s never been a one-man show at Grand Island.
“In the end, we’re all one team,” Koslowski said. “I just hope that they’re all excited and not nervous. Because obviously, nerves will be there — but we’ve all had them. But I don’t know, I think the excitement is more than anything.”
Grand Island continues its 2023 campaign Friday at Gowanda at 5:15 p.m.