Natalie Bloniarz got a different kind of feeling when she gave lacrosse a shot as an eighth grader.
Bloniarz enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to stop playing.
And that passion the recent Okemos graduate developed for the sport over the last five years was one she wanted to share with younger teammates.
“I wanted to be a role model to the team,” Bloniarz said. “When I was a freshman a few of the girls took me in and I just felt so welcomed. That’s the reason why I loved the sport and why I liked going to practice. I wanted to make that environment so positive and welcoming for everyone so they would enjoy it and they would come back.”
Bloniarz succeeded in establishing that environment for the Okemos girls lacrosse team. She provided leadership off the field to help the younger Chief players adjust to the varsity level, and also eased the transition to new coach Matt Holtz.
The LSJ girls lacrosse player of the year also made her mark on the field, totaling 39 goals and 31 assists to help the Chiefs to a strong season that included CAAC and regional titles and ended in the Division 2 state semifinals.
Holtz said Bloniarz, the lone mid-Michigan player to be named first team all-state, was the center of it all for Okemos this spring.
“The first thing that caught my eye was she was a vocal leader and did a wonderful job of leading the girls,” Holtz said. “She didn’t really lead in many stats, but she was up there in all the stats. She’s fast and she’s athletic, but the biggest plus to us was her leadership. She was really the person that got everybody going in the right direction and kind of led things on the field and off the field.”
Bloniarz, who will be part of Central Michigan’s inaugural women’s lacrosse team next spring, credits her chemistry with teammates for her on-field success. She said a bond with juniors Angela Palmer and Kendall Luberto and the other attackers was instrumental in helping Okemos thrive.
“Kendall Luberto and Angela Palmer were some great people to play with,” Bloniarz said. “All three of us and all of the attack worked very well together. We just play well together. We can pass, we can move around, we know where each other are. We just trust each other.”
Bloniarz hopes to find that kind of chemistry when she begins her college career for the upstart CMU program. She is one of 26 players that signed with the program and will be reunited with Chippewa assistant Mackenzie Lawler, an Okemos native that helped get Bloniarz started with lacrosse.
“I’m very excited,” Bloniarz said. “Since there is no upperclassmen, we will all be the leaders. That’s another aspect where you’ve got to take control and push each other. It will be different and I think it will be positive.”