Leading the way




Though in the shadows of her admittedly faster and stronger brothers Mike and Sean, Kylie Birney has made quite the name for herself as a women’s lacrosse player.

The second-oldest Birney athlete at UDM is a confident individual, sure of her skills on the lacrosse field.

This stems from the day she was born and began competing with older brother Mike, who has perfected his shot to the extent that he holds the record for the fastest shot on the men’s lacrosse team.

With her parents owning Michigan Lacrosse, a company that distributes across Michigan, she has never been slighted when it comes to having the best equipment, which surely has helped.

Her talent has catapulted her into the all-Atlantic Sun conversation and enables her to score multiple goals in a single game, as she did in the Titans’ first victory of the season over Cincinnati. The 2014 all-conference selection recorded a career-high five goals against the Bearcats.

Birney’s ability and confidence enabled the junior to be named a co-captain going into this season. She shares the honor with senior Tessa Keuler and fifth-year senior Morgan Lear.

The honor shows the level of respect Birney’s teammates have for her.

“It was not even on my radar, and it made me feel that I had huge shoes to fill,” said the UDM midfielder, who is a business major. 

Birney has filled those shoes well, according to fifth-year attacker Annie Mendoza, a community development graduate student.

“She’s enthusiastic and gives direction in a professional way to help us continue to grow as a unit,” said Mendoza. “She has great listening skills and is a very genuine leader and teammate.”

Mendoza, a Lansing native, also believes that as Birney has grown into her leadership role as a captain, she has matured and gained confidence on the field.

For Birney, the end-all, be-all is not ability.

The Plymouth resident believes UDM has plenty of ability due partly to the presence of seniors Keuler, Lear, preseason conference defensive player of the year Lexie McCormick and Amanda Guthrie, an all-Atlantic Sun second teamer in 2014.

But Birney sees mental fortitude as critical for the Titans to win on a consistent basis within the Atlantic Sun.

Without it, her squad will fall short of dethroning the defending champion Jacksonville Dolphins, she believes.

Luckily, according to Birney, her team has the right amount of it to play at a high level.

It’s something the Titans collectively lacked in previous seasons, she said.

“This is the strongest team mentally I’ve been around in my three years at UDM,” Birney said.

Although Birney and most of her teammates were invited to the university for the obvious reason of helping UDM win conference championships, coach Laura Mannes doesn’t simply look for the most-talented players.

She also, according to Birney, recruits players who have a knack for leadership and who can fit in with the close-knight group.

“Our coach (Mannes) does a really good job of making sure that our team is going to be a unit,” Birney said. “And if someone doesn’t fit into the culture of the team, coach is not going to recruit her – no matter if the girl’s the best lacrosse player or not.”

By playing and traveling many weekends together during fall, the team bonds over each individual’s unique leadership style, paving the way for some to stand out from the rest of the pack – something that Birney did as a sophomore.

Through doing so, she has inspired those sharing Titan Field with her to become more strong-willed, capable players.

“She illuminates trust and confidence that becomes contagious to the rest of the team,” Mendoza said. “We are a team, with strong assets seen on every part of the field, but she plays a vital role in helping keep the cohesion present throughout games.”