Every MHSAA Tournament in every sport surprises us with some of the unexpected. Soccer this fall certainly has provided a few unanticipated moments to remember.
Saturday’s four Finals feature a team making its first championship game appearance, a second also seeking its first title and a third seeking its first this century, plus a Division 4 championship match pitting unranked contenders.
Division 1 - Comstock Park - Noon
Rochester Adams vs Rockford
Division 2 - Novi - Noon
Richland Gull Lake vs Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Division 3 - Comstock Park - 3 p.m.
Holland Christian vs Grosse Ile
Division 4 - Novi - 3 pm
Muskegon Western Michigan Christian vs Ann Arbor Greenhills
Below is a glance at all eight teams taking the field, with statistics through Regionals:
Record/rank: 16-1-6, No. 8
Michigan Power Rating: No. 8
Coach: Josh Hickey, 14th season (157-87-55)
League finish: Fourth in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Division 1 champion 1999, two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Jackson Craft, jr. F (21 goals, 10 assists), Luke Rosin, sr. D (14 goals, 16 assists), Nick Hopkins, jr. D (2 goals, 2 assists), John Coon, jr. GK (0.64 goals-against average, 12 shutouts).
Outlook: Adams is returning to the Finals for the first time since finishing Division 1 runner-up in 2014, and defeated top-ranked Troy and No. 10 Salem along the way. The Troy win avenged Adams’ only loss, and the Highlanders also had draws against No. 5 Troy Athens, No. 6 Clarkston and No. 7 Berkley in league play. Striker Connor Patritto is one of six senior starters and had added eight goals and three assists entering the week, while junior midfielder Colton Janes added six goals and 11 assists.
Record/rank: 22-0-1, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 3
Coach: Tim Boelman, second season (33-6-4)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Tegan Gumbs, soph. GK (0.53 goals-against average); Benjamin Battreal, sr. F (9 goals, 11 assists); Aidan Flanders, fr. F (6 goals, 8 assists); Andrew Bultman, sr. F (16 goals, 11 assists).
Outlook: The Rams are an early-September draw against No. 12 Grand Haven from a perfect record, and their run to their first Final has included wins over the Buccaneers and No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central. They’ve allowed only one goal over six postseason games, to Portage Central in the Regional Final. Senior midfielder Zenon Fedorowych had added six goals and six assists entering the week. Boelman has coached at every level of the program since first joining the staff in 2008.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 15-1-3, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 12
Coach: Chad O’Kulich, 27th season (320-71-37)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League AA
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2014.
Players to watch: Nathan Hooker, sr. M (10 goals, 8 assists); Bora Akgun, sr. GK (0.72 goals-against average). Evan Evans, sr. M (13 goals, 10 assists); Cameron Hannah, jr. M (13 goals, 5 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook has returned to the Semifinals four times since its last championship, most recently in 2020 before taking the next step this season and returning to the Final. Hooker made the all-state third team last season and Akgun earned an honorable mention, and they with Evans and defenders Ian Chang and John Lee are senior starters. The Cranes have shut out four postseason opponents, including No. 10 Riverview in the Semifinal, and their only loss of the fall came in overtime to Division 1 No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central.
RICHLAND GULL LAKE
Record/rank: 21-3, No. 1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 1
Coach: Jeff Corstange, first season (21-3)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Jasek Zielaskowski, sr. M/F (22 goals, 7 assists), Ryker Corstange, jr. F/M (19 goals, 25 assists), Tariku Klipsch, sr. M (15 goals, 7 assists), Zavier Thomas, jr. F (12 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: After closing the regular season with a pair of losses, Gull Lake has defeated No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, No. 8 Parma Western and No. 9 DeWitt on the way to this weekend. Jeff Corstange took over the Gull Lake boys program this fall after previously leading the girls varsity to three Division 2 championships and a 153-20-6 record over eight seasons. Ryker Corstange earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and junior keeper Evan Kaiser made the third team. Kaiser and junior Braden Minehart have nearly split time this season and combined for 14 shutouts.
Record/rank: 14-7, No. 14
Michigan Power Rating: No. 18
Coach: Jon Evans, seventh season (150-15-10)
League finish: Second in Huron League.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Drake Rossi, sr. M (16 goals, 12 assists), Joe Molnar, sr. M (12 goals, 5 assists); Cannon Kawadri, sr. D (5 goals, 6 assists); Hayden Watson, sr. D (2 goals, 1 assist).
Outlook: Grosse Ile will be playing in its fifth-straight Division 3 Final, having won titles in 2019 and 2020 and finished runner-up in 2018 and last season. Only 8-7 at the start of the playoffs, the Red Devils have defeated No. 13 Milan and No. 2 Detroit Country Day during this run and saw Troy, Riverview and Elk Rapids as part of a strong regular-season schedule. Kawadri made the all-state first team last season, and Watson made the third.
Record/rank: 19-1-3, No. 6
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Dave DeBoer, 10th season (157-30-22)
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2003).
Players to watch: Daniel Morgan, sr. GK (0.31 goals-against average,15 shutouts); Kyle Cannon, sr. F (16 goals, 3 assists); Lucas Freriks, sr. F (10 goals, 12 assists); Michael Pierce, sr. F (8 goals, 3 assists).
Outlook: The Maroons have navigated a postseason path that’s included wins over top-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central, No. 9 Elk Rapids and No. 15 Fennville. That lone loss came in the team’s third game of the season, against Grand Rapids South Christian, which entered the postseason No. 3 in Division 3. Morgan made the all-state second team last year and has given up seven goals this fall while playing all but two games.
ANN ARBOR GREENHILLS
Record/rank: 8-6-4, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 39
Coach: Lucian Popescu, 13th season (161-100-26)
League finish: Fifth in Detroit Catholic League AA
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2017, four runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Lachlan Rae, jr. M (5 goals, 4 assists); Michael Zheng, jr. F (15 goals, 5 assists); Jay Vigan, sr. M (4 goals, 11 assists); Adrian Bardwell, sr. D.
Outlook: Greenhills came out of a league that includes Division 2 finalist Cranbrook, and the Gryphons played mostly larger teams before entering the postseason at 3-6-4. That preparation clearly has paid off as Greenhills has yet to give up a goal over five playoff games, with wins over No. 11 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, No. 6 Plymouth Christian Academy and No. 3 Lansing Christian along the way. Bardwell earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and sophomore Etienne Rouillard has a 1.2 goals-against average in net.
MUSKEGON WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 15-8-2, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 11
Coach: Ben Buursma, third season (37-23-6)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), six runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Gavin Riksen, sr. F (18 goals, 5 assists); Charlie Buursma, jr. M (8 goals, 11 assists); Ashton Leffring, sr. F (22 goals, 18 assists); Cole DeJonge, soph. M (6 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Western Michigan Christian rebounded from a 2-5 start to get to 10-8-2 by the end of the regular season, and then reached its 14th Final despite losing a top midfielder to injury during the run. The Warriors have won eight straight games, avenging losses to No. 13 Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Leland during the playoffs and defeating top-ranked Hartford in a Regional Final. Leffring made the all-state second team last season.
PHOTOS (Top) Gull Lake's Jasek Zielaskowski gains possession during his team's Semifinal win Wednesday. (Middle) Greenhills' Raj Tiller gets a foot on the ball during a Gryphons' win over Monroe St. Mary. (Top photo courtesy of The Open Shutter Photo/Cindy Corstange. Middle photo by Lei Zheng.)