Vanitvelt Returns to Lead Loaded Powers

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 17, 2017

Blaise Vanitvelt has been a dominant force on the golf course this season.

But more importantly, the Flint Powers Catholic senior is enjoying playing with his younger brother and their friends – who are carding great scores of their own.

“Our starting five, we’ve all grown up playing together,” Vanitvelt said. “I just feel good when I’m out there playing. I’m happy with how the whole team is playing, really.”

Vanitvelt, who spent his junior year at Bishop’s Gate Golf Academy in central Florida, was 9-under par through three Saginaw Valley League tournaments, with scores of 69, 71 and 67. He’s leading a team that is frequently shooting in the low 300s, or better.

“We just posted a 299 at Currie Golf Course up in Midland – it’s a very challenging course,” Powers coach Bob Beach said. “I have a very good team this year.”

On the night Powers shot its 299, Vanitvelt led the way with his 67, which tied the best round of his life. His brother Ty, a freshman, and Zack Hopkins each shot 75s for Powers, while Andrew Hayward added an 82. Powers has had several other players figure into the scoring this season, including Joe Coriasso, who is headed to Mott Community College to play next season and was the medalist in the Genesee County Tournament.

Blaise Vanitvelt could see this coming. He and his teammates have put in a lot of time on the course after their regular practices. It’s something that’s been happening for several years.

“We’re all members at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc; it’s awesome,” Vanitvelt said. “Every day we go to practice for an hour, then we’ll go to Warwick, eat, and practice more. It’s a good practice course. It kind of tests a lot of different stuff for us. The practice facility is super nice there, and the guys from the Grand Blanc team are always there.

“I’ve always been looking forward to this. We go down to Kentucky to play in tournaments together. It’s nice to be on the same team.”

Being a part of this team is a major reason Vanitvelt – who was the No. 1 golfer for Powers as a freshman and sophomore – came back from Florida. It was something he advertised as the plan all along, even if he wasn’t always 100 percent sure of it.

“I told my girlfriend and told my teammates that I was coming back for my senior year,” he said. “Me and my parents had talked about it, and decided that if the academy and me agree that I need to stay, I would.

“But I wanted to be home with family for my senior year.”

A talk with his academy coaches helped validate the decision, and Vanitvelt said he returned to Michigan with a strong summer on the course. It was strong enough that Eastern Michigan University offered him a scholarship. He committed to the Eagles in the fall.

Beach said it was clear that Vanitvelt had improved when he returned, and he wasn’t surprised by it. Not just because of what the golf academy offered in terms of skill building, but because of Vanitvelt’s ability and work ethic.

“A lot of it is heart and desire -- work ethic,” Beach said. “That’s where Blaise excels. He wants to get better, he wants to be the best he can be. Blaise does have the heart for it. He has the desire, and he’s willing to work for it. He’s worked extremely hard.”

When he came back, Vanitvelt was able to step right back into a leadership role for the Chargers, and he did so not only with an improved game, but also some new learning methods to share with his teammates.

“I always try to help them out with stuff,” Vanitvelt said. “When we go to practice, I talk with coach, and we play a lot of games -- working on mental games and handling pressure. When we go back to Warwick, we always play against each other, and I try to incorporate high pressure games as much as I can. I help my brother out a ton. He does listen to me – sometimes. That’s why I was excited to come back.

“I wasn’t trying to be bossy or anything. We all can play golf on our own, and if I can help out I will. I’m always rooting for them.”

Ty Vanitvelt agreed that his brother has leant a helping hand. But mostly, he’s just happy to have him back.

“It’s really fun playing with him, especially with how good he’s playing,” Ty Vanitvelt said. “High school is different than any other type of golf, so to have my brother there, it helps a lot. When he went to school last year, he learned a lot about golf and his swing. If I’m not hitting it good, I’ll go to him. He’s very informative if I have a question. Very helpful.”

As the postseason approaches, the Chargers have high hopes but know they’ll have to be at the absolute top of their game. They moved up to Division 2 this season, and are in a Regional with St. Johns, East Lansing and DeWitt, the top three placers at the 2016 Division 2 Final. To even get to the final weekend Powers will have to finish above at least one of those teams at The Emerald Golf Course on May 31.

“We always talk about being state champs, but if we all play like we know we can play, it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Blaise Vanitvelt said. “I know our team can put up a good number and threaten them. I think we’re getting to the point, we’ve shot in the low 300s a good number of times, that I think we should be able to contend if we all play as well as we can.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers’ Blaise Vanitvelt tees off. (Middle) Vanitvelt leads the No. 4-ranked team in Lower Peninsula Division 2. (Photos courtesy of Blaise Vanitvelt.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 9, 2024

The Girls & Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium for the first time, one of the most notable changes for this season as sports ramp up for more than 100,000 athletes anticipated to participate this spring for Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools.

The MHSAA sponsors postseason competition each spring in baseball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, girls and boys track & field, boys golf (Lower and Upper Peninsula) and girls golf (UP), and girls (LP) and boys (UP) tennis.

The U-M Lacrosse Stadium opened for competition in 2018 and seats 2,000 spectators. The Girls Lacrosse Finals will be played Friday, June 7, with Division 1 at 4 p.m. and Division 2 at 7 p.m. The Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played the following day, June 8, with Division 2 at 11 a.m. and Division 1 at 2 p.m.

Girls lacrosse also has a significant format adjustment this season, as games will be played with four 12-minutes quarters instead of the previous two halves, in part to allow coaches more opportunities to provide direct instruction during a game. Two more rules changes are expected to improve flow of play – players awarded a free position outside of the critical scoring area no longer must come to a stop and settled stance before self-starting, and false start penalties outside the critical scoring area have been eliminated.

Several more rules changes will be noticeable this spring:

In boys lacrosse, a change was made to enhance player safety. Play will stop immediately any time a player’s helmet comes off, and that player may not return until the next dead ball after play continues.

Fair and legal starts are a continued emphasis for track & field, and a rule change will allow for movement before the start of the race as long as a competitor does not leave their mark with a hand or a foot after the “set” command, or make forward motion before the starting device is activated.

A significant rule change in softball alters pitch delivery mechanics. The pitcher may now have both feet off the ground at the same time when releasing the ball as long as both feet remain within the 24-inch width of a pitching plate and the pitcher does not replant the pivot foot before delivering the pitch.

Another change in softball requires that a playbook/playcard be worn on the wrist or kept in a back pocket to reduce distractions. If worn by the pitcher, the equipment must be worn on the non-pitching arm. Similarly in baseball, a wristband with plays or instructions will be permitted but must be a single, solid color, and for pitchers may not contain the colors white or gray or be otherwise distracting. Baseball players must wear this wristband on the wrist or forearm, and pitchers may wear one only on their non-pitching arm.

Also in baseball, a rule change allows for one-way communication devices worn by the catcher to receive instructions from the dugout while on defense, for the purpose of calling pitches. The coach must be inside the dugout/bench area to use the communication device.

Golfers now are required to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that school team in an MHSAA Regional or Final. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hole events.

In tennis, for the first time in Lower Peninsula play, a No. 1 doubles flight from a non-qualifying team will be able to advance from its Regional to Finals competition. To do so, that No. 1 doubles flight must finish first or second at its Regional, and the No. 1 singles player from that team also must have qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play.

On the soccer pitch, two officiating-related changes will be especially noticeable. Officials now may stop the clock to check on an injured player without that player being required to leave the match – previously that player would have to sub out. Also, categories for fouls have been redefined: careless (which is a foul but does not receive a card), reckless (a foul with a yellow card) and excessive force (foul with red card). 

The 2023-24 Spring campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Golf and Boys Tennis Finals during the week of May 27 and wraps up with Girls Soccer, Baseball and Softball Finals on June 15. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regional Semifinals – June 5
Regional Finals, Quarterfinals – June 8
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Boys Regionals – May 28-June 1
UP Girls & Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Boys Finals – June 7-8

Boys Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 10-15
Regionals – May 16-29
Quarterfinals – May 31 or June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 8

Girls Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 16-18, or May 20
Regionals – May 22-June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 7

Girls Soccer
Districts – May 22-June 1
Regionals – June 4-8
Semifinals – June 11-12
Finals – June 14-15

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regionals – June 8
Quarterfinals – June 11
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Girls Regionals – May 15-18
UP Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Girls Finals – May 31-June 1

Track & Field
Regionals – May 16-18
Finals – June 1