Preview: Finals Tough to Forecast as Past Rivals Set to Meet Again

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 9, 2023

While the matchups for Saturday’s MHSAA Boys Lacrosse Finals are familiar, the buildup to these championship games seems to have produced wide-open opportunities for all four to finish their seasons with victories.

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice is the reigning Division 1 runner-up, but split during the regular season with Saturday opponent Detroit Catholic Central – and with the Shamrocks winners of their most recent meeting in the Catholic League Bishop Tournament final.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central defeated Detroit Country Day 11-8 in last year’s Division 2 Final. But the Yellowjackets won this season’s rematch.  

Below is a glance at all four teams playing at East Grand Rapids High School. Rankings are based on the Michigan Power Rating formula used for postseason seeding. The Division 1 Final is set for 2 p.m., with Division 2 following at 5 p.m. Tickets cost $11 and are good for both games, and may be purchased online only at GoFan.

Both games will be broadcast and available with subscription from, with free audio broadcasts on the MHSAA Network.

Division 1

Record/rank: 19-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Ajay Chawla, 10th season (143-25)
Championship history: 15 Division 1 titles (most recent 2021), two runner-up finishes.

Best wins: 26-1 over No. 4 Clarkston in Semifinal, 20-10 over No. 10 Brighton in Regional Final, 12-9 over No. 3 Detroit Catholic Central, 21-6 over No. 2 Hartland, 15-12 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch:
 Christian McNulty, sr. A (75 goals, 17 assists, 31 ground balls); Sam Klein, sr. M (25 goals, 16 assists, 36 ground balls); Ben Eck, sr. M (33 goals, 25 assists, 38 ground balls); Robert MacMichael, sr. D (1 goal, 1 assist, 37 ground balls).
Outlook: After finishing runner-up last season, Brother Rice will play for its 16th Division 1 title with just one in-state loss this spring, 9-8 to DCC on May 13 after defeating the Shamrocks two weeks earlier. The only other defeat came to Cincinnati St. Xavier, also 9-8, and the Warriors have outscored their five playoff opponents by a combined 126-17. McNulty, Eck, Klein and MacMichael all made the all-state first team last season. Senior Hunter and sophomore Hansen Polonkey are second and third, respectively, with 51 and 40 goals this spring, and senior Braden Zarek has 36 and 32 assists.

Record/rank: 19-2, No. 3
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Dave Wilson, 17th season (249-96)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2018, eight runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 10-9 over No. 2 Hartland in Semifinal, 16-6 over No. 9 Grand Ledge in Regional Final, 9-8 over No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 8-7 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 13-6 over Division 2 No. 3 East Grand Rapids.
Players to watch:
 Jack Cyrek, sr. A; Cal Taulbee, sr. D; Sean Donahue, sr. A; Logan Yatooma, sr. M. (No statistics submitted.)
Outlook: The Shamrocks are returning to the Final for the first time since 2019, and after a win in the most recent matchup with rival Brother Rice after losing to the Warriors 12-9 in their first meeting this spring. That game was the only time DCC gave up double-digit goals this season, and its only other defeat was 8-4 to Carmel (Ind.) on March 25. Cyrek and Taulbee made the all-state first team last season and are two of 11 seniors on the roster.

Division 2

Record/rank: 19-2, No. 2
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Chris Garland, fourth season (61-19)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins:
 12-7 (Semifinal) and 15-8 over No. 7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 20-5 (Regional Semifinal) and 19-6 over No. 6 Grosse Pointe South, 11-10 (OT) over No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 7-5 over No. 3 East Grand Rapids, 13-9 over Division 1 No. 9 Grand Ledge.
Players to watch: Caden Daley, jr. A; Will Thompson, jr. A; Joseph Norton, soph. M; Simon Stoller, soph. M. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Country Day returned to the Final last season for the first time since 2014 and is back with its only losses this season to Division 1 No. 2 Hartland and No. 7 Rockford. Daley made the all-state second team last season and is considered among the state’s elite. Attack Ryan Ciacci is the only senior starter, but the expected lineup features several sophomores including goalie Kellen Curby.

Record/rank: 17-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Rainbow Tier 1
Coach: Andy Shira, sixth season (95-11)
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2022), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 8-2 (Regional Semifinal) and 17-3 over No. 4 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 11-9 over No. 3 East Grand Rapids, 14-6 over No. 7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 14-4 over Division 1 No. 7 Rockford, 10-8 over Division 1 No. 9 Grand Ledge.
Players to watch:
 Jonah McConnell, sr. A (57 goals, 34 assists); Nolan Hartl, jr. M (34 goals, 19 assists); Crandall Quinn, sr. G (7.5 goals-against average, 217 saves); Magnus Salmon, sr. M (53 goals, 33 assists). (Statistics through Regional Final.)
Outlook: The reigning champion will be playing in its sixth Final over the last seven seasons (not counting canceled 2020) and seeking its fourth championship during that span. After a March 28 loss to Country Day, 11-10 in overtime, Forest Hills Central’s defeats came to Division 1 top-ranked Brother Rice, No. 2 Hartland and No. 3 Detroit Catholic Central. Hartl and Quinn made the all-state first team last season, and McConnell made the second. Senior long stick midfielder Sam Sneider and junior face-off Luke Wedder also made the first team. Senior attacks Jake Koning and Graham Bennett both had added 33 goals through the Regional Final.

PHOTO Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice celebrates a goal during last season’s Division 1 Final.

Quick 2nd-Half Strike Sparks Detroit Catholic Central to Comeback Win

By Drew Ellis
Special for

June 8, 2024

ANN ARBOR – The Detroit Catholic Central offense knew what it was capable of – but just needed to show it.

After being shut out in the first period of Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 boys lacrosse championship game at University of Michigan, and trailing 6-3 at the break, the Shamrocks needed a spark.

That spark came in the form of a Lachlan Moffatt goal just 13 seconds into the second half, which started an 11-2 run for DCC on the way to a 14-8 victory.

“Hartland was playing really well. We just weren’t capitalizing, which is really kind of strange for us. I think when we got that first goal of the third quarter, that really changed the complexion of the whole thing,” Detroit Catholic Central coach Dave Wilson said.

Even after the Moffatt goal, the Shamrocks (21-3) still didn’t take the lead until late in the third quarter. Senior midfielder Matthew Aleva would fire off a laser that found the back of the net with 4:14 to play in the period, tying the game at 7-7.

Minutes later, Aleva would take a pass from Moffatt and find the net again to give the Shamrocks their first lead – one they wouldn’t relinquish.

A Hartland player brings the ball upfield while DCC's Brody Wojcik defends.“They were big and I knew we needed to swing the energy on to our side,” Aleva said of his two goals. “We had to rally back and come out in the second half with a Game-7 mentality. We found that energy and we made sure to play the way we know we could.”

The Shamrocks won all 14 faceoffs in the second half, which allowed them to control possession most of the final two periods and take a 32-8 shot advantage over Hartland (19-4).

“Faceoffs had a lot to do with it. At the end of the day, (Catholic Central) had a couple of strong draw guys who are really talented players,” Hartland coach Nick Levanti said. “You have to come out with other ways to win, whether it is winning possessions, winning ground balls, tying it up, clearing better. Ultimately, I felt (Catholic Central) came out hungrier to do those little things.”

It was Hartland that looked hungrier during the first half. The Eagles took a 3-0 lead after a quarter of play, thanks in large part to the play of freshman goalie Nate Anderer. He made six saves in the first period and finished with 19 for the game.

“He’s always locked in, and he’s a great player,” Levanti said of Anderer. “That’s a performance you can expect him to give. He has that type of capability in any game.”

With Catholic Central not finding the net at its accustomed frequency, it relied less on its passing to score and worked individual battles. Seven of the 11 second-half goals were unassisted. 

“Every game takes on its own personality. We weren’t moving off-ball well, so guys had to really take it on their own and stick the ball in the net, and they did,” Wilson said.

The Shamrocks' Matthew Aleva (30) makes a move as Hartland's Mark Alarcon defends. Luke Zajdel led Catholic Central in scoring with five goals, four of which came in the second half. Moffatt finished with three goals and two assists, while Francisco Williams and Aleva each had two goals.

Hartland was led by Dylan Ayotte, who had two goals. Easton Culver had one goal and two assists for the Eagles.

Saturday marked the first time the Division 1 Final didn’t feature Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice. The Warriors had appeared in every D1 Final since the sport received MHSAA sponsorship in 2005.

The only two Finals Brother Rice had lost came against Catholic Central (2018) and Hartland (2022), respectively.

Catholic Central became the first program aside from Rice to win multiple MHSAA Division 1 titles.

“It’s sheer dedication to try and get to this game every year,” Wilson said. “It requires a ton of commitment and skill and unselfishness and learning how to be coachable. These guys did it. We felt that early on, that these guys had the potential to do that.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Catholic Central celebrates its Division 1 championship Saturday. (Middle) A Hartland player brings the ball upfield while DCC's Brody Wojcik defends. (Below) The Shamrocks' Matthew Aleva (30) makes a move as Hartland's Braden Streight defends.