3-Seed Liggett Regains D4 Championship

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

October 16, 2020

PORTAGE — With teammates screaming and cheering on the sidelines, a stunned senior and freshman doubles team clinched the winning point for Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett on Friday.

Senior Tarun Jarial and freshman Tommy Ugval pulled out the two-set win, leading Liggett on its way to an 8-0 team sweep of Hudsonville Unity Christian in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 boys tennis championship match at Portage Central High School.

After falling a point short last year, Liggett was hungry for that team title.

“It never gets old,” said coach Mark Sobieralski, who has three team titles in his seven years as head coach. “It’s another special group of kids.”

Both finalists pulled upsets in the semifinals.

Unity Christian, the fourth seed, ousted top seed Traverse City St. Francis, 5-3, while No. 3 Liggett defeated No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, 6-2.

The second-place finish was a win of sorts for Unity Christian.

“Last year was the second time we ever went to state, and we tied for 11th. So making it to the finals this year is pretty special,” first-year coach Brad Miedema said. “Personal best for the school so far.”

With Liggett leading, 4-0, Jarial and Ugval pulled out a hard-fought 7-6(6), 7-5, win against Jake McNamara and Micah Riddering.

Neither realized their point was the clincher at the time.

“Right after I came (off the court), my team said I was the clincher, me and Tommy,” Jarial said.

“It was just an amazing feeling. I can’t explain it. We’ve been working for this all year, and I’m really excited to hold that trophy up.”

Ugval, a freshman, was literally speechless when he got the news.

He credited his senior partner with keeping him calm during the match.

“(Jarial) taught me a lot about the game and helped motivate me,” Ugval said. 

“I was really nervous toward the beginning of the year and especially today since it’s my first state championship.”

Sobieralski said that was one reason he paired the two.

“For a freshman, (Ugval) really handled himself well out there,” he said. “It was nice to have a senior with a freshman because the senior was able to calm him down and give him confidence.”

One Liggett senior still has one more goal to meet.

Will Cooksey, who is headed to University of Michigan next fall, will try to make it a four-year sweep next week at the Division 4 No. 1 singles championships at Portland High School.

“This is my last ride,” said Cooksey, the three-time reigning D-4 champion at No. 1 singles. “I’m going to try to bring home that fourth title.”

Cooksey, who is ranked eighth nationally in the USTA 18-under division, was first off the court, defeating Unity Christian’s Ryan Broek, 6-0, 6-1.

That was just perfect for a guy who is one of the most vocal cheerleaders for his teammates.

“I love cheering on the team,” he said. “It’s exciting to get the guys energetic and going. I just love the team environment.”

Sobieralski said Cooksey is a great team leader.

“He’s a national champion, 18-under, and he plays on our team because he loves the boys,” the coach said. “He’s a leader.

“He comes to practice but doesn’t practice. He takes four or five kids and works with them and then goes (and) practices on his own. He’s a great cheerleader, always up and down, screaming and yelling.”

Sobieralski said his team took a few unexpected hits to start the season.

“We had a freshman who was supposed to come in this year and he moved to Florida,” he said. 

“We had a starter from our team from last year who decided to stay in Maine. Those were two people we were counting on, so we didn’t know how we were going to be.”

But a few others stepped up.

“I have to commend Alec Leonard,” he said. “He just came out for the first year. He’s the captain of the baseball and the hockey teams.

“He just wanted to play tennis with his friends and worked his butt off. Fourth doubles (with Rocco Scarfone) were just amazing today. They won both their matches, and it was just shocking how well they did today.”

The duo defeated Will Anama and Jacob Lanning, 6-0, 6-2.

Sobieralski also gave kudos to No. 1 doubles player Jacob Tomlinson.

“He was in quarantine 14 days,” the coach said. “He didn’t have the virus; he was around somebody.

“He had four negative tests, and he was released (Friday). He hasn’t played in two weeks. With all this going on, it’s just amazing we did this. It’s just exciting.”

The Knights also had an angel, a porcelain one, on their side.

“It’s from the 1930s and every coach from Liggett has passed it down, and we bring it every year and the kids all take it and hold it, rub it,” said Sobieralski, who kept the angel in his car during the matches.

“It’s a special thing we have every year, and I freak out because I don’t want it to get broken.”

In upsetting the No. 1 seed in the semis, Miedema said starting fast was a key.

“I just knew that we had to get going right away,” he said. “I knew if we came out with energy right away and ready to play, we could take it to them and hopefully get the upset, which we were able to do.”

He said the finals match was closer than the 8-0 score indicates.

“We started off well and stayed in a lot of matches,” he said. “We had two matches that went three sets and a couple other close matches out there.

“The boys played their hearts out, and I’m not disappointed in anything they did out there.

“It’s been wild. I knew we were good going into the year, so we had pretty high expectations. But this definitely exceeded what we were hoping for.

Other singles winners were Sebastian Courtright, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, over Kaden Dykstra at No. 2, George Anusbigian, 6-3, 6-2, over Chafer Jolman at No. 3 and Gerry Sherer, 6-1, 6-1, over Austin Widner.

Other doubles winners were Vince Maribao and Tomlinson, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, over Brendan Bremer and Jack Christian at No. 1, and Bennett French and Campbell Marchal, 6-2, 7-5, over Nate Lenters and Ben Timmermans.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Liggett player returns a volley during a match Friday at Portage Central. (Middle) Hudsonville Unity Christian advanced to the Final with an upset of top seed Traverse City St. Francis. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)



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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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