Allegan Earns 1st Title, Hackett 1st Since 2005

October 20, 2019

By Greg Chrapek
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – After chasing an elusive MHSAA Finals tennis championship for years, what would a few more hours waiting matter for the Allegan boys tennis team?

With all but the No. 3 singles semifinals and final completed Saturday afternoon at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Hope College, Allegan and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep were tied for first place with 21 total team points apiece. The No. 3 singles semifinals were moved to the evening, with a match between Hackett and Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard set to determine if Hackett won the title outright or shared with Allegan.

For some six to seven hours Saturday afternoon, the Tigers had to anxiously wait for their fate to be determined by a pair of players from a team other than their own. The coaches kept the team busy with lunch and a trip to the BAM! Entertainment Center, where the team played laser tag to burn off the nervous energy.

While the coaching staff kept the team occupied, the anxiety was still prevalent.

“It was very high stress,” said Walker Michaels, one of five seniors on the team. “It was a lot of stress waiting all day to find out if we would win a state championship or not.”

Allegan’s nerve level was heightened considerably shortly after the semifinals began. After Hackett jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, Gabriel Richard senior Rafid Farjo quickly became Allegan’s favorite tennis player not wearing orange and black when he battled back to win the first set. Farjo then made every Allegan tennis player’s dream come true when he won the second set, sending him into the final at No. 3 singles and Allegan to the victory stand where the Tigers shared the team championship trophy with the Hackett team that it previously defeated for the Regional championship.

“This is the first time that Allegan has won a state tennis title, boys or girls,” said Allegan co-coach Seth Arthur. “These guys have worked their tails off. They’ve played with the pressure of being number one in the state all year. To win the first tennis title in school history is an unbelievable feeling.”

For Allegan seniors Tim Lyon, Owen Clearwater, David Roark, Noah Festerling and Michaels, the wait was more than worth it.

“This was everything we worked for and dreamed of,” Lyon said. “All the hard work and every practice paid off.”

“Winning the first-ever state title is very exciting,” Clearwater said. “It’s a blessing to be a part of this and to be a part of Allegan High School.”    

Winning required a total-team effort. Freshman Eli Festerling was Allegan’s lone flight champion as he captured the title at No. 4 singles.

“I knew it was going to be really hard,” Festerling said. “I played (finalist Gerry Sherer of Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett) earlier this year, and he has become a lot better. He was a lot more confident, and I was not prepared for that in the first set. I kept the pace up, and that made the difference for me.”

Kalamazoo Hackett earned a share of the Division 4 title without winning a flight championship. Instead, the Irish utilized the same formula that Allegan used as the total-team effort produced the needed points.

Hackett put a total of five flights into the semifinal round, with three flights reaching the finals. Jack Ford advanced at No. 2 singles, while Connor Cavanaugh and Anthony Toweson reached the finals at No. 2 doubles and Jack Gordon and Miklas Johansson reached the finals at No. 3 doubles.

“We have a pretty special team this year,” said Cavanaugh, a senior. “No one expected our team to win a state title. All of our hard work paid off. As a team we collectively put in the hard work, and all of that hard work paid off.”

The Finals title was the first won by Hackett since the Irish tied Grosse Ile for the Division 4 title in 2005.

This year’s Finals were a wide-open competition from the opening volley to the last serve. Liggett finished just one point behind Allegan and Hackett, while Gabriel Richard, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Traverse City St. Francis all finished within five points of first place.

“There were just a lot of good teams spread out in Division 4 this year,” said Hackett coach Aaron Conroy. “We had a heck of a season. The guys worked real hard right from the start. It feels great to do it. The margin for error was very small, and we had everybody on the team step up.”

The parity in Division 4 was evident by the number of schools that won flight championships. Liggett was led by William Cooksey, who defeated Gabriel Richard’s Ian Sood at No. 1 singles for his third straight title at that flight. Gabriel Richard’s Tommy Heegan won the title at No. 2 singles, and St. Francis’ Cody Richards won at No. 3.

In doubles action, the St. Francis duo of senior Brendan Chouinard and sophomore Ben Schmude claimed the title at No. 1 doubles.

For Chouinard, it was the second-straight year he was part of a doubles champion.

“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Chouinard said. “We jumped out to a 5-0 lead and won that first set. We got down in the second set, but we picked it up and won it.”

Playing with a new partner in Schmude took a little getting used to, but once the duo became familiar with each other they took off this season.

“I knew that once we got used to playing together that no one would beat us,” Schmude said. “We do a good job of picking each other up when we get down.”

Like Allegan and Hackett, the Gladiators had to wait the long period Saturday afternoon to play in the other No. 3 semifinal.

“It was a long day,” said St. Francis coach Dane Fosgard prior to the conclusion. “We were up at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and the final match will be done around midnight. We’re used to it. We travel a lot. We came down here for a tournament at Hope College at the start of the season and played all day and slept on the courts at night. We will spend the night here. It’s fun for the team.”

A pair of Grand Rapids-area teams claimed the three other doubles championships. NorthPointe won both the Nos. 2 and No. 3 doubles titles. Elan Bosma and Derek Diepenhorst teamed up to win at No. 2, with Chase Berends and Sam Bradley winning at No. 3.

At No. 4 doubles, the Grand Rapids Catholic Central team of Cameron Beachler and Ben English came away with the title.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Allegan celebrates its first MHSAA Finals tennis championship Saturday. (Middle) Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep’s Jack Ford is pleased after claiming a point during a No. 2 singles match. (Click to see more from

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