Cooksey's HS Success Nearly Unmatched

October 28, 2020

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

As many wins as William Cooksey piled up playing tennis for Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett the past four years, there were probably more times he was asked why he was playing high school tennis in the first place.

One of the country’s top junior players, who is ranked No. 8 in the nation for his age group, the 17-year-old Cooksey also won the under-18 boys single title at the USTA National Indoor Championships in Kansas City last year.

That seems like a recipe for wanting to just train full-time for junior circuit play, but Cooksey stuck with playing high school tennis for a simple reason.

“I got a lot of good memories and experiences, but I think the main thing was team environment,” Cooksey said. “Becoming a leader and adopting that role model role. I just had a bunch of buddies on the team, and it was just a fun time.”

In addition to having fun with friends, Cooksey also ended up leaving a major legacy with his high school accomplishments.

At the MHSAA Division 4 Individual Final on Oct. 21 in Portland, Cooksey won his fourth straight No. 1 singles title, putting him in rare company.

Cooksey became the first player from the Lower Peninsula to win Finals titles at No. 1 singles in any division all four years of high school since Francisco Castillo of Hamtramck did so from 1957-60. Cooksey became the fifth player total in state history to accomplish the feat; Marquette's Alec Olivier (2016-19) was the only other athlete since Castillo to win four Finals championships at the top flight. 

Cooksey arrived at Liggett as a scrawny, 5-foot-6 kid who had enough skill to still win the Division 4 championship at No. 1 singles as a freshman in 2017.

He leaves high school as a chiseled, 6-foot-3 phenom who has developed his game further and will embark on a collegiate career at the University of Michigan.

Another mark Cooksey said that high school tennis left on him was that it helped launch him into an elite national junior player.

“I was always short, weak and I wasn’t doing so well in the younger divisions like the 12s and the 14s,” Cooksey said. “I was kind of struggling with it a little bit and getting down on myself. But after winning states my freshman year, I got a bunch of confidence. I started growing and started putting on some muscle. That’s when I started loving playing the game.”

Liggett head coach Mark Sobieralski said Cooksey enjoyed being around high school friends and teammates so much that he would often spend just as much time at practices trying to coach them up as he did playing himself.

“He loved the kids and to be with them,” Sobieralski said. “When he came to practice, he would take like four kids and work with them and then practice on his own. All of his friends, he got to play with and he had fun. That’s the greatest thing about him.”

But now that high school is over, Cooksey is moving at the high speed of his serve toward his future.

It was somewhat of a lost summer on the junior circuit not only because of COVID-19, but also because he was battling a wrist injury.

But Cooksey, who said he likes to pattern his game from professionals Jannik Sinner of Italy and Dennis Shapovalov of Canada, said he is much healthier and raring to get back into junior tournament action.

“My wrist is definitely feeling better,” Cooksey said. “I’m hoping they are going to have national indoors so I can defend my title there. That would be cool.”

No matter what the future holds for Cooksey, he will leave high school tennis knowing he forever made his place in the record books.

“When you see him, he looks like a 5-star,” Sobieralski said.

It’s certainly been hard to argue.

PHOTOS: (Top) University Liggett’s William Cooksey serves during his No. 1 singles match at the MHSAA Team Tennis Finals earlier this month. (Middle) Top to bottom: Liggett playing for No. 1 championships as a sophomore, junior and senior. (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