Cranes' Team Effort Pays Off in Title Tie-Breaker

October 16, 2020

By Jarred Chrapek
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – To regain the Lower Peninsula Division 3 boys tennis title, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood knew every point would matter.

That laser-focused approach proved to be spot on as the Cranes outlasted reigning champion Ann Arbor Greenhills to capture this season’s championship at Holland Christian.

The two teams split the eight matches in the final 4-4, with the tie-breaker total sets won. Cranbrook Kingswood had one more set to its advantage.

And not just every set, but every game could've carried additional significance. Had the teams tied for number of sets won, the Cranes also would've won the next tie-breaker – most games won within those sets.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Cranbrook Kingswood coach Steve Herdoiza. “We knew that every point mattered, especially with this format.”

Unlike previous years, where the team champion was determined by how many matches individual players won during bracketed flight play, this year’s format was a pure team, head-to-head dual as the COVID-19 virus changed the way not only the tennis season was run but the way the MHSAA Tournament was set up.

This year’s title came down to a rematch between the two powers in Division 3 the past several years. Cranbrook Kingswood had won four straight Finals titles before Ann Arbor Greenhills snapped the streak last year. The two teams met three times this fall, tying 4-4 each time with Cranbrook winning twice on tie-breakers and Greenhills winning by tie-breaker the other time.

“Both teams knew it was likely to come down to total games won, or maybe sets. Cranbrook was deeper and won the lower flights by decisive margins, while Greenhills was stronger at the top, winning those matches,” Greenhills coach Eric Gajar said. “In the new format, it still came down to a total team effort, and Cranbrook was better (Friday) – they deserved to win. We will learn from it, and be stronger for having come through it. I know it will motivate the players to work hard this offseason, and they will come back ready for another shot."

This time, Cranbrook Kingswood junior Patrick Tiwari helped provide the tie-breaking set as he pushed his No. 2 singles match to three despite falling 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

Tiwari, however, did his part for the team as he won the middle set in what was the final match of the day that ended just as darkness was falling on the courts.

“(The same opponent) defeated me pretty good in two sets earlier this season,” Tiwari said. “It felt good to win that second set and help to clinch the title. Winning that set to clinch the title for us was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. The whole season was definitely weird, and to regain the state title was a great feeling.”

Just minutes before Tiwari’s match concluded, Cranbrook Kingswood senior Geoffrey Qin won his at No. 4 singles to give the Cranes their fourth victory of the dual. For the undefeated Qin, the victory was part of a total-team effort that started even before the season began.

“Winning this state title required so much effort by everyone,” Qin said. “It started back in August when we had COVID cases at our school. Not only did we have to work hard on our tennis and our conditioning, but we had to be diligent with the virus and practice good social distancing.”

The team also had to remain focused on preparing for every match, as lessons learned while coming up short at last year’s Final proved valuable this time around.

“We had some guys cramp up at last year’s state finals including myself,” Qin said. “We had to make sure that we kept hydrated and did proper stretching before matches this year to prevent cramping up. You learn lessons from defeat that you don’t learn by winning. That was an important lesson we learned last year, and I don’t think we would’ve won this year’s state title without learning those lessons.”

Qin and fellow team captains Dhilan Nagaraju and Enzo Martella provided Cranbrook Kingswood with strong leadership the entire season.

“We had four seniors this year and some very good leadership from our captains,” Herdoiza said. “We also had some freshmen step up along with some sophomores and juniors.

“We knew it was going to be a battle with Greenhills. We are two evenly-matched teams, and it came down to one set. Today we just took advantage of the opportunities given to us.”

Cranbrook Kingswood received some strong efforts from its doubles teams. The Cranes won three of the four doubles matches, led by the No. 2 pair Martella and Theo Taubman, who claimed a 7-5, 6-1 win.

“Our team goal was to peak for states,” Martella said. “This was a really difficult season with the COVID and everything, but we just kept getting better every week.”

The total team effort proved to be the key for Cranbrook Kingswood in the end.

“Everyone on the team played very well the entire tournament, especially at the end,” Nagaraju said. “Patrick at two singles exceeded expectations. We just kept on battling this year and overcoming numerous setbacks. We developed into a real team, and that was the difference. We just trusted the process.”

Cranbrook Kingswood claimed wins at No. 3 and No. 4 doubles. Sebs Taubman and Jacob Coburn picked up a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles, while Caden Che and Andrew Fink won at No. 4 by a score of 6-0, 6-0.

Greenhills claimed the No. 1 doubles match with Joey Formicola and Thomas Zeng winning 6-1, 6-3.

Greenhills also won three singles matches. Mert Oral claimed a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Rishi Verma won at No. 3 by a score of 7-6(6), 6-1. 

“I was particularly pleased with my top three singles players – all of whom won their matches in the final. Between them, they had only one loss all season long despite a brutal schedule against top competition,” Gajar said. “My one doubles team had a great tournament, including avenging a regular-season loss in the semifinal round, then played lights out in the finals, defeating a solid team.

“There are lots of teams that would have loved to be in our position and playing for a title in their last match. We did well to get there and came up just short. I am proud of how my guys competed and handled themselves. Of course, we were thrilled to have had a season at all; that wasn't always a sure thing. Hard to believe it's over.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Patrick Tiwari of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood returns a shot during his No. 2 singles match against Ann Arbor Greenhills. (Middle) Greenhills’ Mert Oral returns a volley at No. 1 singles. (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