FH Northern Finishes Long Climb Back to #1

By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com

October 19, 2019

ANN ARBOR – Cole Rynbrandt had been there before. He’d seen his older brothers capture individual MHSAA Finals championships.

On Saturday, he wanted to experience that achievement for himself.

The Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior and his doubles partner, Justin Lee, finished off a barn-burner of a tie-breaker, defeating Detroit U-D Jesuit’s Charlie Young and John Dahmer, 6-2, 7-6 (6), in the No. 2 doubles championship match, helping seal not only a flight title for Rynbrandt himself, but clinching the school’s first team Finals title since 1998.

“Knowing that (our win) clinched the team title makes it all that much sweeter,” Rynbrandt said. “The team hasn’t won a title in about 20 years and two of my older brothers had won state titles, so it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

What made it even more special is that Rynbrandt’s older brothers – Quentin and Aidan – both won their titles at No. 2 doubles as well. Oh, and to top it off, Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals were played at the University of Michigan.

“I’ve been a die-hard Michigan fan my whole life, so to play on these courts has been so incredible,” Cole Rynbrandt said. “I’ve always dreamed of going to school here and to play on these courts.”

The Huskies’ 1998 title came when they competed in Division 3.

“It feels good that we could go out and win it,” said longtime Northern head coach Dave Sukup, who also was the head coach of that 1998 team. “We’ve come close a lot of times, some seconds and thirds and fourths. It feels good to fight back. Earlier this year we were (ranked) fourth or fifth, but we’ve come back and worked for this.”

The Huskies finished with 28 team points and had seven of eight flights reach Saturday’s semifinals, with four making it to the championship round. Along with Rynbrandt and Lee, two other doubles teams won titles for the Huskies. The No. 1 team of Nav Dalmia and Jeff Consolla defeated Jesuit’s Kagan Shetterly and Theodore Yaldoo, 6-3, 6-4, in their championship final. And Northern’s Jack Sparhawk and Ty Ulchman defeated Jesuit’s Teodore Melnyczuk and Nathan Comerford in the No. 3 doubles championship match, 6-4, 7-5.

Jesuit, which along with Birmingham Seaholm shared the lead with Northern after the first day, sent all four of its doubles teams into Saturday’s finals. But the Cubs came up empty from there, finishing with 25 team points – good for second overall.

“They definitely were the favorite (coming in), but we had every opportunity to take it from them,” Jesuit head coach Jim Slaughter said. “They were the ones who had to play tense, and we could have come in and snatched it. But it didn’t happen today. We didn’t do the things that we normally do. We didn’t play our game. That happens.”

At No. 1 singles, Mattawan’s Nathaniel Webster defeated Berkley junior Adnan Alousi in the final, 6-1, 6-2. It was redemption for Webster, who lost in last year’s championship match.

“I wanted to win a state championship so bad,” said Webster, who did not drop a set and lost just seven games over his four matches on the weekend. “My team, we were so excited to compete at the state championships. I’m glad I could win this for myself and for them.”

Birmingham Groves finished third overall thanks to a pair of individual championships Saturday. Senior Brett Kovan defeated Northern’s Owen Goodrich in three sets in the No. 4 singles final, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. The No. 1 seed entered the tournament with just two losses and entered the match against Goodrich having lost just a single game over his previous three matches.

The Falcons were also the top seed at No. 4 doubles, where the team of Will Hess and Will Kostello breezed to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jesuit’s Jake Kuredjian and Alex Mackillop in their final.

The final two individual flight championships were both won by Midland Dow – which finished fifth overall with 19 team points. Freshman Colson Wells – the second seed – defeated top-seeded Nolan Kovan of Groves, 6-3, 6-2, in the championship match at No. 2 singles. And senior Saketh Kamaraju needed three sets to defeat Portage Northern’s Graham Holley, 7-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, in the No. 3 singles final. 

The team title was the third overall for Sukup and his program, and it may not take 20 years to get to number four. The Huskies are young. They graduate just three starters and should return all four of their singles players in 2020.

“We’re really young,” Sukup said. “We’ll have all of our singles back and a good chunk of our doubles, so we’re excited about that.”

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern's Nav Dalmia (front) and Jeff Consolla celebrate their No. 1 doubles title that contributed to the Huskies' first team championship since 1998. (Middle) Mattawan's Nathaniel Webster won the No. 1 singles flight title. (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