FH Northern Finishes Perfect Repeat Run

October 16, 2020

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND – The effects of COVID-19 on the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals were obvious Friday morning.

For starters, the crowds were much smaller at the Midland Tennis Center. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the tournament was switched to a head-to-head team format that saw a total of 64 teams spread out through four divisions and 16 sites.

But at the Division 2 Final, the end result remained the same as the season before.

Top-seeded and undefeated Forest Hills Northern took on No. 2 seed Mattawan. The No. 2 doubles team of Aaryan Singh and Jack Sparhawk sealed the championship for Northern with their 6-0, 6-2 victory over Carson Brinks and Sam Sullivan the fifth and deciding point.

“I’m just glad the MHSAA figured out a way for us to play,’’ said Singh. “This is sweeter for me than last year because this is my first year as a starter. A month ago, I didn’t know if we’d even get a chance to play.’’

“I love the format,’’ said Northern coach David Sukup. “I’m a team coach anyway. I coach football, I coach swimming, I coach baseball. I like the team format. It’s better. It’s better for kids. Everybody is involved. You get to sit and watch all of your kids in the finals. We see all eight flights.’’

Clearly the most entertaining match was at No. 1 singles where the effervescent Nathaniel Webster of Mattawan took on Northern’s Peter Renucci.

Distributing enough energy for himself and his teammates, Webster’s enthusiasm was infectious as he yelled and screamed throughout the match, encouraging his teammates in the process. His 6-2, 6-1 victory was one of the few bright spots for Mattawan.

The reigning champs were unfazed by the rain and cold, which forced part of the semifinal flight indoors.

Owen Goodrich got the first points for Northern at No. 4 singles, beating Andrews Williams 6-1, 6-0. Moments later Northern was up 2-0 after the No. 3 doubles team of Drew McKenzie and Luke Zhu prevailed, 6-4, 6-0.

“I was glad we didn’t play outdoors,’’ said Goodrich. “It’s nice and warm and comfortable inside. The thing about this format is I’m out there trying to win and I’m looking over at each side cheering my teammates on. This is definitely a team format.’’

Northern’s Ryan Lee won the No. 3 singles match, 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 while teammate Sid Varma won at No. 2 in three sets after also dropping the first. Justin Lee and Cole Rynbrandt at No. 1 doubles and Ryan Stewart and Anderson Halland at No. 4 both won in straight sets.

Just before the final was about to start outdoors, ominous weather appeared and the rest of the tournament was moved inside.

“Outdoors, indoors, outdoors … it’s a different way to try to win the title,’’ said Sukup. “We won the title last year. We’re glad we’re in the finals with a different format. Long day.”

Mattawan coach Matt Boven also liked the different format.

“It has been a really tough journey to get here, but I feel like my guys are playing their best tennis and they’re ready to go,” he said.

“I absolutely love the format. In years past you’ll have a couple of flights remaining and everyone is kind of sitting around waiting. With this format you truly figure out who is the best team. That’s the nature of the MHSAA; find the best team and find the best player. I feel like this format unequivocally does that. 

“I will push for it next year. Right now, I have all 12 of my players on the court trying to determine a championship. I think that’s the way it should be.’’

In the semifinals, Northern faced Birmingham Seaholm and prevailed 6-2, while Forest Hills Central couldn’t advance to face Northern for a third time this season, falling to Mattawan, 5-3.

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Peter Renucci awaits a serve during Friday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Mattawan No. 1 singles standout Nathaniel Webster led his team to a runner-up finish. (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