Greenhills Succeeds in Drive for 5

By Pam Shebest
Special for

October 21, 2012

KALAMAZOO – Coach Eric Gajar knew his Ann Arbor Greenhills team needed just one win on the second day of competition to clinch its fifth consecutive MHSAA Lower Peninsula title, but that was one fact he tried to keep from his players.

“We didn’t tell those guys that, but they’re smart guys, so they’re starting to figure it out,” Gajar said during Saturday’s semifinals that were played inside because of inclement weather.

“We didn’t really give them the full story, but they started counting and knew we only needed a couple points.”

On a team loaded with experience, it was the only freshman, Juan Martin-Dyer, who won the team’s first match of the second day to clinch the championship.

Martin-Dyer, the top seed, defeated fourth seed Jake Johnson of Lansing Catholic, 6-0, 6-2, in the No. 3 singles semifinal before losing to Kalamazoo Christian’s second seed, Brad Plaiser, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2, in the championship match.

“I had no idea, actually. I had no idea at all,” Martin-Dyer said of the clincher. “It feels good. It’s not just me, though. All the guys won (Friday). It’s all about the team. I only won a few points.”

No. 1 singles was the only flight without a Greenhills finalist.

Top-seeded Michael Sienko, of Williamston, was a player on a mission, defeating second seed Chance Conley, of Portland, 6-1, 6-0.

The two faced off in last year’s No. 1 singles final, with Conley coming out the winner. They also play in the same league, the Capital Area Activities Conference White.

“I was really disappointed last year at the result, and I thought I should have won the match,” Sienko said. “But he won it, so I was really working hard to win the final match this year, and I did.

“I think I played well. Maybe I rose to the occasion. I just focused a lot, stuck to my game plan, and it worked.”

Sienko won a MHSAA title at No. 2 singles as a freshman, but “this means a lot more to me.”

Conley said he figured Sienko would be out for revenge.

“He had an urge,” Conley said. “He wanted to get me back. He had something I didn’t have, and he wanted it badly.

“Mikey was on top of his game. My coach said he only made four unforced errors the entire match. There’s nothing you can really do to compete with that.”

Kalamazoo Christian’s Plaiser said losing at No. 3 singles was not an option, since it’s his senior year.

He played at No. 1 singles last year, but he’s in the Army reserve and during the summer was at basic training. He joined the team halfway through the season.

“I didn’t play tennis for 11 weeks, so they put me at No. 3,” he said.

“This is my last tennis match of high school, and I couldn’t lose it. I couldn’t lose it.”

Dropping the first set, “I don’t know if I was nervous,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. I wall-balled like every other ball so bad. After that, I just pulled it together.”

K-Christian coach Bryan Keeley said he knew Plaiser could pull out the win.

“He wasn’t hitting shots that he usually was hitting,” Keeley said. “His opponent had him on his toes, and he started missing a lot of his volleys that he usually would hit.”

Keeley said he talked to his player after the first set, and Plaiser said he knew what he had to do to turn the match around.

“That’s what you see in maturity out of your seniors and expect of your captain,” Keeley said.

Greenhills won the other six flights for 36 points, double the 18 of second place Comstock Park.

“The key was I got almost everybody back,” Gajar said. “We had a big target on our backs.

“I have a very experienced roster. I have a freshman (Martin-Dyer) who went right to No. 3 singles and a guy (Paul Reed) who transferred in last year (from St. Mary Catholic Central) and sat out a year, then went to No. 1 singles. It really allowed me to bulk up the doubles guys. We were deep. This is as good a team as I’ve had.”

Gajar said in spite of clinching the championship with the first semifinals win, the players were still very motivated, as evidenced by their exuberant cheers for their teammates during the last two doubles matches on court.

“There are some guys who have been playing for a while that are looking at trying to get their first individual titles,” he said. “The other thing that’s got them a little bit motivated is they’ve looked back at some of the past teams we’ve had and looked at their point totals and wanted to lay claim to out-distancing them.

“We told them to get through the semis for the team and go to the finals for yourself.”

Comstock Park’s No. 2 doubles team of Wil Douma and Ryan Schall won their semifinals match, 6-1, 6-4, over Ludington’s Sam Nellis and Justin Markham to earn the point needed for their team’s second-place finish.

They lost to Greenhills’ top seeds, Adhi Rajaprabhakaran and Nick Sandhu, 6-3, 6-1, in the final.

“We had no idea,” Douma said of the importance of his point. “We just went out there and played. Freshman year, I broke my neck when I was in eighth grade playing football, so I just walked on to play tennis. (Schall) picked it up his sophomore year.

“When we walked off the court, our two coaches were standing right there. They were like, ‘You guys just clinched it for us.’ We were pumped. No one ever thought we’d be there today.”

Schall said he wasn’t very happy to play inside because “I’ve never played indoor tennis. But once, we started, I started liking it a lot. No wind, no weather. Everyone’s on fair ground.”

Comstock Park coach Pete Luczyk said the program has turned around, making it to the MHSAA Finals for the first time.

“Honestly, four years ago, we had five returning JV players and that’s all we had,” he said. “Over the past four years, it’s been just a culmination of everything and the kids just going nuts.

“One of the best stories of our team are the twins, Dylan and Tyler Fink. They’ve played No. 1 doubles all four years and have amassed probably 70 first doubles wins over those four years. For them to be in the semifinals and lose to Ann Arbor Greenhills, 6-4, 6-3, is simply incredible.”

Talking about comparisons to the pro doubles specialists Mike and Bob Bryan, “We’ve heard that comparison for four years now, so we’ve gotten used to it,” Dylan Fink said.

“When we started as freshmen, a lot of us didn’t have a lot of experience. Now there are (eight) seniors who started as freshmen, and it’s been great to see how we’ve all grown as a team.”

For the twins personally, “For our first time at states, to make it to the semifinals is great,” Tyler Fink said. “We’re really glad our team made it this far. We really couldn’t have done it without every member of our team pitching in for this win."

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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