Liggett Ends Greenhills' 8-Year Reign

October 15, 2016

By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half

HOLLY – Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett went into Saturday’s Finals as the winningest program in Division 4 tennis history despite not having won an MHSAA title in 14 years.

That changed Saturday, as the Knights both ended their long drought and also snapped Ann Arbor Greenhills’ eight-year championship streak by edging the Gryphons at Holly High School.

“Liggett was a good team,” Greenhills coach Eric Gajar said. “They beat us head-to-head, they beat us in (Liggett’s) tournament and they beat us in this tournament. They were the better team this year.”

Liggett finished with 32 points to Greenhills’ 30. Traverse City St. Francis and Whitehall tied for third with 22 points.

It was the 35th title overall for Liggett.

Knights coach Mark Sobieralski has a talented core of seven juniors who have been preparing three years for Saturday’s Final.

“These guys came in as freshman two years ago,” he said. “They were good, but they didn’t know how to close out (matches). Last year, we got closer, got more of a taste. We finally beat Greenhills in a dual, and that gave us a lot of confidence.”

The Knights have just two seniors, and got an especially gutty performance from the one at the top of the lineup.

T.J. Dulac, playing at No. 1 singles, competed despite a fractured hamate bone in his right hand. He injured it in the Regional, having to withdraw after a fall while leading 5-0 in his match.

He was cleared to play earlier this week and took the court Friday with his right wrist bandaged.

“It hurt, but it’s all for the team,” said Dulac, who played last year with a broken bone in his left foot. “I worked my backhand more than I’m used to. It worked (Friday) and it almost worked today, so I was happy with how it worked out.”

Dulac got to the semifinals, getting three crucial points for the Knights.

“That really was an incredible, gutsy performance,” Sobieralski said. “It was three points, and it was huge, huge, huge for him to get to the semis when he was hurt. I give him a lot of credit for that.”

Another stellar performance came at No. 1 doubles, where the Greenhills team of Mitchell Gajar and Jack Harris won the title after being seeded fifth.

It was the second Finals title in a row for both, and their first as a team after competing with different partners last year.

For Eric Gajar, watching his son, Mitchell, win another title was special.

“Tough to describe,” Eric Gajar said. “That was a special moment, (but) I think he would trade that title to keep the team title for his teammates.”

“Our coach told us that if seeds determined how the tournament would go, there would be no need to play,” Harris said. “We worked on the match we were playing in and didn’t look too far ahead.”

Williamston’s Oliver Weaver won the No. 1 singles title in straight sets, beating Austin Koenes of Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 6-4, 6-1.

 “Last year, I lost in three sets,” the junior said. “It was a tough match and I was really upset about that. I was really motivated to win it this year, and I’m really happy with how I played today.”

Saturday marked the fifth time in the last seven years a player from the Capital Area Activities Conference’s White division had won the No. 1 singles crown.

For Dulac, the fall season isn’t over. He will compete for the Liggett cross country team during the final three weeks of the season, something he has done the last couple of autumns after the end of the tennis season.

Only one player on the Liggett roster plays only tennis, and Sobieralski says his players’ multi-sport participation served them well Saturday.

“It makes you tough, mentally tough and strong,” he said. “And they’re competitive. That’s important. I think tennis, a lot of times, is 80 percent mental and 20 percent ability. You win a lot of matches with guts and just hanging in there. I always say a good player can win even when they’re not playing their best, because they’ll try something different and they keep fighting. That’s the team I’ve got. I’m really proud of their fight.”

“My hat’s off to Liggett,” Gajar said. “They’re good players, and they’re going to have most of them back next year, unfortunately for the rest of the state.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: (Top) University Liggett poses with its championship trophy Saturday after ending Greenhills’ title run. (Middle) Williamston’s Oliver Weaver returns a shot during Friday’s play. (Top photo courtesy of University Liggett school.)

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