Okemos Sends Coach Out with Title Win

October 16, 2020

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

NOVI – After 11 years, Okemos boys tennis coach Chris Silker is riding off into the coaching sunset to spend more time with his three young children and focus on his real estate business.

But before doing so, Silker finished one last ride with another group of kids he’s helped raise on the tennis court for the past 12 to 13 years.

For the third time in four years, Okemos captured an MHSAA Finals championship, although this time it was in Lower Peninsula Division 1 with an 8-0 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer in Friday’s championship match at Novi High School. 

“I’ve been with these seniors since they were 5 and 6 years old,” Silker said. “I’m just really excited to be able to finish with them.”

Okemos won Division 2 titles in 2017 and 2018, but moved up to Division 1 before the 2019 season.

The Chiefs tied for fourth at last year’s tournament, but Silker said that proved to be a springboard to this year. 

“It is a different level of play, and what we got out of it was that we really belonged,” Silker said. “Our top three sat out last year, and we still tied for fourth. That showed that we belonged here. We knew we were going to be back in this position for these kids to have a shot at it.”

In order to lessen the crowds of players and parents at the event during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new team finals format was instituted. 

Instead of teams scoring points based on how well their individuals did against other opponents in each flight, the format this year was a 16-team, bracketed tournament of dual matches. 

Silker said his team actually liked the new format.

“To be honest, my guys were stoked for this format,” Silker said. “It really brought us closer together. We have really enjoyed the event.”

Also enjoying the format was Pioneer coach Tom “Brick” Pullen, who has coached the boys and girls tennis programs at Pioneer since 1990.

“I’ve pushed for this format from the beginning,” Pullen said. “I feel that it’s all about team versus team. I like this format.”

The Chiefs began the tournament Thursday with a round of 16 win over Grand Blanc (8-0) and a quarterfinal win over Novi (7-1). 

Okemos then came back to the courts Friday morning for a semifinal match against fifth-seeded Troy, winning 7-1.

Pioneer entered the final with a lot of momentum following a 6-2 win over city rival and No. 2-seeded Ann Arbor Huron, a team Pioneer lost to twice during the regular season. 

Pioneer had beaten Bloomfield Hills in the quarterfinals (5-3) and Eisenhower in the round of 16 (8-0) on Thursday.

Pullen said Okemos was simply too strong for his team, which was spent emotionally following the semifinal win over Huron.

“I think we did burn ourselves out,” Pullen said. “Okemos is a stronger team than us, no question. We didn’t have much left after playing Huron. We lost to them twice during the year, and that was our state tournament right there.” 

Okemos gave up only nine games in the final. Druv Talluri and Shrey Patel at No. 1 doubles and Siddharth Nagisetty and Ethan Portnoy at No. 2 won in shutouts, while Yoonho Cho and Benjamin Wei at No. 4 and Joshua Portnoy (No. 1 singles), Colson Wells (No. 3) and George Fan (No. 4) lost one game apiece. Rohan Shah won his No. 2 match 6-2, 6-0, and Abhi Shukul and Diego Casagrande won at No. 3 doubles 6-0, 6-3.

PHOTOS: (Top) Okemos’ Rohan Shah celebrates during his team’s Division 1 championship win Friday. (Middle) Ann Arbor Pioneer defeated rival Huron to advance to the Final. (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