Preview: Big Moves = Big Opportunities

October 16, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Familiar faces in new places could lead to some substantial shaking up at this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals.

Two-time reigning Division 2 champion Okemos is playing in Division 1, and reigning Division 4 champion Ann Arbor Greenhills will take a run at Division 3 this time. That means new champions for sure in their former divisions – among a lot of other opportunities all over the brackets for teams and individuals hoping to make history.

Play both Friday and Saturday begins at 8 a.m. Click for full brackets for all four tournaments, plus Regional results, and come back to Second Half early Saturday evening for coverage from all four Finals.

Lower Peninsula Division 1 at Midland Tennis Center

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Huron, 2. Troy, 3. Northville.

Huron tied with Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice for a distant second behind reigning two-time champion Bloomfield Hills a year ago, but is expected to emerge for what would be its fifth championship this decade (after most recently winning in 2016). Northville was fourth and Troy fifth a year ago, and both are seeking their first MHSAA Finals championship in this sport. Another team of note might be Okemos, ranked sixth but coming off two straight Division 2 championships.

Ann Arbor Huron: The River Rats are seeded at six flights, and all six are seeded third or higher. Doubles will be the key; Nos. 2-4 are top-seeded and No. 1 is seeded second. The No. 2 pair of Nick Grosh and TJ Bai made the semifinals at that flight as the top seed last year, and Sammy Clyde and Jacob Hejazi are seeded first at No. 3 with Clyde last season’s champion at that flight with a different partner. Nikhil Gandikota and Vincent Tremonti are the top seed at No. 4, and Max Brodkey and Anvit Rao are the second seed at No. 1 after making the semifinals at that flight last season. Owen Kelley is unseeded at No. 1 singles but made the semifinals at that flight in 2018.

Troy: The Colts are seeded at five flights, with serious power at the top of the lineup with Brennan Cimpeanu the top seed at No. 1 singles and Jagen Nallani the top seed at No. 2. Cimpeanu made the quarterfinals and Nallani the semifinals at the same flights a year ago. Additionally, three doubles flights earned third seeds.

Northville: Five flights are seeded, led by second-seeded Rachit Jain and Rohith Kesamneni at No. 4 doubles. Other veterans could play big roles. Matthew Freeman is seeded sixth at No. 1 singles and won No. 4 last year. Daniel Dong is part of the an unseeded No. 1 doubles and Justin Yang is part of the fifth seed at No. 3 after they combined to finish runner-up at No. 2 doubles in 2018.

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s J.J. Etterbeek: He came back after losing the first set of the final to win No. 2 singles last year as a freshman, and this time he’s the fourth seed at No. 1.

Clarkston’s Luke Baylis: The Wolves senior will attempt to cap an accomplished high school career with his first championship. He’s seeded second at No. 1 singles after making the semifinals the last two seasons and finishing runner-up at No. 2 as a freshman.

Troy Athens’ Gabe Brown: He made the No. 1 singles quarterfinals last year as a sophomore and enters this weekend as the third seed in the top flight.

Okemos’ Druv Talluri and Siddharth Nagisetty: With different partners they’ve won a combined three flight championships over the last two seasons. Talluri was part of the Division 2 No. 2 champ last year when Nagisetty was part of the runner-up at No. 3, and together they are seeded first at No. 1 this weekend.

Lower Peninsula Division 2 at University of Michigan

Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 2. Detroit U-D Jesuit, 3. Birmingham Seaholm.

With Okemos moving to Division 1, there is guaranteed to be a new champion for the first time in three years – and it would be a special celebration if any of the top three-ranked teams finished first. Forest Hills Northern is seeking its first title since 1998, while U-D Jesuit and Seaholm have never won an MHSAA Finals in this sport. All three have finished Division 2 runner-up at least once, however, over the last six years.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: The Huskies are seeded at every flight as they play for their first top-two finish since coming in second in 2014. They finished fourth a year ago with Owen Goodrich placing second at No. 4 singles, and he’s the second seed at that flight this weekend. Three other flights are seeded as high or higher, with top-seeded Cole Rynbrandt and Justin Lee leading the way at No. 2 doubles.

Detroit U-D Jesuit: Seven seeded flights are a great start for the Cubs, with top seeds at No. 1 doubles in Kagan Shetterly and Theodore Yaldoo and No. 3 doubles in Teodore Melnyczuk-Gould and Nathan Comerford. Yaldoo and Comerford played singles at the Finals last season as U-D Jesuit tied for seventh as a team.

Birmingham Seaholm: The Maples tied Birmingham Groves for second last season, their highest Finals finish since also coming in second back-to-back in Fall 2007 and 2008. Six flights are seeded this time, all fourth or higher for their respective flights. Cameron Lee was a champion at No. 3 doubles last season and Jonny Cross was part of the runner-up at No. 2, and they make up the third seed this time at No. 1. Fred Kassab was part of the No. 4 doubles winner last year and is part of the fourth seed at No. 2, while his former championship partner Nolan Werner is part of the second seed at No. 3 doubles.

Mattawan’s Nathaniel Webster: Last season’s runner-up at No. 1 singles has moved up one spot to the top seed as a junior for his third run at the title as a seeded player at this flight.

Portage Northern Alex Wootton: Also a junior, Wootton moved up to the second seed at this flight after winning a match a year ago while unseeded. He made the quarterfinals while unseeded as a freshman in 2017.

Midland Dow’s Anish Middha: He’ll try to cap his career as a No. 1 singles champion, entering with the third seed after finishing runner-up at No. 2 last season and as a freshman in 2016.

Lower Peninsula Division 3 at Kalamazoo College

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Detroit Country Day.

Cranbrook Kingswood has won four straight Division 3 championships, with Country Day the runner-up all four seasons. Country Day won the previous four titles from 2011-14. No other team has won in Division 3 since Fall 2007, in fact. However, Greenhills is the reigning champion in Division 4 and has won that division nine of the last 11 seasons, finishing runner-up the other two. Greenhills won every flight at its Regional last week, with Country Day the runner-up at seven of those flights.

Ann Arbor Greenhills: All eight flights are seeded. Seven are top seeds, and the eighth is a second seed. Three flights were Division 4 champions a year ago – Mert Oral is the top seed at No. 1 singles after winning No. 3 in D4, Kaan Oral is the top seed at No. 2 singles after winning No. 2 in D4 the last two years, and Nathan Rosenberg and Finn Feldeisen are the top seeds at No. 3 doubles after winning No. 3 in D4 in 2018. Rounding out the lineup are No. 3 singles top seed Rishi Verma, No. 4 singles second seed Chakor Rajendra, No. 1 doubles top seed Henry Branch and Sahil Deenadayalu, No. 2 doubles top seed Joey Formicola and Daniel Stojanov and No. 4 doubles top seed Alex Schwendeman and Thomas Zeng. Deenadayalu, Formicola and Branch are past Finals flight runners-up.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: All eight flights are seeded, led by two second seeds – Hayes Bradley and David Hermelin at No. 2 doubles and Calvi Teste and Ben Conti at No. 4. Bradley and Hermelin were champs last year at No. 3 doubles and runners-up in 2017 at No. 4. The Cranes won all four singles flights last season and only one of those players returns – Nolan Sherwood is the fourth seed at No. 2 after winning No. 3 in 2018 – but fourth-seeded No. 4 Patrick Tiwari and third-seeded No. 3 Geoffrey Qin were part of champions at Nos. 2 and 4 doubles, respectively, a year ago.

Detroit Country Day: As noted, Country Day was right behind Greenhills in seven flights at the Regional, and a pair of second seeds highlight the fully-seeded lineup. Nikolas Gruskin is the second seed at No. 1 singles and a two-time Finals runner-up, at No. 1 last season and No. 2 in 2016. No. 3 doubles Clay Hartje and Aidan Khaghany also are a second seed. Fourth-seeded No. 3 singles Christian Grozev was the runner-up at that flight last year, and Zain Rodger is part of the fourth-seeded No. 1 doubles after finishing No. 4 singles runner-up in 2018.

St. Clair’s Eli Pinnoo: Last season’s No. 2 singles runner-up as a junior is the second seed at that flight this weekend as he takes one more swing at a high school title.

East Grand Rapids’ Ryan Post and Jack Schultze: Post and Kole Butterer won No. 1 doubles last season as a third seed, and Post and Schultze enter in the same spot this time. Schultze was part of the No. 2 doubles runner-up last season.

Lower Peninsula Division 4 at Hope College

Top-ranked: 1. Allegan, 2. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 3. Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard.

With Greenhills playing in Division 3, this tournament will have a different look and perhaps some interesting opportunities. Liggett was the Division 4 champion in 2016 and 2017 and runner-up in 2014 and 2015. Allegan has a long history of success but is working for its first top-two Finals finish, as is Gabriel Richard. In fact, the rest of the top 10 after Liggett – including two teams tied for the 10th spot – have won a combined three MHSAA Finals.

Allegan: The Tigers finished third a year ago, just three points out of second, after three doubles flights finished runners-up. The strength is in doubles again, as all four flights are seeded led by David Roark and Chase Williams in the top spot at No. 4. Noah Festerling and Ben Groth are the second seed at No. 3 after Groth was part of the No. 4 runner-up last season, and Owen Clearwater and Walker Michaels are the fifth seed at No. 2 after coming in second at No. 3 in 2018. Two singles flights are seeded as well; Eli Festerling is the top seed at No. 4.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett: The Knights are expected to climb substantially after tying for eighth a year ago. Liggett is seeded at six flights, with two-time reigning No. 1 singles champion William Cooksey leading off as the top seed at that flight. Gerry Sherer adds a second seed at No. 4 singles, and all four doubles are seeded with three in the third slot.

Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard: The Irish tied for fifth last season and could ride a strong singles lineup into contention. Senior Ian Sood is seeded second at No. 1 singles after making the semifinals last season and finishing No. 2 runner-up as both a freshman and sophomore. Tommy Heegan adds a second seed at No. 2, and Rafid Farjo is the third seed at No. 3.

Grand Rapids West Catholic’s Andrew Solarewicz: The sophomore singles standout will play in the No. 1 bracket for the second time, this weekend as the third seed after winning a match last season.

Traverse City St. Francis’ Brendan Chouinard and Ben Schmude: The top seed at No. 1 doubles is made up of Chouinard, part of last year’s No. 2 champion, and Schmude coming off the quarterfinals at No. 3 a year ago.

Traverse City St. Francis’ Charlie Schmude and Cody Richards: They are seeded first at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, respectively, after finishing runners-up at Nos. 3 and 4 a year ago.

PHOTO: Kaan Oral will attempt to lead Ann Arbor Greenhills to a Division 3 championship this weekend as he also plays for a third individual flight Finals title. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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