Preview: Finalists Travel New Title Path

October 14, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The format for this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals will be different – but many of the teams we’re used to seeing raise championship trophies could be doing so again by Friday evening.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, this season’s MHSAA Tournament was switched to a head-to-head team format that will see a total of 64 teams spread out Thursday across four divisions and 16 sites to begin the conclusion of this season’s title march.

First-round and Quarterfinal matches are Thursday, with the semifinalists then converging on four sites for the final two rounds Friday. Action both days begins at 11 a.m., with Finals on Friday expected to begin by 4 p.m.

Visit the “Tournament Home” for brackets and tournament information for all four divisions, and see below for contenders to watch in each.

Division 1

First round and Quarterfinals: Novi High School, Novi Middle School, Farmington High School, Northville High School
Semifinals and Finals: Novi High School

2019 top three: T-1. Ann Arbor Huron & Ann Arbor Pioneer, 3. Troy.

First-round matches:

No. 1 Okemos vs. No. 16 Grand Blanc
No. 2 Ann Arbor Huron vs. No. 15 Canton
No. 3 Ann Arbor Pioneer vs. No. 14 Utica Eisenhower
No. 4 Northville vs. No. 13 Holland West Ottawa
No. 5 Troy vs. No. 12 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
No. 6 Bloomfield Hills vs. No. 11 Rockford
No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice vs. No. 10 Troy Athens
No. 8 Novi vs. No. 9 Grosse Pointe South

Okemos: The Chiefs, after winning back-to-back Division 2 championships in 2017 and 2018, came in fourth last season in Division 1. This fall they are 25-0 with wins over nine of the other 15 teams playing in this event including the rest of the top eight. Druv Talluri and Siddharth Nagisetty were the No. 1 doubles champion pair last season, but have split up – Talluri and Shrey Patel at No. 1 and Nagisetty and Ethan Portnoy at No. 2 are both undefeated together this fall. Top singles player Josh Portnoy is 21-1, No. 2 Rohan Shah is 22-1, No. 3 Colson Wells is 16-1 and No. 4 George Fan is 19-0 in singles play.

Huron: The River Rats are 16-2, their only losses to Okemos and Ann Arbor Greenhills. Doubles played a big part in last year’s shared team title, and Nick Grosh and TJ Bai are 13-2 partnered again, this time at No. 1 after winning the No. 2 doubles flight in 2019. Vincent Tremonti was part of the No. 4 doubles champion last season and is playing No. 2 with Aidan Storey; together they are 14-2.

Pioneer: The Pioneers are 18-3-1, with losses to Okemos one and Huron twice, and a tie against Troy. Juniors Isaac Herrenkohl (26-3) and Noah Vogel (25-4) were the flight champions at Nos. 3 and 4 singles, respectively, last season and have both moved up one flight. No. 1 singles Stanley Rhodes and No. 4 Corin Tang both have at least 21 wins as well. Evan Roopas was part of last year’s No. 4 doubles champ and Aditya Abbaraju was part of the No. 2 runner-up, and together they are 21-4 and playing No. 2 this weekend.

Other notes: Troy Athens senior Gabe Brown is 22-0 at No. 1 singles. … Utica Eisenhower should provide an intriguing challenge to Pioneer in singles with Ben Saunders (28-6) and Luke Suchyta (27-7) at Nos. 3 and 4. … Rockford’s Sam Danner has put together a 24-5 season playing Nos. 3 and 4 singles.

Division 2

First round and Quarterfinals: Greater Midland Tennis Center, Midland Bullock Creek High School, Bay City’s Richard Shaw Park, Midland Dow
Semifinals and Finals: Greater Midland Tennis Center

2019 top three: 1. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 2. Detroit U-D Jesuit, 3. Birmingham Groves.  

First-round matches:

No. 1 Forest Hills Northern vs. No. 16 Wyandotte Roosevelt
No. 2 Mattawan vs. No. 15 South Lyon East
No. 3 Forest Hills Central vs. No. 14 Gibraltar Carlson
No. 4 Birmingham Groves vs. No. 13 Grosse Pointe North
No. 5 Birmingham Seaholm vs. No. 12 Warren De La Salle Collegiate
No. 6 Midland Dow vs. No. 11 North Farmington
No. 7 Portage Central vs. No. 10 East Lansing
No. 8 Traverse City Central vs. No. 9 Walled Lake Central

Forest Hills Northern: The 26-0 Huskies regained a Finals championship last season for the first time since 1998, and are favored to repeat. Three of six players who were part of doubles flight titles in 2019 return this weekend; Justin Lee and Cole Rynbrandt are 29-0 together and playing No. 1 after winning No. 2 last year, and Jack Sparhawk is 27-2 with No. 2 partner Aaryan Singh after Sparhawk was part of the No. 3 champ last fall. All four singles players have at least 20 wins as well: junior Owen Goodrich is the reigning runner-up at No. 4 and 27-1 at that flight, while sophomore Ryan Lee (No. 3) is 26-2, senior Sid Varma (No. 2) is 25-3 and senior Peter Renucci (No. 1) is 20-5.

Mattawan: The Wildcats enter 18-3 and seeking their first top-two Finals finish, with losses this season only to Forest Hills Northern, Forest Hills Central and Division 1 ranked Hudsonville. Mattawan tied for seventh a year ago and boasts a powerful singles lineup led by senior Nathaniel Webster, who won No. 1 singles, was runner-up in 2018 and is 18-0 this fall. Junior Luke Hodgman (21-2) and freshman Jacob Hodgman (23-0) fill in strongly at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

Forest Hills Central: The Rangers have lost only to Northern twice, Groves and Greenhills, and the first defeat to Northern was only 5-3. Forest Hills Central was sixth last season and also tied Dow twice and Portage Central this fall. Sophomore Sammy Yin (21-5), senior Jeremy James (25-1) and sophomore Chris Shang (21-6) are another impressive singles group.

Other notes: Midland Dow would see the Rangers again in the quarterfinals if both win their first match. Dow also tied Groves. Freshman Aaron Li (23-3) at No. 4 singles has been among standouts. … South Lyon East has a tough draw, but senior Adi Chottera should be a nice challenge at No. 2 singles entering the weekend at 23-2. … Roosevelt is in a similar spot, but junior Sammy Oswald will have a chance to build another impressive win into his 22-2 record mostly at No. 4 singles.

Division 3

First round and Quarterfinals: Holland Christian High School, Zeeland East High School, Holland’s Harbor Lights Middle School, Holland High School
Semifinals and Finals: Holland Christian High School

2019 top three: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, T-2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, T-2. Detroit Country Day.  

First-round matches:

No. 1 Ann Arbor Greenhills vs. No. 16 Goodrich
No. 2 Cranbrook Kingswood vs. No. 15 Parma Western
No. 3 Detroit Country Day vs. No. 14 St. Joseph
No. 4 St. Clair vs. No. 13 St. Johns
No. 5 Chelsea vs. No. 12 Sturgis
No. 6 Grand Rapids Christian vs. No. 11 Petoskey
No. 7 East Grand Rapids vs. No. 10 Ada Forest Hills Eastern
No. 8 Haslett vs. No. 9 Allegan

Greenhills: The reigning champion Gryphons are 13-6, the defeats either to Division 1 teams, or Cranbrook twice decided by tie-breakers (Greenhills also defeated Cranbrook once on a tie-breaker). Junior Mert Oral (21-1) and sophomore Rishi Verma (22-0) are the reigning champions at No. 1 and No. 3 singles, respectively, while Joey Formicola and Thomas Zeng are 15-8 at No. 1 doubles this fall after being part of flight champs last year at Nos. 2 and 4, respectively. Sophomore Chakor Rajendra also is 22-0, playing No. 2 singles.

Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes tied for second last season after winning four straight Division 3 titles, and they’re back in the mix with a freshman and two sophomores making up the majority of the singles lineup. Sophomore Dimitri Moriarty is 16-3 at No. 2 and freshman Devyn Gans is 17-2 at No. 3 – while senior Geoffrey Qin is undefeated at No. 4.

Country Day: Last year’s tie was Country Day’s fifth straight runner-up finish after it opened the last decade with four Division 3 championships. Boasting ties this season against Cranbrook and Division 1 Bloomfield Hills, the Yellowjackets are no doubt going to be back in the chase this weekend. Clay Hartje and Aidan Khaghany were No. 3 doubles champs last season and are 10-3 together at No. 2.

Other notes: St. Clair took Division 2 Groves and Seaholm both to 5-3 in losses, and three of four singles players who were Finals runners-up in 2019 are back in the lineup. Junior Derek Distelrath is back at No. 1 and 25-3, while sophomore Ian Pinnoo has moved from No. 4 to No. 2 and is 23-5. Sophomore Michael Mascarin was No. 3 runner-up last season and is 14-2 at No. 2 doubles with Joey Fajardo. … Chelsea’s two head-to-head losses were to Division 1 contenders Huron and Pioneer, and all of its singles starters – junior Hunter Napieralski, sophomore Peter Mourad, junior Lucas Hopkins and freshman Mason Strach – have at least 30 wins. … Allegan shared the Division 4 championship a year ago and enters 14-2-3. Sophomore Eli Festerling is 21-3 mostly at No. 2 singles after winning the Division 4 title at No. 4 in 2019. ... Sophomore Sreejay Ramakrishnan is having an excellent season at No. 1 singles for Forest Hills Eastern, posting a 25-4 record.

Division 4

First round and Quarterfinals: Portage Central High School, Portage Northern High School, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School, Portage West Middle School
Semifinals and Finals: Portage Central High School

2019 top three: T-1. Allegan, T-1. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, 3. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.

First-round matches:

No. 1 Traverse City St. Francis vs. No. 16 Niles Brandywine
No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep vs. No. 15 Grosse Ile
No. 3 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett vs. No. 14 Chesaning
No. 4 Hudsonville Unity Christian vs. No. 13 Frankenmuth
No. 5 Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian vs. No. 12 Berrien Springs
No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. No. 11 Lansing Catholic
No. 7 Jackson Lumen Christi vs. No. 10 Big Rapids
No. 8 Williamston vs. No. 9 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep

St. Francis: The Gladiators are seeking their first MHSAA Finals championship in this sport, but finished runner-up in 2018 and tied for fourth last season. They’re tested against the best, with most of their competition against larger schools and also a 4-4 tie with Hackett. Junior Ben Schmude is back as half of the reigning No. 1 doubles champion and 29-3 with new partner Cody Richards – last year’s No. 3 singles champion as a sophomore. Senior Charlie Schmude leads singles at 30-9 at No. 1, with three freshmen filling out the lineup led by Tristan Bonanni (30-4) at No. 2.

Hackett: The Irish are coming off their first championship since 2005 and sit 11-0-2 this fall with the ties to St. Francis and Portage Central. Senior Jack Ford was the runner-up at No. 2 singles last season and is 15-1 back at that flight, while sophomore Tommy Kling is 15-1 at No. 3 and sophomore Niklas Johansson is 14-2 at No. 4. Johansson was part of the No. 4 doubles runner-up last season with Jack Gordon, now 12-3 at No. 3 with Marcus Alcaraz. Senior Anthony Toweson was part of the No. 2 doubles runner-up in 2019, and he’s 11-3 at No. 2 with new partner Sam Magnell.

Liggett: The Knights missed causing a three-way tie for the championship last year by a point, and they’re seeking to regain the top spot for the first time since winning back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. They finished just a point behind St. Francis at a quad in August and went on to face mostly larger opponents. Senior William Cooksey is the three-time reigning champ at No. 1 singles and 19-1 this fall. Sophomore Gerry Sherer was the runner-up last season at No. 4 singles and he’s 20-7 this fall playing at that flight and 10 matches at No. 2.

Other notes: Unity Christian’s only head-to-head loss this season was to Division 3 Holland Christian, and NorthPointe’s only head-to-head defeats were to Division 1 Hudsonville, and Hackett. NorthPointe’s Chase Berends and Sam Bradley were the No. 3 doubles champion last season and are 21-2 at No. 1 this fall … Grand Rapids Catholic Central also is intriguing with power in singles including senior Andrew Frost (23-6) at No. 1 and junior Ben English (23-6) at No. 3. English was part of last season’s No. 4 doubles champion.

PHOTO: Okemos' Druv Talluri returns a volley during last season's Division 1 championship match at No. 1 singles. (Click to see more from

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