Rivals Share D1 Title, Baylis Ends on Top

October 19, 2019

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND – Tom Pullen was just glad to be in the hunt.

The 28-year Ann Arbor Pioneer head coach, who is 75½ years old, had his team in a dead heat with rival Huron for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 boys tennis title Saturday at the Midland Tennis Center. They were separated by one point, 21-20, going into semifinal play.

“I don’t care whether we win or lose,’’ Pullen said at that point. “This is a Cinderella group. We’re young. I’m losing three great net players, but it has been a long time since we’ve been in contention. This keeps me revitalized. We’ve had a great year. We knew Huron would be here. They’re a powerful team. We’ve beaten them a few times, and they’ve beaten us. We don’t really care about rankings. The kids have beaten teams ranked higher than them, so it doesn’t matter.

“No matter what, it has been a great year.’’

Two rounds later, the rivals finished in a tie and as co-champions. Pioneer won its last three matches to deadlock the score 27-27, capturing a share of the crown.

The key match late in the day was at No. 3 doubles with top-seeded Huron pair Sammy Clyde and Jacob Hejazi against Pioneer’s Drake Malcolm and Evan Roopas for the fourth time this year.

Clyde had been part of a doubles title last year and needed a win with Hejazi to clinch the team championship.

“We tied the first match because we couldn’t finish,’’ said Hejazi of the rivalry with Pioneer. “We won one and they won one, so this is the tie breaker. It’s easier because we know their weaknesses, but they also know ours.’’

Pioneer prevailed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to pave the way for a possible team tie.

While No. 3 doubles was fighting it out, Isaac Herrenkohl also kept Pioneer’s hopes alive with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over top seed Noah Fascewski of Clarkston in No. 3 singles.

Pioneer and Huron have not only battled in conference play, but on the big stage.

Bloomfield Hills won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, but before that the River Rats won in 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2008.

Pullen, who started playing tennis when he was 35, and Pioneer won the fall and spring team title in 2007 along with championships in 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002. Pioneer tied for first in 2001 with Birmingham Brother Rice.

Despite being out of the team picture, Clarkston had three players make it to a singles final at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

At No. 1 singles, Clarkston’s Luke Baylis took advantage of a fatigued J.J. Etterbeek of Birmingham Rice to capture the crown, 6-2, 6-0. He joined his sister Lexi as a Finals champ, as she won No. 2 singles in 2011. Luke Baylis had made the No. 1 semifinals the last two seasons and finished No. 2 runner-up as a freshman.

“I tried to play my game and not focus on what was going on around me,’’ said Luke Baylis. “I could tell he was a little tired. I just worked the points really well and tried to stay in every point. This was my last match, so I tried to grind out every point.’’

Huron’s first flight title of the tournament came in No. 2 doubles as Nick Grosh and TJ Bai downed Pioneer’s Brendan Karsch and Aditya Abbaraju 6-1, 6-2.

“We’ve played them five times this year and five times last year,’’ said Bai, a junior. “We’ve been the top seed the last three years, and I think the past two years we choked. We got beat in the semis.

“This was important for my team. I thought we controlled the match from the start. Because the team title was at stake, the pressure was on.’’

Moments after their victory, Huron’s top-seeded No. 4 doubles team of Nikhil Gandikota and Vincent Tremonti finished defeating Northville’s Rachit Jain and Rohith Kesamneni, 6-3, 6-4.

“We beat them during the regular season, but during the state tournament anything can happen,’’ said Tremonti.

Said Gandikota: “They were hard, but both matches against Northville and (in the semifinal Detroit) CC were tough. The Catholic Central match went three sets and that was rough; we started out slow. Against Northville we upped our energy and maintained it.’’

Old friends battled it out in No. 2 singles with second-seed Frank Piana from Clarkston facing top seed Jan Nallani from Troy. Nallani made it two wins on the year against Piana with a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

“We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old,’’ said Piana, the No. 3 singles champ in 2018. “I’ve had just one loss this season, and it was to him. We’re good friends. It puts a different spin on the match.’’

Okemos’ No. 1 doubles team of Druv Talluri and Siddharth Nagisetty formed an experienced duo. Talluri and Nagisetty both won 2017 doubles titles in Division 2 with different teammates – Nagisetty with Rohan Shah at No. 2 and Talluri with Deniz Kalfa at No. 3. In 2018, Talluri won No. 2 with Shrey Patel and Nagisetty was runner-up at No. 3 with Aditya Kandula.

This time, Talluri and Nagisetty teamed up to form the top seed in the top flight and in the final defeated Huron’s Max Brodkey and Anvit Rao 6-1, 6-3.

“After my win freshman year in 2017, some of the players changed positions and I lost my then-partner to a singles position” said Nagisetty. “We lost in the finals in 2018, so this year I was a little more focused on my fitness and conditioning. I cramped up last year in the finals. I was not going to let it happen again.

“It was a higher flight, one doubles. Druv is great. He has a great forehand and backhand and has a super good volley. That was awesome to end the season this way!’’

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston’s Luke Baylis returns a volley during his No. 1 singles semifinal at Midland Tennis Center. (Middle) Ann Arbor Huron’s Max Brodkey and Anvit Rao get together during their No. 1 doubles semifinal win. (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