St. Francis Finishes 1st Finals Title Run in Dominating Fashion

By Tim Robinson
Special for

October 17, 2021

ANN ARBOR — Minutes after his team clinched its first-ever boy tennis Finals championship, Tommy Puetz was still processing the accomplishment. 

“It’s somewhat surreal,” he said. “I was with the team my freshman year, and we finished second that year. It’s pretty surreal to see it all come together, all our hard work in the offseason.”

That it did, and in its 14th try, Traverse City St. Francis went home with a championship trophy after a rain-soaked weekend at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Pioneer tennis courts. 

St. Francis, the top-ranked team entering the weekend, finished with 34 points, besting 2020 champion Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, which had 27. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian was third, with 19. 

The Gladiators entered with No. 1 seeds in six flights.

“It’s tough being the top seed, especially for high school kids, but they handled the pressure very well,” St. Francis coach Dane Fosgard said. “It's definitely very exciting. This team has worked very hard. For some of them, they've been at it for four years. It’s definitely a huge accomplishment for myself and the team.”

A near all-day rain Friday got the tournament off to a slow start, and Saturday’s matches didn’t begin until almost noon at both Pioneer and U-M, where the tournament was played on the outdoor courts before it was moved inside after dark. 

“It’s my 40th year of coaching, and I’ve never had a tournament where on the first day we didn’t get at least to the semifinals,” Liggett coach Mark Sobieralski said. “It’s crazy.”

Liggett kept it close until the final rounds.

"Our goal was to get everyone into the semifinals, and see what happens from there,” Sobieralski said, “We got everyone into the semis, and lost a couple of close ones.”

But in the end, St. Francis, which topped the state coaches poll all season, was not to be denied. 

Hudsonville Unity Christian tennis“They were just ready,” Liggett senior captain Jake Tomlinson said. “They were hungry to win that state title, because they really wanted it last year and we beat them. They were really upset about it, and all year they were grinding to get to this point.”

The Gladiators got into a groove when No. 1 singles player Grant Hedley returned from an injury. 

“When he came back, our team really turned it around,” said Puetz. “We played a lot of good competition through September, a lot of D-1 and D-2 schools, which really prepares us a lot for the state meet.”

Puetz, who started playing tennis in middle school, is the Gladiator whose primary sport isn’t tennis. (It’s golf). 

“All of these guys put in so much work in the offseason to reach this point,” he said., “It all pays off. 

“I started playing because I got free candy for winning,” he recalled, smiling. “And now here I am, a state champion.”

And, Puetz said, despite a long day Saturday, the wait was worth it.

“Ten thousand percent,” he said.

At No. 1 singles, Grand Rapids West Catholic senior Andrew Solarewicz took the final step with his first championship after finishing runner-up at the top flight in 2020. He defeated Liggett’s Sebastian Courtright 6-1, 6-2, in the final. Solarewicz gave up only eight games total this weekend over eight sets and fourth wins.

St. Francis benefitted from championships at No. 2 singles from Tristan Bonanni, No. 3 from Owen Jackson, and No. 4 from Chris Bobrowski; and from doubles flights at No. 1 from Cody Richards and Ben Schmude, No. 2 from Jack Britten and Anthony Spranger, and No. 3 from Charlie King and Derek Berta.

Hudsonville Unity Christian’s Cam Dykstra and Cory Mitchell were the title winners at No. 4.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS Traverse City St. Francis’ Chris Bobrowski celebrates as his team moves toward clinching its first Finals team championship. (Middle) Unity Christian serves during Saturday’s final rounds. (Click for 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