Top-Flight Dow Returns to Top of D2

October 15, 2016

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – From 2009 through 2013, the Midland Dow boys tennis team ruled Division 2 tennis in the Lower Peninsula with five consecutive MHSAA Finals championships.

After placing second the last two seasons, the Chargers were determined to bring the title back to Midland this season.

That was exactly what Dow did, as the Chargers captured this year’s Division 2 tournament title at Hope College. Dow finished three points ahead of last year’s co-champions Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and Portage Central.

Dow left no question as to which Division 2 team was the best. The Chargers totaled 35 team points, as they had players vying for championships in all eight flights. Forest Hills Central, winners of the last two Division 2 titles, placed second with 25 points, while last year’s other champion, Portage Central, and Okemos tied for third place with 18 points.

"Sometimes you forget how this moment feels,” said Midland Dow coach Terry Schwartzkopf. “Everything has to go just right. This feels really good.”

Dow received strong performances from its singles lineup as the Chargers won titles at No. 1 and No. 3 singles.

In one of the highlight matches of the finals, Midland Dow senior Varun Shanker held off Kalamazoo Loy Norrix freshman Reed Crocker in a marathon three-set match 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (8). Shanker, who won the No. 3 singles title as a freshman, closed out his high school career in a big way by outlasting Crocker in a grueling third set.

“I am really speechless at this time,” Shanker said. “I felt pretty balanced coming into the match today. It's a storybook ending. Our team had its share of ups and downs this season, but we pulled through at the end.”

Crocker, just a freshman, came into the tournament as the second seed behind Shanker and sent a message to the rest of the singles players in Division 2 that he will be a force to be dealt with the next three seasons.

At No. 3 singles, Midland Dow’s Tyler Conrad turned back Daniel Gorelik of Okemos 6-4, 6-2. Conrad was determined to claim the title as he finished runner-up at No. 3 singles last year.

Cameron Raedy of Portage Central proved to be a big surprise of the tournament in singles action. Coming in seeded fourth at No. 2 singles, Raedy upended top-seeded Gabe Vidinas of Birmingham Groves 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals. Raedy closed out his memorable weekend in the finals when he defeated second-seeded Anish Middha of Dow 6-2, 7-5.

The title was actually the second straight for Raedy as he was part of Portage Central’s No. 1 doubles team that won last year.

“It's surreal right now,” Raedy said. “Last year I was state champ as part of the No. 1 doubles team, and to win it as the No. 3 singles this year is quite a two-year run.”

A pair of familiar foes met each other at No. 4 singles. Deniz Kalfa of Okemos brought home a title in another match of a lower seed defeating a higher seed when he upended top-seeded Saketh Kamaraju of Midland Dow. Kalfa, seeded second, defeated Kamaraju 7-6 (4), 6-1.

“It was a pretty tough season, but I want to thank my team for all the support they gave me,” Kalfa said. “I had lost three times to the player I played today, but during today's match I saw I could win this one, and that eased my mind."

In doubles action, Midland Dow used the same formula for success. Dow won at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles and placed runner-up at No. 2 and No. 4.

At No. 1 doubles, Dow’s top-seeded tandem of JJ Kirkman and Aditya Middha teamed up to hold off the second-seeded Grosse Pointe South team of Jack Williams and Ben Zacharia in a three-set struggle 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

At No. 3 doubles, Dow pulled off an upset as the second-seeded team of Daniel Zhang and Gopal Parthasarathy turned back Forest Hills Central’s top-seeded duo of Peyton Herbert and Mike Battiste 6-2, 6-3.

At No. 2 doubles, Forest Hills Central turned the tables on Midland Dow. Central’s second-seed pair of Aidan Rynbrandt and Jack Ziegler held off Dow’s top-seeded duo of Sagar Kamaraju and Noah Nichols 6-4, 6-1.

The win was especially sweet for the Rangers duo as they had come up short during the regular season against the foes from Dow.

“I enjoyed every moment today,” Ziegler said. “We had lost to this Dow doubles team twice this year, but we were confident coming off winning the conference and Regional championships. Everything was clicking for us today.”

Ziegler’s partner was just as happy.

“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Rynbrandt said. “I am full of joy. We felt like they figured out us the first two times we played them this year, but today was our day. We executed this time; that was the difference.”

At No. 4 doubles, Birmingham Groves' third-seeded pair of Charlie Michaud and Aerik Joe downed Seaholm's fourth-seeded Aiden O'Neill and Will Appleford 6-2, 7-5. O'Neill and Appleford had downed Midland Dow's top-seeded Ryan Killmaster and Jeroen Uesback in three sets in the semifinal.

For Dow, regaining the Division 2 title was a total team and family effort with everyone pulling together.

“What I will remember about this group is the unity,” Schwartzkopf said. “It's been a while since we've had it, but this group really cared for each other. My captains and the parents also played a key role. They were the ones who paid attention to the little details, from stretching to nutrition. It made a difference this season.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Midland Dow’s Varun Shanker returns a volley during his championship match at No. 1 singles. (Middle) Portage Central’s Cameron Raedy pounds a return at No. 2 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