4 Years of Work Paying Off as Senior-Led Linden Heads to Finals

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

October 13, 2021

Ask any member of the Linden girls golf team if she thought three years ago that the current level of success the team is enjoying was possible, and they quickly say no.

It’s tough to blame them. In 2018, the varsity team was made up of five freshmen and two sophomores, and the Eagles were struggling to be competitive, shooting a 467 in the Regional and coming in 10th out of 10 teams.

But that didn’t stop them from buying all the way in, and now the Eagles – led by those five freshmen who are now seniors – are headed to the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals with all of their season goals already accomplished.

“I would tell them then, ‘Three years from now, if you keep working, maybe you might have a chance to do something,’” Linden coach Jon Hamilton said. “I was talking to their parents about this, but how many kids will keep going when you tell them that if they work for something for three years, that maybe you’ll accomplish something? They did.”

Linden placed third in this year’s Region 10 tournament, shooting a 364 to qualify for the Finals, which will be played Friday and Saturday at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek. All four scorers for the Eagles – Ella LaMothe, Cate Draper, Kaitlyn Straub and Emma Lurvey – are seniors, as is Brooke Goll, who was the No. 5 on that day. All five were on the team in 2018.

“During freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen myself going to states,” LaMothe said. “I would have seen us as a team being a lot better, and maybe having a chance in the Metro League and the Regionals. But it’s taken a lot of hard work – four years of practicing every day in the fall and on our own during the summer. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Linden golfIt’s the first time in the nine years Hamilton has been coaching that he will take a team to the Finals, and that wasn’t the only first for the program under his guidance this season.

The Eagles won the Flint Metro League title, edging rivals Fenton and Goodrich in the league tournament. They also earned a head-to-head victory against Fenton.

After that win, Hamilton dug into his archives to pull out the scores from the 2018 showdown between the programs. Back then, Fenton won 179-257. This year, Fenton was again at 179, but Linden shot a school-record 165.

“After beating Fenton it was like, ‘Wow, we’re actually at the top of our league at the moment,’” Straub said. “It just feels amazing that we were able, as a team, to get better. It wasn’t just one singular girl getting better, it was all five of us from the beginning of freshman year to now getting better.”

LaMothe, Straub and Draper – who missed most of her freshman year with an eye injury – had played some golf before they joined the varsity squad. Lurvey said she had been on a course “a few times” but that freshman year was truly when she started. Goll was basically brand new.

“I was friends with the girls, so I figured why not try?” she said. “I had some kids clubs that I used to use to just hit some whiffle balls in my hard. I had to get a new set and everything, because those were really small.”

Linden golfWhile they’ve made up the majority of the scoring for Linden during each of the past four years, they haven’t been completely alone. Hanna Baldwin and Cassie Most were the sophomores on that 2018 team, and Emma Most has contributed this season.

But the core has been the Class of 2022, which believed enough in itself, even when times were tough, to work toward bigger goals.

“I think that it’s super amazing,” Lurvey said. “We all didn’t really expect this at all, and this year we really just kicked it in. It’s a big accomplishment for all of us.”

The season isn’t over, of course, with the trip to Bedford Valley still to come. But while there are some admitted nerves heading into the biggest tournament of their careers, the Eagles are rolling into Battle Creek without any pressure as they’ve already accomplished all they had set out to do this season – and much more than anyone believed they were capable of just a few years ago.

“I’d say it’s probably icing on the cake,” Draper said. “We want to go in and compete, shoot a low score and place. But we’re going to go and have fun and work together as a team. I don’t really feel pressure to be the best in the state in our division. I think we’re just going in to have fun.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Linden’s Ella LaMothe, Emma Lurvey and Kaitlyn Straub convene during the Flint Metro League Tournament, won by the Eagles. (Middle) The team’s five seniors, including also Cate Draper and Brooke Goll, have played varsity together since they were freshmen in 2018. (Below) The five seniors stand together during one last Regional, from left: Lurvey, Draper, Straub, Goll and LaMothe. (Photos courtesy of the Linden girls golf program.)

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