To Close Season Full of Highlights, Cheboygan Sends Maybank to Pursue 1 More

By Tom Spencer
Special for

October 20, 2023

For the second straight year, Cheboygan finished one slot away from qualifying for the Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Division 3 Final as a team.

Northern Lower PeninsulaHowever, the Chiefs finished the year with so much hardware, records and intangibles they really won’t miss competing this weekend at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University.

And they’ll be there in spirit, supporting senior Katie Maybank, who qualified as an individual. She’ll be competing in the Finals for the fourth straight year. She did so twice with her team and last season on her own.

Cheboygan is walking away from this season with six trophies – two more than the previous three years combined. And they tied and the broke school records along the way. 

After carding a school-record 374 at their 2022 Regional, they matched that score to win the Alpena Invitational in mid-September, and they went to on to break the record with a 365 to win their own invitational the following week – that victory at their home event also a first.

The season ended for the team in miserable fall weather Oct. 10 in the Regional at St. Ives in Stanwood, as Cheboygan scored a 411 to finish sixth and 19 strokes out of qualification.

Maybank – who set the individual program record of 74 in leading that 2022 Regional effort – would prefer to have her teammates with her as she did her first two years at the Final.  She’s hoping to break the individual top 10 this time.

“I am obviously bummed we didn’t make it as a team,” she said. “We all know we could have done it.

“We all know it was very possible with the team we had this year,” she continued. “I know they’re all supporting me and rooting for me when I go into states – I am very excited.”

Maybank had a practice round Thursday at The Meadows, which is the same course her brother PJ Maybank III played when he became the first – and still only – golfer in Cheboygan’s history to win a Finals championship.

PJ was only a sophomore when he won, and he did not compete for Cheboygan his remaining two years of high school. He is now playing golf for the University of Oklahoma.

Maybank will play in her fourth Final this weekend.Katie Maybank is hoping to play college golf as well after growing up in a golfing family and not starting to compete until her freshman year.

“My brother has played since he could walk, and it has always been his thing,” she recalled. “Then I started during COVID, and we just played a lot together and our whole family golfs.”

Cheboygan coach Sean McNeil went with Maybank to the Final knowing it will be tough next season without her and other seniors Emily Clark, Ella Kosanke, Emerson Eustice and Taten Lake. Clark and Kosanke also competed at the Final two years ago along with Lilly Wright, now a junior.

Wright will likely be the only senior on the team next year with the Chiefs also counting on sophomore Bea Schultz and freshmen Elise Markham and Gabriel Melonas to return.

“This is going to be a tough year to watch these five girls leave,” McNeil admitted in the presence of his seniors. “I was basically learning how to be a coach as they were learning how to golf. 

“It is really going to be a tough year to let go.”

This is McNeil’s second year as the team’s head coach. He succeeded Nate King, who is still helping out. McNiel was an assistant coach previously at Cheboygan along with current swing coach and father of both PJ and Katie, Pete Maybank.

The record-setting, hardware-accumulating season was in their sights before it started, according to Markham.  The team bonded right away with an overnight stay at Crystal Mountain for the Bob Lober Invite hosted by Traverse City Central.

“Our first meet I feel like is where we really clicked,” Markham said.  “We started to get to know each other and knew we were going to have a good season.”

Just getting to the Lober Invite became the consensus favorite part of the season, aside from the success. Long van rides from Michigan’s east coast with their coach at the wheel led to team bonds the girls say should last a lifetime.

“All the car rides were really fun,” Eustice offered enthusiastically.  “We listen to music and play games – it’s just really fun.”

Those trips provide a bonus, according to Clark.

“The car rides definitely helped with positive vibes before the meets,” she said. “We go in and we’re already happy because we leave at 5 in the morning.”

Kosanke agreed. “We did a lot of bonding in our car rides,” she said.

The Chiefs believe they will be friends for life with golf a big part of their lives. Jenna Weber, a 2022 graduate of Cheboygan, was a junior on the team during Maybank’s freshman year. They had never met before. They are best friends today.

“You definitely can make lifelong friends through golf,” Maybank stated as her teammates nodded and smiled in agreement.

Weber summed up this year’s team.

“They’re all so funny,” the graduate said. “They are always laughing. 

“Even if they play bad, afterwards they are laughing and they are so positive.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Cheboygan shows off the hardware the team earned this season. Back row, from left: Emily Clark, Ella Kosanke, Coach Sean McNiel, Emerson Eustice and Taten Lake. Front row, from left: Gabrielle Melonas, Katie Maybank and Elise Markham. (Middle) Maybank will play in her fourth Final this weekend. (Photos by Tom Spencer.)

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