Dow Earns New Norm: Title Contender

September 15, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND — Alexie Flaminio has seen how the influence of a few highly motivated, hard-working teammates can transform a team and its expectations.

As a freshman in 2012, she was on a Midland Dow golf team that wasn't a factor on the state level. The Chargers finished eighth of 14 teams in their regional tournament, 31 shots out of the third and final qualifying berth for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final.

This was the norm at Dow, which had qualified for the finals only four times and made the top 10 only once during the first 41 years of the MHSAA's sponsorship of a girls golf tournament.

"We didn't have a lot of depth on the team," Flaminio recalls. "We had a few good players. Our top three was pretty good. I know I wasn't playing as well as I am right now. We had two seniors and a sophomore who were the only people who scored on our team."

Things changed radically at Dow the following season.

That's when senior Kharissa Carras made the decision to play golf after three years on the volleyball team. She was joined on the team that year by her freshman sister, Stephanie. They led Dow to the first of its two straight regional championships and the best finish in an MHSAA finals tournament in school history, a third-place showing in Division 2. Kharissa was the regional medalist and both sisters made the top 10 in the final.

Dow followed that up by taking fifth in Division 2 last fall, with Stephanie Carras placing fourth individually. Kharissa moved on to play college golf, but freshman Alexis Carras joined the team as a solid No. 2 golfer.

"They set an example for us, because they're out there every day of the week practicing," Flaminio said. "I wasn't practicing as much my freshman year. Once I got to my sophomore year, I started practicing more. The three of us were practicing quite a few days a week. They have a work ethic that is ridiculous for high school. They live and breathe golf. They're doing really well for us."

Dow coach Doug Bradford also cited the influence of the Carras girls as a primary reason why Dow is suddenly a state power in girls golf.

"It kind of fed into some of the other kids where they're putting time into it," Bradford said. "Maybe they wouldn't go practice on weekends or do those things. They do it now because that's the example that's been set. It's been interesting to watch the change in mindset. Tennis has been been big for both boys and girls. Several years ago, we had Kim Dihn, who went to Wisconsin and was as an individual (MHSAA Finals qualifier in 2009). We've had some good individuals, but we haven't grouped them together like we have now."

The Carras sisters work hard at their craft, but it doesn't feel like work to them.

"I love golf," Alexis said. "I usually spend about three hours a day on average doing golf. It's just a lot of fun. I started about two or three years ago very competitively, but my whole life golf was there. It was always an option. For college, not many girls play golf. I was very intrigued by it, because my older sister Kharissa was playing it. I loved the sport. We could play with our parents; we could play with our grandparents. It seemed like a sport you could play for life."

Now that the Chargers have established themselves as an elite team in Division 2, they are working toward taking the final step and winning an MHSAA championship.

The state's coaches certainly think Dow has an excellent shot at the title, ranking the Chargers No. 1 in Division 2.

"We've been in the top five the last couple years," Bradford said. "In that situation, you're kind of used to being up there. It's not a bad thing. It's obviously nice recognition, but there are a lot of good teams in Division 2 throughout the state. When you're first moving up, you do like to sneak up on people, but now that we've been there people know about you and what to expect. Birmingham Seaholm could easily be ranked No. 1. Okemos is very good. We just saw them at a tournament at Holt. They shot 328 and beat us down there, so they're right there. South Lyon has a nice team."

If things work out the way she hopes, Stephanie Carras could win two MHSAA titles at the LP Division 2 tournament Oct. 16-17 at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek.

As a sophomore, Carras was fourth in Division 2 last year behind two seniors and a junior with a score of 87-75–162 at Forest Akers West in East Lansing. As a freshman, she was third in Division 2, four strokes off the lead after shooting 79-80–159 at Forest Akers East.

"I hope to win states this year," Stephanie said. "I think I'm ready. Before, I wasn't mentally prepared. After seeing I really can shoot these scores to win the tournament, I think I'm better prepared this year."

Stephanie Carras leads Dow with an 18-hole average of 76. Alexis Carras averages 80, Flaminio 85 and sophomore Mina Fabiano 95.

"It makes golf so much more fun when you have your teammates come in with a great score," Alexis Carras said. "It makes everything so much more exciting."

Dow has sought out tough competition in its quest to be prepared for the postseason, which will begin with the regional tournament on Oct. 7 at The Emerald in St. Johns. That regional includes sixth-ranked Flushing and ninth-ranked St. Johns.

The Chargers placed second on a tie-breaker to Novi, the sixth-ranked team in Division 1, in the two-day Bob Lober Invitational in Traverse City. Dow beat defending Division 2 champion Seaholm in the highly competitive Troy Invitational, placing fourth behind Rochester (No. 1 in Division 1), Troy (No. 2 in Division 1) and Lake Orion (No. 4 in Division 1).

Dow won the Flint Powers Catholic Invitational, which also served as the first Saginaw Valley League jamboree. The Chargers finished ahead of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (No. 3 in Division 3) and Powers (No. 6 in Division 3) in that tournament. The Chargers also won their own tournament.

"As the competition gets better, it gets harder," Stephanie Carras said. "But the more you do it, the easier it gets."

Bradford hopes that playing a tough schedule, combined with the experience of two MHSAA Finals, serves the Chargers well come mid-October.

"I think it will," he said. "Any time you get to regionals and get to state, there are still a little bit of nerves. They've been through it and know what to expect, so hopefully we can play well at regionals and get a chance to go there again."

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. 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) Midland Dow's Stephanie Carras fires a shot out of a bunker during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at Forest Akers West. (Middle) From left, coach Doug Bradford, Alexis Carras, Mina Fabiano, Tatum Matthews, Morgan Deiters, Caroline Szabo, Alexie Flaminio and Stephanie Carras. (Below) Alexie Flaminio lines up a putt; she scored third for the Chargers as they finished fifth overall.

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