Falcons Finish 1st Title with a Flourish

October 18, 2014

By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half 

BATTLE CREEK – East Kentwood High School senior Sarah White could never have expected to finish her high school golf career the way she did Saturday afternoon.

Winning the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 team championship was not a huge surprise for East Kentwood, which returned its top four players from the team that finished sixth last year.

In the process, White, who finished second as a freshman three years ago and sixth the past two years, captured the individual honors with back-to-back rounds of 73. Again, it was not a huge surprise.

However, facing a 51-foot putt on the 18th hole – the final hole of her high school career – White did not think about sinking it, but she did, wrapping up her career and both the team and individual championships at Bedford Valley Golf Course.

White also could not have known that she needed to make the putt to win the individual title and avoid a playoff with Jaclyn Facola of Monroe, who finished one stroke back. White’s two-day total of 146 also was two strokes ahead of Elayna Bowser of Dearborn and Lauren Ingle of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.

“I was like, ‘Just put it close, two-putt par, easy 74,’ ” White said. “And then it’s halfway and starts turning toward the hole, and I think, ‘Just go in,’ and it goes in. I threw a fist-pump, and I didn’t even know what was going on. I just kind of celebrated because it went in. I wasn’t expecting it.

“It was awesome because the past couple of holes I was burning the edge or it stopped on the lip, so to get one to fall on the last hole was awesome.”

While the race for the individual title was close, East Kentwood made sure the competition for the team title wasn’t close. The Falcons held a 10-stroke lead after a team score of 324 on Friday, and Saturday it dropped to 319 for a two-day total of 643 – well ahead of runner-up Lake Orion at 665 and third-place Dearborn at 671.

“It’s really nice to see them deal with a 10-shot lead as well as they did,” first-year East Kentwood coach Andy Giarmo said. “They approached the day as being just another 18-hole tournament where everybody was starting at zero, and they really did a great job of staying patient and staying mature through the whole round.”

Nine of the 10 rounds played by the five East Kentwood girls were below 90, and each of the five had their score count at least once, something White said has been a trademark of the team all season.

“If someone is having a bad day, someone steps up,” White said. “That’s what I love about this team. We’re invincible as a team, but individually we’re ineffective.

“As a team, we’re just so much stronger.”

On Friday, it was Emma Millard and Janelle Quinn who stepped up for East Kentwood. Millard shot 80 on Friday and followed it with 83 for a 163 total.

“It feels pretty good,” Millard said. “I was just thinking of my team the whole time, and I wanted to come through for them and finish strong.”

Quinn, a sophomore who just took up the game of golf two years ago and was the team’s No. 5 player, had rounds of 86 and 89 for 175. Her 86 was one of the top four scores turned in Friday by the Falcons.

“Janelle has come through for us all year,” Giarmo said. “The great thing about this team is we’ve had people step up when we need to. For Janelle to show that level of maturity and confidence as a sophomore has been so impressive all year long.”

Junior co-captain Mackenzie Keenoy followed a disappointing first-round 85 with a 75 on Saturday, and credited her putting for the improvement.

“I did not play well Friday, and Emma stepped up,” Keenoy said. “I finally made some putts (Saturday). I needed it. Friday I went out and did not play to my game; I struggled all day, so I went in thinking I need to make some putts.

“My shots were not perfect – I was not hitting the ball great – and I needed to make some putts. It was great.”

Isabel Meier, another senior, had rounds of 93 and 88 for the Falcons, and her 88 counted toward the team total Saturday.

“We all worked really hard, and it was a team effort,” she said. “I’m not very pleased with how I played, but we all put a lot of effort into it. It’s great.

“I don’t think it will sink in for a couple of days. It’s really crazy. A lot of us have been on the same team for four years, and it’s weird to think that we really finally did it.”

Possibly the most interested spectator at Bedford Valley was Lindsey Boyle, who coached the team the previous three years before resigning, although she helped out the team at times this year.

“I worked with the girls since they were freshmen, and Sarah White especially,” Boyle said. “It’s a proud moment to see them come out on top.”

White is a long-hitter who plans to continue her golf career at Western Michigan University.

“She does everything well,” Giarmo said. “She hits the ball a long way off the tee and very straight, and she can make the big putt when she needs to, and that’s special – not a lot of people can do that.”

White was a little more colorful in describing the way she played Friday and Saturday.

“I just was killing my driver these past two days,” she said. “I’ve been outdriving everybody and putting myself in great opportunities to get birdies.”

White also said that winning the team title was a greater thrill than the individual championship.

“To win a golf tournament as a team is awesome,” White said. “It’s better than individually. I’d take it over individually any day. To win as a team, we all get to share it, and we’re all so excited.”

Sharing in success is probably one reason why White wanted to give credit to both her current and former coaches.

“The great thing is that Coach Boyle showed up; she’s the one who kind of brought us together as a team,” White said. “We definitely want to give it to her as well as Coach Giarmo.

“She’s the kind of coach who can make you laugh when you’re crying after a bad hole, but Coach Giarmo has his perks, too. He’s a great guy and a great coach. We wouldn’t have been here without both of them.”

The Falcons also recognized another coach, but not one of their own. Each East Kentwood player wore a ribbon in their hair to honor Grand Rapids South Christian girls golf coach Rob VanDyke, who was killed earlier this month when he was struck by a motorist while bicycling in Hudsonville.

“Our whole team made ribbons for him in his memory because he was a great guy,” White said. “His team went out and won regionals lights out, and that was awesome.”

“Awesome” might have been the word of the day for East Kentwood, which picked up its first MHSAA championship in girls golf.

“I’ve never wanted anything more in my entire life than to be where I am right now,” White said. “This exceeds anything. My mind is blown right now. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a Falcon than today. It’s awesome.”

While White and East Kentwood stole the show and the titles, junior Lucy Buzolitz of Grosse Pointe South provided a memorable moment on Friday when she scored a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th hole.

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) East Kentwood’s Sara White celebrates a 51-foot putt on the 18th hole that secured for her the LP Division 1 individual title. (Middle) Grosse Pointe South’s Lucy Buzolitz fires a shot from the sand Saturday; on Friday, she scored a hole-in-one. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).

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