FHN's Henkel Off to Headline-Making Start

September 11, 2020

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Lilia Henkel admitted to struggling a bit with her golf game during the months leading up to this high school girls golf season.

You wouldn’t have guessed it after the Forest Hills Northern senior sent a buzz through the statewide golf community with a record-setting performance in her season debut.

Henkel fired an eye-popping 12-under-par 60 last month in the Mona Shores Invitational at Stonegate Golf Club.

“It was a mediocre summer, and the past few tournaments before then I didn’t play that well,” Henkel said. “I played some of my worst golf, and I just wasn’t hitting the ball where I needed to. I was frustrated and confused about what was happening.”

Henkel overcame the issues she was encountering in the first event of a fall season that was in jeopardy due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Golf, tennis and cross country were the first sports cleared to play after five months, and the three-time all-state selection took advantage of the opportunity.

“It was obviously the first event for any high school sport and everything just set up perfectly,” said Henkel, who made the all-state Super Team last season. “The weather was beautiful, the course was awesome and it was good to be back with the team. With everything that has been going on, we all just wanted to go out and have fun and make it as memorable as possible.”

Henkel has enjoyed her share of high school golf highlights; she individually tied for second at the 2019 Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, tied for third in 2018 and was seventh as a freshman.

But her round at Stonegate certainly made for another memorable moment. 

She set a course record, besting the previous low round of 66, set by former Miss Golf and two-time MHSAA Finals champion Laura Kueny.

“The pro at Stonegate couldn’t believe it, and he gave her a certificate,” Forest Hills Northern coach Kent Graves said. “That’s a difficult course. We’ve been going out there to play for a number of years and it’s not an easy course by any means, but she was just all over it that day.”

Henkel’s first nine holes included three birdies and three eagles, as she shot a stunning 8-under-par 28 entering the back nine.

She rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt on No. 5, and then followed with a 20-foot chip-in from just off the green on No. 6. She chipped in for an unexpected eagle yet again on No. 9.

“That was one of my favorite holes,” Henkel said. “It was a short par 4 and I drove it to the side of a greenside bunker. I didn’t realize how fast and downhill that green was, and I duffed my chip. I hit ground first, and it landed just five feet on the green. I thought it was going to be short, but it kept going and went in.”

Henkel made four more birdies on the back nine for a 32. Her final score bested her previous low round by seven strokes; however, she wasn’t completely satisfied after the round.

“It sounds bad, but I didn’t feel like I played great golf, I just played good golf,” Henkel said. “I know I’m capable of shooting that score. Sixty is real low, but I know I’m capable of shooting an under-par round.

“If I didn’t leave anything out there I would’ve been like, ‘Wow, I just shot a really good score,’ but I honestly felt like at the very least I left three (shots) out there, if not four or five, because I had two three-putts and then I remember a 6-foot birdie putt that I missed.”

Graves, who has guided the Huskies to three straight wins at the MHSAA Division 2 Finals, also believed Henkel could’ve gone even lower.

“I hate to say this, but I looked at her card and saw 60 and I was disappointed,” Graves said. “She had 28 (on the front nine) so I was hoping for sub-60. That is the silliest thing in the world to say in retrospect, but what a great round. It was just one of those days when everything came together.”

Henkel admitted to having aspirations of bettering her score as well.

“On the 11th tee box I said to myself and to the girls I was playing with that I was going to shoot 59,” she said. “That was my goal. There wasn’t a sliver of doubt in my mind that I couldn’t go and do it. I was having fun, it was an awesome day, so I thought, ‘Let’s go do this.’” 

Led by Henkel and senior Anna Fay, a two-time all-stater, the Huskies have since won two more tournaments – the Kent County Classic and Forest Hills Central Invitational. Henkel shot under par at both.

Henkel likes this year’s veteran group as she and her teammate pursue a rare fourth Finals win in a row. The Mona Shores teams from 2009-12, with four straight titles, are the only Lower Peninsula girls golf teams to win more than three straight Finals championships.

 “If we could get the four-peat it would be a cherry on the top, mic drop, I’m out,” Henkel said. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, and the other girls have been shooting great scores so far. I see the potential in this team, and we’ve been working hard in practice. It’s been really nice.”

Graves believes this year’s team can contend for another Division 2 title.

“You certainly give yourself a chance anytime you have players like Lilia and Anna on the team,” he said. “Everyone has a great one and two, but it’s that three, four and five (player) that really wins championships. And I think we’re really solid in those positions this year.”    

Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for four years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTO: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern's Lilia Henkel putts during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at Forest Akers East. (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