Glen Lake's Champ Sets Sights Higher

September 9, 2015

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

TRAVERSE CITY – The ball landed on the green a few feet past and left of the hole.

One hundred and eleven yards away, at the tee box on the 11th hole at the Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Glen Lake's Nichole Cox squinted through the bright sunshine on this late August day to see where she would putt for birdie.

Turns out, there would be no birdie putt. The backspin Cox put on the ball with her pitching wedge, coupled with the slope of the green, drew the ball right to the cup. Just like that, the defending Lower Peninsula Division 4 champion had her first career hole-in-one en route to a personal-best 3-under 69 in winning the Cardinal Invitational.

That shot typifies Cox's torrid pre-Labor Day start to the 2015 season. Four matches, four impressive victories, including the two-day, 36-hole Lober Classic at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. Cox shot rounds of 71 and 76 on the Spruce Run and Wolverine courses to take the title by two strokes over Brighton's Annie Pietila, who had led by three shots after opening with a 68.

"It was crazy," Cox said. "I was proud of myself. That was my goal (to win the tournament)."

Glen Lake was the smallest school in the 26-team field.

"I think that might be the best competition we'll see until the state tournament," Lakers coach Paul Christiansen said.

The 17-year-old Cox also won two matches at Mistwood. She fired an even-par 71 to claim the Traverse City West Titan Invitational by nine strokes and then came back a few days later with a 1-under 70 to capture a triangular match by 13 strokes.

Of her five 18-hole rounds, she's played four at par or under par.

"She's pretty motivated," Christiansen said. "She is her own toughest critic. She has high expectations. She'll say her goal is to win every match this year."

To do that, Cox said she's had to sharpen her focus. She said she no longer worries about her score during a match. Instead, she is more intent on the "simple things," like making sure she hits the fairways and greens. The rest, she said, will take care of itself.

"I've been making a lot more up and downs," the junior said. "I feel good about it right now."

Always known as a long ball hitter off the tee, Cox has steadily improved as a putter.

"I can basically two-putt from anywhere (on the green)," she said. "I don't three-putt much. That's a big step from last year."

She's also had her share of one-putts, knocking down a number of long birdie attempts.

Her putting has been aided by a stronger approach game, thanks to a new set of Callaway Apex irons she put in her bag before the season.

"(The switch) was mostly to control her iron play, trajectory and distance," Scott Wilson, her swing coach in the Junior Elite program at Crystal Mountain, said. "She dialed in almost immediately. Certainly that's a concern when you make an equipment change like that (before the season), but it was the right fit for her. I wish we would have done it sooner."

Cox, who was third in LP Division 4 as a freshman, enjoyed a solid summer on the links, competing in the Michigan Women's Open and Michigan Amateur, where she reached the Sweet 16.

"Every year she just gets better," her father, Duane, said. "She's playing with more confidence. It's not just one thing that's getting better, everything is getting better. Her numbers this year are so much better – and they were good last year."

Christiansen said it's fun to watch her play.

"Really good players have their own swing coaches, and I don't want to mess that up," he said. "I think you can have too many voices. My job is to keep her relaxed, keep her in the moment, keep her level-headed so she's not too hard on herself. You have to be able to let a bad shot go."

Christiansen maneuvers around the course to watch all of his golfers during a match, so he's not with Cox constantly.

"That's one cool thing about golf, unlike some other sports where the coach is with you 100 percent of the time," he said. "You've got to adjust to situations yourself and learn course management. She's played so much golf, she's really good at figuring out what she's doing right and wrong."

Cox has been around the game for years. When she and her twin brother Brandon were in kindergarten, their parents bought a home with a driving range. The family has operated the Dune Valley Driving Range the last 10 years. It's across the road from the Dunes Golf Club, which the family plays regularly.

"I thought it would be a great place for kids to grow up," Duane said.

Cox edged Farwell's Bria Colosky by one stroke to win last season’s MHSAA Final with a 36-hole score of 159. They and two others entered the second round tied for first at 83, but Cox shot a 76, to Colosky’s 77, to finish the competition.

"I thought I lost it because I double-bogeyed my last hole," Cox said. "I was pretty convinced I blew it for myself. I was surprised that I won."

Cox would like to take that surprise element out of the equation this year.

"The goal is to get better every match so that next month she's ready to roll (in the MHSAA tournament)," Christiansen said.

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. 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) Maple City Glen Lake's Nichole Cox watches a shot during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final. (Middle) Cox unloads a tee shot during another 2014 event. (Middle photo courtesy of Glen Lake High School.)

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