Huskies Finish Strong to Reign Again

October 19, 2019

By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – This threepeat was very sweet.

Carrying the heavy load of a No. 1 ranking all season after two consecutive years winning the Lower Peninsula Division 2 title, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern pulled away during the second round Saturday to secure its third consecutive MHSAA Finals championship at Forest Akers East on the campus of Michigan State.

Northern led South Lyon by only two strokes going into the final round (337-339) – an insignificant margin in team golf, which tabulates four individual scores. The past two years Northern had much larger cushions over the competition.

But Northern broke away to win this third title with a team total 337-311-648.

“We talked a lot about that before the second round,” coach Kent Graves said about having no room for error. “In years past we haven’t had to do that; we just had to get through it. Today we really had to focus, and they did, and it was a big win for us.

“I just love the kids. I’m just so proud of them. Not the fact that they won three in a row, but just that grit that they had coming back ... to focus and crush it today. I’m very proud of them.”

Northern was led by Lilia Henkel at 78-75-153, Anna Fay at 82-75-157, Ava Frost with 88-77-165 and Rylee Walters at 89-84-173 as all four scored better in round two.

Henkel tied for second individually with Emlin Munch of Traverse City Central, while Fay placed fourth overall.

“For us, I think being here three times was the difference” Graves said about the difference between the first and second rounds. “All five of our girls played in the final last year. You just can’t discount experience. To know where you’re at and know what you’ve got to do on the second day. I think they just went out and did it.”

Gabriella Tapp, a freshman from South Lyon, was not on most people’s radars, yet played two consecutive rounds of 75-75 to win the medalist title. She led by one stroke after the first round over teammate Katherine Potter, who finished 76-83-159 for fifth place individually as the pair powered the Lions to a team runner-up finish. South Lyon (674) was ranked No. 5 coming into the weekend.

“That’s a quality team. There’s some good players there,” Graves said.

Taking third place was Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central with a team total 711. Farmington Hills Mercy took fourth at 730, while Birmingham Groves and Fenton rounded out the top five teams, both finishing with 732.

Graves said Northern’s third consecutive title was due to a complete team effort – especially being under the microscope all season.

“They’ve got pretty good heads on their shoulders. My top two players – Lilia and Anna – play golf 12 months of the year. They play in a lot of big tournaments. The ones I’m really proud of, and I say this every year, you really don’t win this thing with just your No. 1 and No. 2; everybody has a good one and two. It’s players like Ava Frost that came back and shot a 77 today at our three spot. Rylee and Bailee Walters, our twins, came back at 84 and 87 today. That’s where you win it, at those three and four scores.”

So, could there be a fourth consecutive championship in Northern’s future?

Henkel and Fay return, with three juniors who are waiting their turns.

“These three girls have been out here for two days with us, walking the course and they know what it takes, and they definitely want to be a part of this next year,” Graves said. “And I’ll tell you what; they’re pretty good players. They’d be in the top three for almost every team in our conference.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Ava Frost putts during Friday’s first round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) South Lyon’s Gabriella Tapp pops a chip toward the green. (Click to see more from

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