In Just 5th Season, Montague Finishes #1

October 17, 2020

By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half

Montague pulled off an amazing feat Saturday at Forest Akers West by winning its first MHSAA Finals team championship in just the fifth year of the program’s existence. 

The Wildcats scored 343 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 tournament to set a new school record, besting Lansing Catholic at 370. All five Montague players finished among the top 16 individuals, with junior Orianna Bylsma leading with a top-five finish at 81, and senior Megan Brown coming in 8th with 84.

“My mind is racing,” said head coach Phil Kerr. “I’m just so happy for the girls. They earned this. We thought we could do this; we brought four players back from last year. We wanted to win a county championship, win the Regionals, and then just see what happened at states. It’s unbelievable.”

The team finished fourth at the Final last year in its first-ever two-round tournament. Kerr said in 2019 the Wildcats played much better on the second day, which elevated the team into the top five. So, there was some nervousness coming into the tournament this year knowing it would be reduced to one 18-hole round, not the traditional 36 holes over two days. The cutback was due to COVID-19 protocols for distancing and to allow teams to make one day trip instead of needing to stay overnight.

“It’s definitely different, and there’s more urgency for sure,” Kerr said about the reduction to 18 holes. “Getting off to a good start is huge. There’s no time to make up for it. We really focused on, how do we come out, where do we stand after the first three or four holes, and make sure we take care of that.”

Jump out they did.

The Wildcats were ahead by as many as 15-20 strokes very early in the day before sealing the win by the large margin over Lansing Catholic, Michigan Center (371) and 2019 champ Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (372).

“On the front nine you never know, something can always happen,” Kerr said about building the original lead. “I think we got comfortable toward the back of the front nine and we relaxed a little bit, but we still shot an amazing score.

“I’m really happy for our seniors, Megan Brown and Katie Unger (tied for 12th). Megan’s been on varsity since she was a freshman. I think she shot 145 at the Regionals that first year, and just shot 84 today to help set our school record and (win) a state championship. Just a credit to hard work. Special kids who love grinding and working hard. I hope they see the rest of their lives if they put their heart and soul into something, they’ll see the results like this.”

Junior Kamryn Shannon of Michigan Center was medalist at 2-over 74, just ahead of Jacquelyn O’Neill of Harbor Springs at 75. Shannon had a troubling day at Regionals scoring an 87, but turned it around for the Final. She admitted the 87 rattled her a little heading into the season’s final event.

“I’ve been working on my driver a lot recently, and today I was hitting almost every fairway, and if not I was just off on the edge,” Shannon said after accepting her first-place medal. “My putting was pretty good today also.”

Shannon said she finished outside the top 30 last year as a sophomore with scores in the 90s.

“I got new clubs and immediately my average started dropping,” she said about getting properly fitted. “I’m super proud all of my hard work paid off in the long run.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Montague’s Orianna Bylsma sends an approach from the 16th fairway during Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final. (Middle) Michigan Center’s Kamryn Shannon holds up her first-place medal. (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