Lansing Catholic Finishes Title Climb, Greenhills' Melendez Joins Elite Few

By Tim Robinson
Special for

October 21, 2023

BATTLE CREEK — While clutching the championship trophy that had eluded her during her first three high school golf seasons, Lansing Catholic’s Sophie Hauser was open to suggestions on how to celebrate.

What if, it was suggested, each member of the Cougars got to have the trophy in their possession for a day, like NHL hockey players whose team wins the Stanley Cup?

“I like that idea,” she said, her smile getting even brighter.

If that’s the case, the Cougars’ MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship trophy will be out of sight for a while.

The reason: Lansing Catholic has 20 golfers on its roster, all competing for playing spots.

“We have 16 players who want to compete,” Cougars coach Kim Johnson said. “From freshmen to seniors. It keeps everyone sharp when you have 20 people competing, and it’s a team thing because the younger ones are pushing the older ones because if they don't (compete), they’re going to lose their spot, and it’s worked out well.”

It was the Cougars’ first title since 2010, which was the last of three consecutive titles won by the Cougars at that time. They finished third last year after second-place finishes the previous two seasons.

Lansing Catholic got off to a blazing start, ending Friday’s first round with a 15-stroke lead and adding to it Saturday, finishing with a 705 score that was 24 strokes better than second-place Kalamazoo Christian.

“We got out front early and stayed out,” Johnson said. “Everyone knew that we were 15 strokes up, and we knew we had to keep the pedal on the metal because there were all these great teams behind us. We didn’t want to lose it, so we knew we had to keep working hard.”

Ann Arbor Greenhills’ Mia Melendez sends an approach on the way to winning her third individual championship.The Cougars came out Saturday determined not to let the moment, or the weather, get to them.

Hauser led Lansing Catholic by shooting 74 on Saturday and 150 for the weekend, both personal bests. 

“I struggled on the front nine,” she said, “but I pulled it together on the back nine, and I thought to myself that I have to play my game and not think about anyone else.”

Johnson said assistant Mary Fineis plays a key role in the Cougars’ mental approach. 

“She works on skills with them, and she helps them keep their minds sharp,” Johnson said. 

Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor Greenhills became the seventh girl in state history to three-peat as a Finals individual champion, firing a 69 to edge Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Logan Bentley by two strokes.

“I made a lot of pars and three great birdies,” she said. “It was a really steady round overall.”

Melendez, a junior, hopes to make it four-for-four in state titles next year. That would make her the first to do so in the Lower Peninsula and first statewide since Paxton Johnson of Escanaba won four consecutive titles in UP Finals from 2016-19.

The weather was a factor both days, forcing the contestants off the course for a time Friday due to heavy rain. Saturday saw drizzle and occasional showers. 

“Conditions were really tough for playing golf today,” Melendez said. “There was a lot of rain, the ground was wet, and it was super cold. But I’m glad I have some experience playing in tough weather.”

Meanwhile, Hauser and her teammate were savoring their team title.

“I don't think it’s really hit me yet,” said Hauser, who finished third overall as an individual. “It feels like a dream. And it’s finally come true.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its first Finals team championship since 2010 on Saturday. (Middle) Ann Arbor Greenhills’ Mia Melendez sends an approach on the way to winning her third individual championship. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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