Mustangs Complete Championship Climb

October 15, 2016

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Macomb Lutheran North’s route to an MHSAA championship seemed like a simple 3, 2, 1 countdown.

The Mustangs, who finished third at the Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Division 4 tournament in 2014 and second last year, broke through with a 36-stroke victory over second-place Livonia Ladywood on Saturday at Forest Akers West in East Lansing.

But for veteran Lutheran North coach Lori Gill, the road to the title started much more than three years ago – last century, actually.

“This was 19 years in the making,” said an emotional Gill after leading Lutheran North to not only its first-ever girls golf championship, but also the first MHSAA girls golf title for any Macomb County school.

“You are looking at one happy, happy coach. This is a really special group of girls. They are fun, and they are committed.”

Lutheran North took command of the two-day event with a solid team effort on Friday, building up a 16-stroke lead, then came back with an even better team score Saturday to zap any potential drama out of the team competition. Kalamazoo Hackett, the two-time reigning champion, placed third.

Junior Serena Nguyen led three Mustangs among the top 10 individuals with back-to-back 79s, good for fourth overall on the long and challenging Forest Akers West course. Senior Sydney Martens (85-79-164) took sixth and sophomore Kaity Rittner (82-84-166) was eighth.

Lutheran North’s fourth counted score on each day was an 89 – from senior Madison Mohr on Friday and junior Grace Farquhar on Saturday – as the Mustangs were the only team in the field to not count a score in the 90s or higher either of the two days.

 “The best part is that it was a total team effort, and we all came through for our coach,” said Martens while cradling the championship trophy in her arms. “Each year we were getting closer and closer. It’s just so nice that we took that final step.”

The battle for individual medalist honors was closer than the team competition, but the experience – and power – of senior individual qualifier Nichole Cox of Maple City Glen Lake was too much for the rest of the field.

Cox capped off a stellar four-year career by winning her third consecutive Finals medalist honor, to go along with a fourth-place finish as a freshman. Cox fired an even-par 72 in Friday’s opening round and overcame a couple of bad holes on Saturday to finish with a 78 for a two-day total of 150 and a four-shot edge.

Frankenmuth senior Megan Watkins and Kalamazoo Hackett senior Naomi Keyte shot identical rounds of 78-76-154 to tie for second in the individual competition.

“I hit my driver great both days – almost all of them were straight with a little draw,” said Cox, who blasted a 280-yard drive on Saturday on the 407-yard, par-5 second hole. “I’m proud of myself because I had two double-bogeys today, but I hung in there.”

Cox, who will play golf at Bowling Green, had three birdies in Friday’s opening round and none on Saturday. She shook off a four-putt, double-bogey on No. 5, her second hole Saturday morning, then started racking up pars en route to her “three-peat.” She became only the ninth girl in MHSAA history to win at least three Finals individual championships.

The closest pursuer to Lutheran North in the team race turned out to be Livonia Ladywood, which improved on its fourth-place Finals finish one year ago. The Blazers captured the second-place trophy behind the big three of junior Gabriella Scopone (83-83-166), who placed ninth, senior Lydia Cranmer (86-81-167), who was 10th, and senior Jordyn Rioux (85-87-172).

But this was Lutheran North’s time for a title.

Martens, the senior leader for the Mustangs who will play golf at Oakland University next year, said the team talked about staying aggressive in spite of its 16-stroke lead after Friday’s opening round.

“Sixteen strokes sounds like a lot, but it’s only four strokes for each girl,” said Martens, whose older sister, Samantha Martens, was also a standout for Gill at Lutheran North. “We are a long-hitting team, and we wanted to keep playing our game and try to extend the lead.”

Gill, whose team was playing in the Finals for the sixth straight year, said another key to the Mustangs’ terrific run over the past three has been playing top-flight competition from Division 1 and other larger schools throughout the regular season. Lutheran North made a statement way back in August by winning the 15-school Flint Powers Invitational, then provided the other bookend to its spectacular season Saturday with a 36-stroke runaway.

“We got a taste of that top three (the last two years) and then winning the title became an obsession,” said Gill. “The girls knew what they wanted to do and they did it. What can I say? They are an amazing group of girls and an amazing group of golfers.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Macomb Lutheran North’s Serena Nguyen fires out of a bunker during Saturday’s final round of the Division 3 Final. (Middle) Maple City Glen Lake’s Nichole Cox holes a putt en route to her third straight individual title. (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