Negaunee's Niskanen, Escanaba Pull Through to Celebrate Close Victories

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 1, 2022

HARRIS — It took all 18 holes to determine an individual champion at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Final here Wednesday.

Negaunee junior Rachel Niskanen came through with a 25-foot birdie putt on the No. 18 hole, becoming medalist for the first time with 82 strokes.

Menominee senior Madison Derusha, who narrowly missed an eagle putt on the last hole, settled for birdie and the runner-up honor at 83 on a sunny and mild day at Sweetgrass Golf Club.

“I started with par on the back nine, then I double-bogeyed the next three holes,” said Niskanen, who led by six strokes at one point on the back nine. “Both of us had bogeys. She was five down going into 11. It was really intense. I just tried to take it one stroke at a time and reminded myself that I couldn’t change the past. I just had to focus on the future.”

Escanaba was crowned team champion for the first time in four years with a 411. The Eskymos were followed by Negaunee at 417, Marquette at 422, Ishpeming Westwood with 431 and two-time reigning champion Menominee at 440.

“The girls really came through,” said Escanaba assistant coach Jake Berlinski. “Last year they were playing for the first time. This year was a little bit different. The girls made it a sport they really cared about.

“We ask a lot of these girls. They miss a lot of school, which is stressful for them. We’ve been asking them to miss two days a week for the last five weeks.”

Derusha, who plans to play golf at Michigan State University, said it was kind of a bittersweet ending to her high school career.

“It would have been nice to get the eagle, but it was still nice to get a birdie on my last high school hole,” she added. “Both of us were as nervous as could be. I have to stay as positive as I can and be proud of the way I finished.

Escanaba golf“I will be doing club golf in my first year (at MSU), then I’ll play varsity golf as a sophomore. It will be a big learning curve.”

Westwood senior Jillian Koski, who sank a hole-in-one on No. 12 during Tuesday’s practice round, placed third with at 89 on Wednesday.

“On the front nine I had a 40,” said Koski, who will also attend MSU this fall to major in business management. “My putting was going real well, then they weren’t falling anymore on the back nine. I was nervous. I wanted to do as well as I did on the front nine.”

Escanaba junior Cierra Scott moved up two places from a year ago, taking fourth this time at 90. Iron Mountain’s Redeit Husing placed fifth with a 93.

“I’ve become more consistent with my long game,” said Scott. “My drives were pretty good today, but putting is something I need to work on. My putts weren’t very good. You’re never going to have a perfect round; you can come close, but it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get that perfect round.

“I wasn’t playing my best golf in the beginning of the season and was getting down on myself. Then, I kind of changed my mentality. Going into the season, winning the team title was top priority. Our team has improved so much.”

Berlinski often refers to Scott as “Captain.”

“Last year, we weren’t sure if we’d have a full team,” he said. “Cierra earned that name. She recruited some players and brought them along with her. She had some early-season struggles and shot scores that were uncharacteristic for her, but good players find a way to get through that stuff and Cierra played her best golf in the end.

“This is a nice feather in her hat for somebody who’s aspiring to be a college golfer. She’ll play somewhere. She’ll find a home.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Negaunee's Rachel Niskanen tees off on No. 16 at Sweetgrass Golf Club during Wednesday’s Upper Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Escanaba girls golf team holds up its team championship trophy. From left: Sophia Derkos, Peyton Wellman, Annika Wangrud, Cierra Scott and Maddie Wilson. (Photos by Justin St. Ours.)

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