Preview: 2020 Champions Could Lead Title Chases Again

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

October 14, 2021

Be prepared for an encore or two, or more, at this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.

Three 2020 team champions were top-ranked by iWanamaker heading into this postseason, and three of last season’s individual champions (plus a fourth from 2019) also will be back in the fields at The Meadows of Grand Valley State, Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley and Michigan State’s Forest Akers West and Forest Akers East.

The Finals have returned to a two-round, two-day format after COVID-19 precautions led to a one-round championship tournament a year ago. See below for a number of teams and individuals who could be in contention, and check out the MHSAA Website for full lineups and more.

LP Division 1 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State

Top-ranked: 1. Northville, 2. Plymouth, 3. Okemos.

Northville is seeking to become the eighth – and second in Lower Peninsula history – to win four straight Finals championships. But Plymouth is always in the mix, with fourth, third and second place finishes the last three seasons, and the Wildcats are seeking their first championship since claiming back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Okemos was fourth in Division 1 in 2019 and third in Division 2 a year ago, and is seeking its first championship to go with a program-best runner-up run in 2013.

Northville: The Mustangs bring back plenty of championship experience. Four golfers will return from last year’s title-winning team, when all five finished among the top 19 individual placers. Junior Samantha Coleman led the way tying for sixth, and she and senior Megha Vallabhaneni tied for fourth as Northville placed second as a team at last week’s Regional at Washtenaw Golf Course.

Plymouth: The Wildcats should be carrying momentum into this weekend after finishing five strokes better than Northville to win that Washtenaw Regional. Senior Bridget Boczar brings star power to the top of the lineup after placing eighth as a freshman and tying for fourth individually both of the last two seasons. She was the individual champ last week and Plymouth’s top four at the Regional all are returnees from the 2020 Finals lineup, as senior Grace Boczar was third at Washtenaw and sophomore Brooke Morris was eighth.

Okemos: Two-time Finals champion Allison Cui has been one of the state’s best for three seasons, winning the Division 1 individual title as a sophomore and Division 2 as a junior and finishing runner-up in Division 2 as a freshman after a tie-breaker. Back in Division 1, she was second at her Regional as Okemos edged Brighton by three strokes to win at Davison Country Club. She’s one of three golfers back from last season’s Finals lineup, and freshman Alena Li followed her tying for third at the Regional.

More individuals of note: An accomplished field should make this weekend’s Final a classic, as four more top-10 finishers from last season join Boczar and Coleman plus Cui from Division 2. Grand Blanc junior Kate Brody is the reigning champion after finishing third as a freshman, and she shot a 67 to edge Cui by four strokes at their Regional. Ann Arbor Skyline senior Adie Maki tied for second last season, East Kentwood sophomore Elise Fennell tied for fourth and Rockford sophomore Jessica Jolly tied for ninth. Fennell also was a Regional champ, along with Livonia Stevenson senior Hailey Mydock, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior Addie Delcamp and Troy Athens junior Olivia Hemmila.

LP Division 2 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley

Top-ranked: 1. South Lyon, 2. Haslett, 3. Richland Gull Lake.

South Lyon was runner-up in 2019 and won its first championship in 2020, and the Lions enter this weekend after tying for the second-lowest Regional score in the division. Haslett and Gull Lake both are seeking their first top-two team finishes in this sport, after coming in fourth and 11th, respectively, last season. Byron Center shot a Division 2-low 339 to win its Regional ahead of Battle Creek Lakeview and Gull Lake.

South Lyon: All three Lions back from the 2020 Finals lineup placed among the top 12 at the Regional at Groesbeck last week, with junior Gabriella Tapp the medalist. She was the Finals individual champion as a freshman and tied for sixth last season. Seniors Sophia Joseph and Logan Foust were ninth and tied for 12th, respectively, at the Regional and also return from the 2020 run.

Haslett: The Vikings finished second at Groesbeck, nine strokes back, but with three top-15 individuals – and only one senior in the starting lineup. Junior Sydney Dausman was third and sophomore Mina Yoo seventh at the Regional after both finished among the top 18 at last year’s Final, and they are two of four returning from last season’s lineup.

Richland Gull Lake: The Blue Devils will bring three seniors back to the Finals after Annie Betts and Lauryn Jerke tied for sixth and finished 10th, respectively, at the Regional at Island Hills. Betts tied for 15th at the Finals a year ago.

More individuals of note: Aside from Tapp being a past champion, this field could be relatively wide open with Port Huron Northern junior Madison Bajis (who tied with Tapp for sixth) the only other top-10 finisher returning to Division 2 from last season. Bajis was second at her Regional to Grosse Pointe South senior Sabel Imesch, while Midland Dow junior Abby Wilson, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior Ashleigh Duflo, Portage Northern sophomore KT Leinwand and Dearborn Divine Child senior Julia Lizak also won Regional titles.

LP Division 3 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Macomb Lutheran North, 3. Goodrich.

Two-time reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian also is back after finishing third (and ahead of Goodrich) at their Regional, and Lutheran North, No. 7 Flint Powers Catholic and No. 4 Grand Rapids South Christian have been in the title mix regularly over the last four seasons. Cranbrook will be playing for its second Finals title in this sport and first since 2001, while Lutheran North was the champion most recently in 2017.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes shot a Division 3-best 324 to win their Regional at Pontiac Country Club, with all five golfers finishing among the top eight individually. Four of those five were part of the lineup that finished fourth at the Finals in 2020, where now-senior Ashley Cong tied for ninth individually. She was third at last week’s Regional, with senior Natasha Samsonov coming in second.

Macomb Lutheran North: The Mustangs were second at the Pontiac Regional behind Cranbrook paced by three finishers among the individual top 10. Sophomore Lauren Timpf shot a 74 to win the Regional after finishing third at last year’s Final, and junior Aileen Consentino tied for sixth topping a lineup with only one senior.

Bloomfield Hills Marian: Also at Pontiac, Marian finished third and will make the trip to the Finals with a nearly new lineup after graduating four from last year’s championship team. The lone returnee, senior Ashley Carroll, finished fifth at the Regional and junior Colleen Hand was fourth.

More individuals of note: Five of last season’s top 10 are slated to return this weekend, beginning with Timpf and including Cong, Grand Rapids South Christian sophomore Ashley Thomasma (fourth in 2020), Grosse Ile junior Lily Bargamian (tied for seventh) and Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen (tied for seventh). Also winning Regionals last week were VanDuinen, Grand Rapids Christian senior Sara Muir, Plainwell junior Renae Jaeger, Freeland freshman Averie Pumford and Grosse Ile sophomore Hanna Hargrove.

LP Division 4 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East

Top-ranked: 1. Montague, 2. Remus Chippewa Hills, 3. Jackson Lumen Christi

Montague posted its first top-two Finals finish last season in winning the Division 4 title by a mighty 27 strokes, and the Wildcats shot the second-lowest score among all Division 4 teams at last week’s Regionals. Chippewa Hills will be playing for its first top-two finish, while longtime power Lumen Christi will be playing for its first Finals title since winning Division 3 back-to-back in 2003 and 2004. Lansing Catholic, last season’s Finals runner-up, shot the best Division 4 Regional score last week by 23 strokes, a 331.

Montague: The three returning players from last year’s championship lineup were Montague’s top three scorers at the Regional last week at Katke in Big Rapids. Senior Orianna Bylsma was the Regional medalist and tied for fifth individually at the 2020 Final. All five Wildcats finished among the top 11 at the Regional, with senior Gabriella Moreau, sophomore Mackenzie Goudreau and senior Claire Meacham placing fourth, fifth and tied for sixth, respectively.

Remus Chippewa Hills: The Warriors are back after tying for ninth at the Final last season and finishing second to Montague last week at Katke. All four players who carded scores at the 2020 championship tournament are back, and four golfers finished among the top 12 at the Regional led by freshman Madison Allen in third and senior Kerstin Stadtfeld tied for sixth.

Jackson Lumen Christi: The Titans’ 355 last week was one stroke behind Montague’s for the third lowest at any Division 4 Regional as they finished second to Lansing Catholic at Cascades in Jackson. All five golfers finished among the top 12 including junior Ashley Hilderley in second and senior Caroline Hilderley tied for seventh. Ashley Hilderley is one of three scorers back from last year’s 13th-place Final team finisher.

More individuals of note: Michigan Center senior Kamryn Shannon will be aiming for a repeat championship after winning last season’s Division 4 Final, and she won the Regional at Hills of Lenawee last week by 15 strokes. Lansing Catholic senior Amanda Melling tied for ninth at least season’s Final and won the Regional at Cascades topping a Cougars lineup that saw all five finish tied for seventh or higher individually. Royal Oak Shrine junior Sydney Buchanan also tied for ninth last season and finished third at her Regional last week. Other Regional champions were Ann Arbor Greenhills freshman Mia Melendez, Pinconning senior Tori Shark and Grandville Calvin Christian junior Andrea Diemer.

PHOTO Okemos' Allison Cui sends a putt during her run to the 2019 Lower Peninsula Division 1 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