Pumfords Aim to Fly Falcons Back to Finals

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

September 26, 2018

The Pumfords are a golfing family. While that fact can be seen beyond Freeland High School, it’s very evident there.

Matt Pumford, who played collegiately for Michigan State University from 1994 through 1999, is the Falcons girls golf coach, while his mother Darlene is a volunteer assistant. Matthew’s daughters, Olivia and Grace, entered the season as the team’s 1 and 2, respectively.

But if Freeland is going to meet its goals this season, it’s going to have to do it down a Pumford, as Grace suffered a wrist injury that required surgery and will cause her to miss the rest of the year.

“We started the season really strong -- the first few tournaments went really solid. Even with Grace injured, we were still scoring solid,” Matt Pumford said. “We’re trying to fill that void, and so far the girls have stepped up and scored pretty well. I think that we’re just now starting to play a little better.”

The Falcons are ranked No. 3 in Division 3 and still reaching for their goal of making it back to the MHSAA Finals after a one-year hiatus. In the previous nine years, Freeland had made eight trips to the finals, finishing as high as seventh as a team.

“Freeland has had a solid team for years,” Matt Pumford said. “Last year we were placed in a very difficult region. We had a lot of the top teams in the same region, so even though we played really well, we still didn’t make it through. This year, it seems like the top teams are distributed all throughout the regions. It should be pretty competitive over at Owosso (the site of Freeland’s Regional).”

Olivia Pumford was the lone Falcon to go to qualify for the Finals a year ago, finishing 10th to garner all-state honors. She’s optimistic about her team’s chances to join her at Forest Akers East for this year’s championship event.

“All of our girls are very eager, especially having made it freshman and sophomore year,” Olivia Pumford said. “We have three seniors in our top five, and would love to make it because it’s at MSU this year. I’m really excited to see what we can do in Regionals. We’re just going to keep working hard these next two weeks.”

Her classmates, Lily Beyer and Alyssa Argyle, are also four-year players for the Falcons. Lydia Back, a sophomore, joined a season ago, giving Freeland plenty of experience despite missing Grace.

She’s still plenty missed, however, especially by her sister.

“Right around the very beginning of our season we played in an invite and we were partners for it, and during one of her swings she hit a tree root,” Olivia Pumford said, remember how the injury came about. “She screamed and dropped her club, but she continued to play on it. She had been playing on it for about three weeks. I was pretty sad, because Grace and I have been playing together for a few years. I was looking forward to my last season with her.”

While they may not get to share a high school golf course again, chances are the Pumford sisters will play together again, as the game is such a part of their family.

Their cousin, Nick, played at the University of Michigan and is the head coach of the Oakland University men’s golf team. Another cousin, Dustin, is a senior on the Saginaw Valley State team.

Matt Pumford is the reigning Saginaw District Golf Association champion, a title he has won six times. His older brother Alan, is a six-time winner of the tournament’s senior title.

“There’s videos of me when I was like 2 golfing around the house with those plastic clubs,” Olivia Pumford said. “I’ve always been around him. My dad has 11 siblings, and they all golf. I think I was kind of born into it. … We saw our dad on the range and fell in love with the game watching him. We learned the game from him.”

Grandma’s influence is heavy, too.

“She’s been a tremendous help this year,” Matt Pumford said. “I couldn’t have done it without her, because I started a new job, and she’s really stepped up. It’s been really special to have her coaching with me and coaching her granddaughters, as well.”

For Olivia, the experience of spending family time on the golf course while she completes her high school career is something she’s savoring.

“It’s something that I think last year I took for granted a little bit,” she said. “I think I put a little too much pressure on myself, but I had a little talk with my dad and he said, ‘I’m your dad first, then your coach.’ I think now this year, it’s hitting me that I have two and a half weeks left, so it’s more of just an enjoyment thing. It’s pretty sad that next year I don’t get him as a coach anymore. But it’s definitely something I’m very proud of -- I have a lot of pride in my family.”

The goal is to make this final season with her family last as long as possible, which means finishing in the top three Oct. 10 in a Regional tournament that also includes top-ranked Flint Powers Catholic.

“We always want to make it to the state tournament, and once we get there, we re-evaluate our goals based on how we’re playing at the time,” Matt Pumford said. “We really just want to go there and compete as well as we can. If we finish fifth, if we finish 10th at states, as long as we play to the best of our ability, I think we can consider that a success.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Freeland’s lineup after an event this fall, from left: Olivia Pumford, Lydia Back, Alyssa Argyle, Grace Pumford and Lily Beyer. (Middle) Olivia Pumford watches a shot during last season’s MHSAA Final at Forest Akers West. (Below) Olivia and dad/coach Matt Pumford, also at West. (Top photo courtesy of Freeland’s girls golf program; bottom two photos by HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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