Rochester Adams, East Kentwood's Fennell Claim Finals Wins by Narrowest of Margins

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

October 21, 2023

EAST LANSING – Conditions were chilly and rainy, but the down-to-the-wire drama at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Final was enough to warm up anyone with adrenaline. 

And this was true both from a team and individual medalist perspective at Forest Akers West. 

In the team portion, it became apparent on the back nine that the championship was a two-team race between 2022 champion Rochester Adams and No. 1-ranked Brighton. 

Back-and-forth the teams went until they were tied going into the last hole. 

From there, it was Adams which did just enough to squeak by, pulling out a one-shot win with a final score of 669 to repeat as champion. Had the teams tied, Brighton would have won with the fifth-score tiebreaker. 

The next closest score behind Brighton’s 670 was produced by Plymouth, which took third with a 683.

Rockford (693) and Rochester (695) rounded out the top five. 

Plymouth was in first with a seven-shot lead over Adams and an 11-shot lead over Brighton after the first round. But while Adams was 15 shots better and Brighton 22 shots better in the second round, Plymouth was 13 shots worse. 

“The last 10 holes were up and down and back and forth,” Adams head coach Jeff Kutschman said. “I think it was the girls just sticking to their game. Just fighting all the way to the end and fighting for every stroke.”

Rochester Adams celebrates its repeat Finals championship.The Highlanders were led by senior Laura Liu, who shot a pair of 75s to tie for fourth individually with a final score of 150.

Senior Katie Fodale shot a 158 (82-76) to tie for eighth with Brighton senior Abbie Pietila.

The repeat crown capped off a season that saw Adams struggle during the first couple of months but come on in the end when it counted most.

Adams performed better to win its Regional at Twin Lakes and entered the Final healthier than it had been all season, especially since Fodale didn’t hit a golf ball for months until roughly two weeks before the season started after suffering a shoulder injury. 

“She got a lot better throughout the season,” Kutschman said. “Peyton Sage, our No. 5, played great down the stretch and helped us win the league and the Regional. They all just did what they needed to do today and yesterday. I think experience helps a lot.”

Brighton finished runner-up to Adams for a second-straight year, although this one was a lot more crushing than finishing 47 shots behind the Highlanders last fall.

In addition to Pietila’s performance, Brighton was led by senior Madison Martens, who shot a 74 in the second round after shooting an 86 in the first.

“It’s golf,” Brighton head coach Paul Parsell said. “A lot of times it can go your way, and this day it didn’t go our way. I’m super proud of all the girls that battled hard. Starting out in fifth place and getting it down to the last putt.” 

The individual title also came down to the last hole and putt.

East Kentwood senior Elise Fennell ended up claiming the crown by one shot over Byron Center senior Macie Elzinga and Rockford senior Jessica Jolly, shooting a pair of 70s for a final total of 140. 

Fennell’s last hole was the third hole on the course, a par 4, and said she was fully aware of what was going on and what she needed to do.

“I was watching scores, and I wanted to know,” Fennell said. “I figured par or birdie (would win).”

Headed to college golf for Illinois State, Fennell won the title this year by a stroke after finishing one shot behind Kate Brody of Grand Blanc last year.

“It feels amazing,” Fennell said. “It’s kind of been bothering me all year wanting to get it done.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) East Kentwood's Elise Fennell lines up a putt during the LP Division 1 Final. (Middle) Rochester Adams celebrates its repeat Finals 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