Standout Pair Cards Personal Bests to Lead Mercy's Repeat Title Charge

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

October 21, 2023

EAST LANSING – Farmington Hills Mercy might have had a lead going into the second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final at Forest Akers East, but longtime head coach Vicky Kowalski had quite a quandary.

Kowalski didn’t have her No. 1 player, junior Maeve Casey, available to play.

Casey shot a team-best 73 and was in second place individually after the first day, but wasn’t even in the state for the second day.

“She’s a Triple AAA hockey player for Little Caesars,” Kowalski said. “She got on a plane last night to go to a hockey tournament (in Minnesota). We had to put a sub in.”

But not even not having its top player couldn’t stop Mercy from achieving some program history.

Thanks to other players stepping up, Mercy won its fourth Finals title overall and repeated as champion for the first time in Kowalski’s 47 years as head coach. 

The Marlins finished with a two-day score of 636, 17 shots ahead of Catholic League rival Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. 

Mason was third with 657. 

The Marlins entered the day with an 8-shot lead over Cranbrook. The Mercy player who made up for the loss of Casey the most was senior Abby Slankster, who shot a 2-under-par round of 70, a round Kowalski said was her all-time best. 

Kowalski said junior Macy Morphew also shot her best score, contributing an 81 to the cause. 

Junior Lila Polakowski shot a 79 and senior Brinley Nay added an 89 for Mercy during the second round. 

“I’m just so happy that our girls played so well today,” Kowalski said. 

In outlasting Cranbrook, Mercy capped off a season that featured a lot of back-and-forth between the two teams.

Coopersville's Lauren Davis celebrates her medalist honor.“Some of the tournaments we went to, we’d be ahead, and some they’d be ahead,” Kowalski said. 

Cranbrook moved up to Division 2 this year after winning the Division 3 championship in 2021 and finishing runner-up last year. 

Sophomore Sydney Behnke led Cranbrook with a two-day total of 156 (75-81), while senior Mackenzie Behnke was right behind at 157 (79-78). 

“When we moved up to D2, we thought we would be able to compete,” Cranbrook head coach John Minnich said. “We did compete. It was not the finish we hoped for. Mercy beat us at the Catholic League championship, and they beat us at Regionals. They’ve been just a little bit better than us all year.

“I’m really proud of my team. They played great.” 

Also playing great was Coopersville senior Lauren Davis, who was the medalist with identical scores of 70 for a two-day total of 140 in chilly and rainy conditions. 

Davis finished four shots ahead of Dexter sophomore Avery Manning. 

“My putting was super solid,” Davis said. “That was the biggest help for me.”

Davis capped off her career winning it all after finishing fifth last year.

“My state tournaments have been weird,” she said. “My first year we had only one day (because of a COVID-19 format change). My second states’ year I was playing great and was at the top, but then on my third-to-last hole I had a 10. Last year, I had one bad round. It’s good to put it all together this year.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Farmington Hills Mercy's Abby Slankster drives during Saturday's second round at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Coopersville's Lauren Davis celebrates her medalist honor. (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