T-K Making Good on Great Expectations

October 17, 2019

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

MIDDLEVILLE – The end of last season gave the Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg girls golf team a pretty good idea of what the future might hold.

The Trojans finished runners-up in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold, fourth at their Regional and were returning everyone the following season.

“I think it gave them a taste of like, we can do this,” T-K girls golf coach Bob Kaminski said. “They just had to make some improvements.”

The improvements Kaminski felt were necessary to get over the hump came to fruition, and the team made strides in reaching its goals.

The Trojans won the conference title over perennial powerhouse Grand Rapids South Christian and finished third at last week’s Division 2 Regional to qualify for the MHSAA Finals for the first time since 2005. 

The conference crown also was their first in 18 years, when they were part of the O-K Blue. 

“Last year we played really well,” Kaminski said. “We finished second in the conference and didn’t manage to get through Regionals, but we returned everybody for this year and we just felt like if they worked hard then we could improve and do good things.”

T-K will compete this weekend at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East Golf Course with a senior-laden group.

There are eight seniors on the varsity squad, with five among the top six. They’ve played together since middle school.

“We all started in seventh grade, and we all kind of talked about how we were going to be on the golf team together,” senior Anna Kaminski said. “We’ve all been pretty close for years, and so going through the entire high school golf journey together has been awesome. Our bond is pretty strong.”

Other seniors are Clair Jansma, Anna Harmens, Paige Willette and Maddie Shepard. Jansma has been one of the team’s best but did not play in the Regional, making the Trojans’ qualifying for the Finals even more impressive.

Junior Paige VanStee has the team’s lowest scoring average.

“Obviously, this feels great (to make it to the Finals),” Bob Kaminski said. “Four of the girls who played at Regionals are seniors, and they came onto the team three years ago as freshmen and they just worked hard. They’ve played really well this year and have had a really good season.”

A key factor in the Trojans’ success has been their ability to consistently drop scores.

From last year to this one, a steady decline in each girl’s scoring average has paved the way toward a Finals berth.

“We’ve seen a big jump this year,” Bob Kaminski said. “We actually looked at some stats, and a number of them improved three or four shots from what they were last year. It’s a hard-working group, and they’re always trying to get better.”

Kaminski has embraced the opportunity to coach his daughter, Anna.

“That has been a lot of fun,” he said. “It can be stressful at times because the role of a father and coach are sometimes vastly different, but it’s been enjoyable to watch her play and progress and get better.”

Anna Kaminski said the seniors were motivated to make their mark on the program and end the longstanding drought between Finals appearances.

“We came into the season kind of expecting to do pretty well,” she said. “We knew we had a decent team, and we thought if we could do well in the conference then we should make it to state.” 

And Jansma said the team was determined to take the necessary steps to heighten expectations. 

"We felt very motivated," she said. "We still wanted to have fun. (But) in the back of our minds, I think we were all looking to win it. We pushed ourselves, and we got the job done. 

"It felt so satisfying to work as hard as we did and have it finally pay off. For me, I spent quite a large amount of time working on my short game, and I remember spending hours on the driving range. I was itching to get out on the course with all my teammates." 

The Trojans won’t be considered among the favorites this weekend, but that won’t stop them from competing hard to earn the best finish possible.

“I’ve been trying to tell them to have fun and enjoy the experience, but they are a very driven group and they want to do as well as they can,” Bob Kaminski said. “Obviously you’re playing with the best teams in the state, so we don’t know how it is all going to end up. But they want to go there and compete and do the best they can." 

Added Anna Kaminski: “I’m not trying to put up a certain score or anything, and I just want to go and have fun. There are a lot of good teams out there, but hopefully we’ll do all right and play our best.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Thornapple-Kellogg’s Anna Kaminski watches an approach shot during competition this fall. (Middle) Junior Paige VanStee has been the team’s low scorer. (Photos courtesy of The Sun and News.)

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