Work Paves Way for Stellar Northville Start

September 14, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Stick with it. Work hard. Have faith in yourself, and good things will happen.

The Northville girls golf team has been making good on those promises – and putting it lightly, lots of good things have come their way over the first month of this fall season.

The first MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month for 2018-19 has won all six tournaments it’s played this season, including five in August, while posting incredible scores against elite competition.

That the Mustangs are succeeding isn’t shocking – they did finish fourth at last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final, and return five of their top six players from that team. But with a quarter century of coaching cross country and now golf, Chris Cronin knows it takes more for a high school team to reach its potential – and why it’s not just by chance that his golfers have tapped into theirs during a blistering start.

“We had 11 girls return from last year’s team. Every one of those girls took it upon themselves to really work,” Cronin said. “They worked on their swing, a lot of them have additional coaches, they played a lot of summer tournaments. They just got themselves in a position to be playing their best golf.”

Northville opened the season shooting a 304 to win the Orangetheory Fitness Invitational at Hudson Mills in Dexter – with sophomore Nicole Whatley shooting a 1-under 71 to tie for individual medalist.

Next up was the Aug. 20 Sentech Services Tournament at Kensington Metropark, and a performance Cronin called “awe-inspiring.” The Mustangs shot a 291, breaking the previous team record of 313 shot last fall, with Whatley leading the way with a 5-under 67.

“I think it was one of those days where as a team they played as good as they could possibly play,” Cronin said. “The reaction from the other players at that tournament, they didn’t have to say much. It was jaw-dropping.”

Northville went on win the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Preseason Invitational (318), Brighton’s Coach Miller Invitational (307), Saline’s Invitational (333) and last weekend added the Farmington Invitational in 305 strokes, the second-lowest team score in program history. The Mustangs also won the Mason Invitational with a 308 using a mix of players from their “A” and “B” lineups.

Cronin believes he has the deepest team in the state, and it’s a strong argument. Senior Mariella Simoncini is the lone senior among the "A" lineup, and she missed the individual top 10 at last year’s Final by a stroke. Whatley and sophomore Katelyn Tokarz and juniors Sufna Gill and Sedona Shipka all contributed to last season’s fourth-place finish at The Meadows at Grand Valley State, and freshman Megha Vallabhaneni has played her way into the top group this fall. 

The Mustangs took their seventh player to the Saline Invitational, and she finished 24th overall. All of that talent makes for a competitive atmosphere – and raises the level of play for the entire team.

In addition to the team’s 291 round, the latest individual achievement by Simoncini struck Cronin as particularly special so far. She shot a career-best 3-under 67 to lead the Farmington effort last weekend and place first individually, “and as a coach, you always want to see when the hard work pays off. She does so much for us on so many different levels with leadership and setting the tone for the girls, talking them through everything from rules … she’s awesome.”

Surely more highlights are on the way. Northville shot a 306 on Saturday to win the Top 50 Invitational at Battle Creek's Bedford Valley ahead of many of the state's best teams. The Mustangs play in arguably the toughest golf league in the state, and have one more invite at Bloomfield Hills Marian.

Regionals are in a month – kicking off an opportunity to play again for the program’s first MHSAA Finals championship.

“We talk a lot in the program about expectations, but opportunities. And we knew we’d have an opportunity to be good this year,” Cronin said. “If you wanted to be part of that opportunity, it was going to require you to do some work. And they did the work.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Northville’s Mariella Simoncini follows through on a wedge shot during play this fall. (Middle) The Mustangs’ winning lineup from one of its August events, from left: Nicole Whatley, Sedona Shipka, Megha Vallabhaneni, Katelyn Tokarz and Sufna Gill. (Photos by Debbie Stein.)

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