By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half
NOVI – Less than a minute into Saturday’s Division 2 Girls Lacrosse Final at Novi High School, East Grand Rapids began to assert its dominance against Bloomfield Hills Marian.
And playing a flawless, turnover-free first half, the Pioneers piled up 18 goals on the way to a resounding 22-7 victory to clinch their sixth championship in eight years.
The Pioneers (24-2) had won five straight titles before losing to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in the 2017 championship game and not making the Finals last season.
EGR’s high-powered offense scored at least 20 goals in each of its six tournament games this spring.
“We had five really strong seniors, and we had five freshmen come in,’’ said coach Rich Axtell. “It’s a real mixture of age and youth. Last year, we had pretty much the same lineup, but some freshmen have come up and really made a difference.’’
Seniors Mary Schumar (six goals) and Audrey Whiteside (five) led the first-half onslaught as EGR built a 14-goal lead. Both finished with seven goals and were taken out of the game with more than five minutes to play.
“We wanted it so much this year for the seniors,’’ said Whiteside. “I was a freshman when we won it (2016). Mary and I have worked well together. They put me on attack so I could work with Mary so we could get more points. I love working with her. We work together on the draw, and it just came together so well this year.’’
Said Axtell: “Audrey and Mary are once-in-a-decade type of players. Between the two of them, they have 350 points this season. They had an amazing year.’’
The Pioneers wasted little time scoring, as Whiteside found the net the first time 50 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead. Thirteen seconds later, Schumar scored to make it 2-0. Whiteside quickly scored her second goal and the Pioneers were rolling, up three goals with Marian failing to put together an offensive rush. Schumar followed suit, scoring 38 seconds later to put the Mustangs in a 4-0 hole.
Mia Hannawa finally got the Mustangs on the board with her first goal to trim the deficit to three. Maura Mustion scored for Marian (20-2) to stem the tide and get the Mustangs back into the game at 4-2.
EGR got a goal from Caroline Grin with 19:22 left in the first half to go ahead 5-2. Josie Mehney scored seconds later as the Pioneers extended their lead. Whiteside scored her third of the game to make it 7-2. Schumar scored her third on a penalty power-play shot to make it 8-2 while Marian was a player short.
Sophie Forstner made it 9-2 for the eventual winners with a power-play goal, and Marian coach Sherry Elliott was forced to call a timeout with her team reeling. Schumar scored her fourth, and the rout was on as the Pioneers surged ahead 10-2. Schumar’s fifth goal made it 11-2 with 15:04 still left in the first half.
Coco Chinonis finally ended the Pioneers’ scoring run with a goal to make it 11-3.
Anna Knuble, Whiteside and Lizzie Lundeen scored the next three goals for EGR as they took a 14-3 lead, and Whiteside tacked on her fifth as the Pioneers never let up in taking a 15-3 lead.
Schumar’s sixth increased it to 16-3 as the Mustangs had no answer for the East Grand Rapids fast-paced offense.
“We wanted it so much this year because we have five seniors,’’ said Schumar. “We needed this. In the first half I think our defense was unbeatable. We have one of the fastest defenders in Olivia Grogan. Anna Knuble is really good. She’s just a junior, and she’s going to have a big senior year.’’
Lundeen scored her second goal and Paige Leistra got on the board as the 18-3 lead produced a running clock.
Marian finally challenged EGR goalie Lily Kate Rogers, but the senior came up with three saves. Schumar tacked on her seventh goal to make it 21-5 as time and Marian’s hopes were running out.
“We lose five seniors, but we have lots of talent coming back,’’ said Marian coach Sherry Elliott. “I see big things for us, and I see some young ones coming up.’’
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids' Audrey Whiteside (24) fires a shot at the Marian net Saturday. (Middle) Mary Schumar (12) and Marian's Coco Chinonis battle for position.
The addition of limited seeding at the Regional level of the Girls Lacrosse Tournament headlined actions taken by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during its Fall Meeting on Dec. 2 in East Lansing.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in winter and spring. This Fall Meeting saw the Council take only three actions, with additional discussion centered on topics expected to receive more specific consideration at MHSAA sport committee meetings this winter and the Council’s meetings in March and May.
The Council approved a Girls Lacrosse Committee proposal to seed the top two teams in every Regional, and place those top seeds on opposite sides of the bracket beginning with the 2023 season. The two teams to be seeded will be determined by using the MHSAA’s Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) formula, which takes into account success and strength of schedule and is used currently to provide seeding information in boys lacrosse, girls and boys basketball, girls and boys soccer, and ice hockey. Only the top two teams in girls lacrosse will be seeded and separated; the other teams in each Regional will be placed on their brackets by random draw.
The Council also approved a Boys Lacrosse Committee recommendation that will allow athletes to participate in up to five quarters per day between teams at multiple levels – for example, varsity and junior varsity – also beginning with the 2023 season. For boys lacrosse multi-team tournaments, if two school teams (for example, the varsity and junior varsity) are at the same event, athletes may play in no more halves or quarters than what is being played by the school’s highest-level team that day. (Example: if the varsity team is playing three 30-minute half games for a total of six halves, a player playing both varsity and JV on the same day can play in six total halves that day.) The “fifth quarter” rule, by allowing athletes to compete on two levels on the same day, is intended to help programs that are otherwise lacking enough participants to field teams at multiple levels.
Taking into account the wintery weather conditions experienced by athletes during the MHSAA alpine ski season, the Council approved a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommendation to adopt the “MHSAA Competition and Practice Guidelines for Cold Weather,” which are specific to alpine skiing. The guidelines include a windchill chart and cold standards for ambient temperature. This proposal also was supported by the Ski Committee and will go into effect for the 2022-23 season.
Remaining discussions focused on results from this fall’s Update Meeting survey completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state. The Council considered survey data including on questions related to the out-of-season travel rule. The Council also discussed results of a fall survey completed by member school athletic directors and head varsity football coaches concerning ongoing conversations about scheduling and playoff format. Following the Football Committee meeting in January 2023, an ad hoc committee comprised of members of the MHSAA staff, Representative Council, Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) will be convened for further discussion on these topics, with their report to be provided to the Council during its March 2023 meeting.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Westland John Glenn athletic director Jason Malloy for a first-two-year term to the 19-person Council, and the re-appointment of Bay City Western principal Judy Cox for a second two-year term. Malloy previously was appointed to finish a partial term as one of the two representatives of member junior high/middle schools.
The Council reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer. Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson was elected Council vice president.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.