Make it 4 Straight for East Grand Rapids

June 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

ROCKFORD – “Dynasty” is too easily thrown around in describing sports teams. 

But East Grand Rapids’ girls lacrosse program has earned that level of distinction with its success over the last four seasons.

The top-ranked Pioneers’ finished their fourth straight MHSAA Division 2 championship run with a 19-6 win over second-ranked Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood on Saturday at Rockford High School. 

In doing so, East Grand Rapids also made it four seasons without losing to a Michigan team, a streak that began with the first game of 2012. The Pioneers finished this spring 24-1, losing only to the team from Medina, Ohio, while picking up wins as well on the road at Illinois powers Hinsdale Central and Wilmette Loyola Academy. 

“It was a goal of ours to send a message throughout the state, and the country. And we went out and played Illinois teams, and succeeded,” said Pioneers senior Liza Elder, who finished her final season as one of the top single-season and career scorers in MHSAA history. “We had a lot of girls playing together for a long time, and I just think we were great leaders to the underclassmen and really bonded this year.”

East Grand Rapids’ last loss to a Michigan team came in an overtime Regional game in 2011 against eventual Division 2 champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central. 

Total, the Pioneers are 92-5 over the last four seasons – with seniors Elder, Jane Goodspeed, Emily French and Elle O’Connell part of the lineup for the entirety.

“Two years ago, the class of 2013 has a similar run. They took a little longer to jell, but this senior class had those upperclassmen to bring them along,” East Grand Rapids coach Rich Axtell said. “This class is clearly our best class, the best team we’ve ever put on the field. They set a really high bar for the underclassmen, and the underclassmen know it.” 

A total of 12 seniors also played roles on the 2014 championship team before helping the Pioneers take another step toward an unprecedented run. No other team has won four straight titles in MHSAA girls lacrosse history; two other teams won three straight.

Only three opponents this season scored in double figures on East Grand Rapids, which beat reigning Division 1 champion Rockford twice among its most notable instate wins. 

“If a team beat us, they could claim that for years and years,” Pioneers sophomore Lindsay Duca said. “Our coach emphasizes that we can’t have a bad day. We can’t let one thing upset us; if one person is playing badly, the whole team has to pick each other up.

“(The Medina loss) was a couple weeks ago, and we came right back at it, really motivated.” 

Cranbrook Kingswood scored first Saturday, only 45 seconds in on a shot by senior Maddy Weber. The score was knotted 2-2 after 10 minutes before Duca scored the second of her five goals to start a 5-0 run. Elder had two of her seven goals during another five-goal run during the second half.

Elder finished this season with 119 goals, second most in one season since lacrosse became an MHSAA-sponsored sport in 2005. Duca also had five assists Saturday. 

Cranbrook Kingswood (18-4) played in its first MHSAA Final, led by first-year coach Greg Courter, who formerly coached girls lacrosse in California and Colorado.

The Cranes eliminated three top-10 teams during the tournament, and their other three losses this season were all by only one goal apiece. 

Freshman Isabelle Scane had three of the team’s six goals and an assist, and Weber – one of six seniors – scored twice.

“I said (to my team after), someday we’ll be holding up the other trophy, and when we do that, it will be dedicated to the seniors,” Courter said. “This is our first year together, and we give them all the credit for us making to the state final for the first time ever.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids claimed its fourth straight Division 2 championship Saturday. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Liza Elder (9) moves the ball upfield with Cranbrook Kingswood’s Leah Dolik giving chase.

Representative Council Approves Limited Regional Seeding in Girls Lacrosse at Fall Meeting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 9, 2022

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.