By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – With three minutes to play in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 2 Girls Lacrosse Final, East Grand Rapids’ sideline emptied as subs and late-season call-ups all at once replaced the line-up on the field.
As the first-string group exited, Pioneers fans offered a standing ovation to a group that has become arguably the state’s elite over their four seasons.
East Grand Rapids, ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season, finished its second-straight MHSAA championship run with a 16-6 win over Livonia Ladywood at Rockford High.
A group of 11 seniors – many who have played together since fifth grade – leave the program after helping accumulate a 78-14 record during their high school careers.
“We’ve learned a lot. Our coaches have been so committed to the program, and we have to thank them for everything and the parents as well,” EGR senior Claire Ludlow said. “The year before last year (2011) was when we really wanted it. We didn’t make it to the state finals, but that was our driving force especially for last year and this year as well.”
The Pioneers improved from 13-6 to 15-6 to 28-0 and now 22-2 over the last four seasons under coach Rich Axtell, and this season’s losses came to teams from Ohio and Illinois. EGR hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent since 2011 – when it fell in double overtime in a Regional Semifinal to eventual Finals champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
East Grand Rapids beat GRCC three times this season and finished a combined 8-0 against the next three teams ranked after the Pioneers in Division 2 at the end of the regular season. They also beat six of the top 10 in Division 1, including top-ranked Rockford.
“We made ourselves a tougher schedule ... (and) really challenged the girls this year,” Axtell said. “This was one of those years where we came in with great expectations, and the girls met every single one of them.
“It’s a great way to send off 11 seniors. They’ve had one heck of a career here. They came in when this program was struggling and set a really great standard for the young ladies coming up.”
East Grand Rapids built a 6-0 lead over the first 7 minutes, 32 seconds and led 9-2 at halftime. But Axtell knew the Blazers had come back from an early deficit to beat Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood by a goal in the Semifinal, and he made a point of pointing that out.
“Recently we’ve gotten up and let the other team back in. ... We know (Ladywood) had it in them,” Axtell said. “The girls maintained their focus and basically just kept extending the lead. That sort of composure is something we’ve been preaching to the girls.”
East Grand Rapids indeed did keep a comfortable lead – although Ladywood trailed only 10-6 over the final 42 minutes.
“That’s the type of team I have. They won’t give up. They just want to keep going,” Ladywood coach Kris Sanders said. “If it’s a 10-goal differential, they’re still going to do it, which I like. I’m very proud of that.”
Eight Pioneers scored, led by Ludlow and senior Martha Bogo with three goals apiece. Bogo also had a pair of assists.
Junior Jessica Snyder scored four goals for Ladywood, which will graduate eight players but should return its top two scorers and three of its top five next spring. The Blazers also set a standard for teams to come – they finished 15-2, and Saturday’s was their first MHSAA Finals appearance in the sport.
Ladywood’s only other loss this season was to Division 1 power Birmingham Marian. The Blazers were ranked No. 8 in Division 2 entering the postseason.
“I couldn’t ask for anything else. If we’re 15-2 and get to the state final and lose the state final, that’s OK,” Sanders said. “We can’t lose sight of all the success we’ve had in the season.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids sophomore Katherine Golladay winds up before scoring one of her two goals Saturday. (Middle) The Pioneers' Martha Bogo (16) works to keep the ball from Ladywood's Jaclyn Snyder.
Bloomfield Hills advanced to the Division 1 Semifinals this spring with one of the highest-scoring lineups in MHSAA girls lacrosse history, and one of its most accomplished goalies.
The Black Hawks scored 325 goals – sixth-most on the list – in going 19-4. Ella Lucia, then a junior, posted 17 single-game record entries for goals, assists or points, finishing with 125 goals, 59 assists and 184 points and pushing her career numbers to 186 goals, 113 assists and 299 points over three seasons.
Teammate Ilana Watson, a senior this spring, was added eight times for single-game accomplishments and also for 71 goals, 64 assists and 135 points for the season and 102 assists and 205 points over her two-season career. Goalie Sydney Butler, now a senior, made the single-season saves list with 186 and the career list with 466 over her first three seasons. Marlee Watson, who also graduated in the spring, was added for seven goals in a game.
See below for more recent record book updates for girls lacrosse:
On April 25, 2022, Holland West Ottawa then-senior Ella Spooner scored 13 of her team’s 16 goals against Zeeland. Those 13 goals tied for fourth-most in one game and also placed her on the single-game points list. She is playing at Kalamazoo College.
Troy Athens’ Claire Balintfy piled up eight record book entries during her sophomore season in 2022. A goalie, she posted a career-high 22 saves to tie for eighth on the single-game list, on which she appears six more times. Her 231 saves over 18 games that season rank second on that list as well.
Lexie Springman took 12 shots and made eight in Portage’s 19-9 win over Grand Ledge on April 5. She was a senior at Portage Central and is continuing at Regis University in Colorado.
Haslett/Williamston’s Abby Russell opened her high school career March 22 with a record book-worthy performance. The Haslett now-sophomore made the single-game goals list with seven in her team’s 10-9 loss at Portage.
Okemos’ Bridget Cox was a sophomore during the 2021 season when she earned her first four record book entries. She made the single-game saves list three times with a high of 16, and totaled 157 saves over 18 games total.
Holly/Ortonville Brandon tallied three single-game entries this past season. Junior Dakota Pinson made the single-game goals list with 10 against Fenton/Linden on May 4. Junior teammate Lainey Lasky made the same list twice with seven goals both times, against Flushing on May 3 and Lake Fenton/Goodrich on May 16.
Through three seasons, Salem’s Mileena Cotter has earned 35 record book entries – including setting the single-game record with 18 goals April 6 against Saline. Her 123 goals over just 10 games this past season rank seventh, and her 257 goals over 30 career games rank ninth on that list. Her career-high 19 points on April 5 against Dexter rank second for points in a game. She’s committed to sign with Syracuse.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep junior Emily Szalach earned a record book entry with her 11 goals against Warren Regina on May 15 during a 13-12 triple-overtime win. It was the first entry for NDP for girls lacrosse.
Lake Orion’s Quinn McElroy capped her three-season varsity career this spring with eight record book listings, including for 69 goals and 100 points over 16 games as a senior, and 172 goals and 224 points for her career. Teammate Morgan Vasquez made single-season lists with 66 goals and 81 points, as did Amelia Guccione with 50 goals. Ava Adkins joined McElroy and Vasquez with single-game qualifiers, hers for 15 saves in a game against Troy Athens on April 12. Vasquez is a senior and Guccione a junior this school year, and Adkins also graduated this spring. McElroy is playing at Grand Valley State.
A pair of Detroit Cass Tech senior standouts made single-game and season scoring lists this spring. Taylor Weston made the single-game goals list three times, with a high of eight, and for her 64 goals total over 15 games; she also earned a listing for her 53 goals as a junior in 2022. Teammate Kayla Carroll-Williams made the single-game list twice, both for scoring seven goals, and the single-season list for 62 goals over 15 games.
PHOTO Bloomfield Hills goalie Sydney Butler, center, prepares to stop a shot against Bloomfield Hills Marian on May 11. (Photo by Susan Adams Photography.)