By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Lauren Hooker gets up for every lacrosse game. She and her teammates will dress the same for school, send each other pump-up messages throughout the day and carry that momentum into the locker room and onto the field.
But she admits she plays her best against her toughest opponents.
“It’s playing to their level. Playing someone good forces you to step up and play the best,” Hooker said. “It brings the best out of you. I don’t enjoy playing some of the really easy teams as much.”
The East Grand Rapids senior loves a challenge. And she’s helping the Pioneers blaze through a few of them in this, her final high school season, before joining the Marquette University program this fall.
East Grand Rapids has started this season 20-0. The Pioneers are ranked No. 1 both in Division 2 and regardless of division based on the computer rankings supplied by LaxPower.com. And they are doing so with only two seniors – although Hooker, who received a Second Half High 5 this week, gives the team a star at the top that few teams in Michigan can counter.
Playing attack, she’s scored 101 goals -- already third-most for a single season in the MHSAA record book, and more than 25 percent of her team's total. Add in her 33 assists, and her 134 total points are fifth in MHSAA history for one season.
And indeed, she’s been at her best against the best. Hooker had three goals and three assists in an 11-9 win last week over No. 2-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central. She scored seven goals in each of two games against Division 1 No. 5 Rockford, and had nine goals in Monday’s 17-8 win over Division 1 No. 2 Hartland.
“She’s what I’d call sneaky quick. Basically, she doesn’t take a big wind-up in her shot; it looks like she’s cradling, looking to pass. And then she just puts it past the goalie,” Pioneers coach Rich Axtell said. “Some players take a different approach, but she’s deceptive. She’s got really good stick control. When she’s in close, she can make you feel pretty slow by comparison.”
Hooker has been on a quest after being part of teams that have lost either in the first or second rounds of Regionals her first three seasons. The last two, the Pioneers ended with defeats by the eventual MHSAA champions. A year ago, they lost 14-13 in double overtime to eventual Finals winner Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
But there’s no question in Axtell's mind that Hooker has brought her game up a level this spring. That effort began in September, when she hit the weight room for training that continued all winter.
Hooker said she started those sessions in part to bring the team together early, especially with so many young players joining the program. Axtell said he thinks part of that drive also came with getting the scholarship to Marquette, which will begin as an NCAA program in 2013.
“She’s really playing with a lot more purpose,” Axtell said.
Hooker first was a golfer, before quitting that sport until taking it up again as a freshman in high school. In the fall, she was the low scorer on the Pioneers golf team that finished eighth at the Division 3 Final, and she missed the individual top 10 by only two strokes.
But lacrosse has been her number one since she first picked up the game during third and fourth grades. “A huge tomboy,” Hooker learned the game from a boy who lived in her neighborhood. After attending a couple of boys clinics, her mom found a girls team for her in the Forest Hills area.
Her mom and group of others then organized an East Grand Rapids youth team that Hooker joined for a few years before jumping up to the Pioneers’ varsity lineup as a freshman.
This offseason she accepted the challenge to set a championship standard. She hopes to leave high school next month having helped the Pioneers win their first MHSAA lacrosse title – with the groundwork for more to come as she moves on.
“I have a lot of hope for the program to continue to do so well,” Hooker said. “Hopefully when I’m gone, people will carry on doing so well.”
Click to read more about Hooker's future plans and lacrosse influences.
PHOTOS: East Grand Rapids' Lauren Hooker (14) has scored 101 goals this season (Photos courtesy of East Grand Rapids lacrosse.).
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.