Preview: Epic 2022 Finals Set to Play Out Again in Title-Deciding Rematches

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 8, 2023

Surprises will be hard to come by Saturday at Rockford High School, as both MHSAA Girls Lacrosse Finals are repeats of last season’s championship games and rematches from earlier this spring.

In Division 1, Brighton defeated Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern 12-11 in overtime to close last season, but FHNE opened this one with an 11-6 win over the Bulldogs on March 23 before the teams tied 6-6 in an April 29 rematch.

In Division 2, East Grand Rapids also clinched last year’s title with a 12-11 overtime win, over Detroit Country Day. The Yellowjackets dominated this season’s matchup, however, 18-5 on May 12.

Below is a glance at all four teams playing at Rockford. Statistics are through Regional Finals except for Brighton’s, which include the Semifinal . Rankings are based on the Michigan Power Rating formula used to seed at the Regional level. The Division 2 Final is set for 2 p.m., with Division 1 following at 4:30. Tickets cost $11 and are good for both games, and may be purchased online only at GoFan.

Both games will be broadcast and available with subscription from, with free audio broadcasts on the MHSAA Network.

Division 1

Record/ranking: 16-8-1, No. 6
League finish: Tied for second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Ashton Peters, fifth season (57-23-3)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2022 and 2011, four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 13-10 (Semifinal) and 7-6 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills, 12-11 over No. 4 Hartland, 12-10 over No. 10 White Lake Lakeland.
Players to watch: Cecelia Mainhardt, jr. M (74 goals, 16 assists, 34 ground balls); Ella Toth, soph. A (46 goals, 25 assists, 33 ground balls); Gabrielle Buckenberger, jr. G (8.1 goals-against average, 166 saves); Ashleigh Toth, sr. D (4 goals, 1 assist, 33 ground balls).
Outlook: Brighton will be playing in its fifth-straight Division 1 Final but for the first time with a chance to repeat. The Bulldogs rebounded from a 2-4 start this spring and have won eight straight with their only loss over the last month to Division 2 finalist East Grand Rapids, 13-10. Ashleigh Toth, Buckenberger and Mainhardt have been named to the all-state first team, while Ella Toth has made the second and junior attack Georgia Gill (82 goals, 20 assists) and sophomore defender Keelin Ehman (37 ground balls) made the third team. Mainhardt, Ashleigh Toth and Kaia Malachino are the team’s lone senior starters, and Malachino has 18 goals and 10 assists over just seven games.

Record/ranking: 20-2-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Joe Curcuru, third season (51-9-1)
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2023.
Best wins: 10-2 (Semifinal) and 12-11 over No. 4 Hartland, 14-11 (Regional Final) and 10-8 over No. 3 Rockford, 10-4 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills, 11-6 over No. 6 Brighton, 18-11 and 16-7 over Division 2 No. 6 East Grand Rapids, 12-2 over Division 2 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 11-5 over Division 2 No. 1 Detroit Country Day, 13-12 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Alayna Davis, sr. A (72 goals, 70 assists); Sommer-Jo Grieser, sr. G (6.45 goals-against average, 132 saves); Lila Fus, soph. D (2 goals, 5 assists); Mia Dye, jr. A (68 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: After coming so close to a championship last season in its first as a program, Northern/Eastern has steamrolled through this spring with its only losses to Division 2 finalist Detroit Country Day – after defeating the Yellowjackets six days earlier – and rival Forest Hills Central, which the BirdDogs avenged three weeks later. Davis, Grieser, Fus and Dye all have been named to the all-state first team, with junior midfielder Isabella Bainbridge (49 goals/19 assists) making the second team and senior attack Alexandra Slywka (37/22) making the third. Davis has more than 160 goals combined over just the last two seasons.

Division 2

Record/ranking: 17-1, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Coach: Emma Kuehl, fifth season (65-7)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2022 and 2005.
Best wins: 21-4 (Regional Final) and 7-5 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 18-5 over No. 6 East Grand Rapids, 15-6 over Division 1 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 11-7 and 16-7 over Division 1 No. 6 Brighton.
Players to watch: Hadley Keating, jr. A (88 goals, 18 assists); Brooke Winowich, soph. M (4 goals); Emma Arico, jr. M (41 goals, 22 assists, 118 draw controls); Sadie Rifkin, jr. M (15 goals, 3 assists).
Outlook: The Yellowjackets’ only loss was to Division 1 top-ranked Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, which they avenged less than a week later. Otherwise, only Cranbrook and Brighton got closer than nine goals. And most impressive of all: Country Day has only one senior. Keating has a combined 160 goals over the last two seasons and has been named to the all-state first team with Brooke Winowich, Arico and Rifkin. Sophomore attack Georgia Pavlou (47 goals/53 assists) and freshman goalie Campbell Linder (3.9 goals-against average/5 shutouts) have made the second team, sophomore mid Olivia Winowich (42 goals/8 assists) and junior defender Alessia Sessa the third and sophomore attack Mary Pavlou (44/10) earned honorable mention.

Record/ranking: 16-9, No. 6
League finish: Tied for fourth in O-K Tier 1
Coach: Meggan Loyd, second season (35-11)
Championship history: Eight Division 2 championships (most recent 2022), runner-up in 2017.
Best wins: 15-7 over No. 2 Haslett/Williamston in Semifinal, 9-6 and 10-8 over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 12-6 over No. 7 Grand Rapids Northview in Regional Quarterfinal, 18-11 over No. 8 Caledonia in Regional Semifinal, 13-10 over Division 1 No. 6 Brighton.
Players to watch: Vivian LaMange, jr. A (94 goals, 41 assists); Olivia Shaw, jr. A (61 goals, 12 assists); MC Millman, soph. M (21 goals, 8 assists); Elizabeth Grin, sr. D (29 ground balls).
Outlook: East Grand Rapids has won three straight Division 2 championships (not counting the canceled 2020 season) and put together a six-game winning streak to earn an opportunity to win a fourth title in a row. The Pioneers have held their opponents to single-digit goals in five of those six recent wins. All but one loss this season came to opponents that finished the regular season among the top three in MPR in either Division 1 or 2. LaMange has been selected for the all-state first team, Shaw for the second, Millman and Grin to the third and senior attack Brecken Winkel (21 goals/9 assists) received an honorable mention.

PHOTO Detroit Country Day’s Alessia Sessa (1) defends during Wednesday's Semifinal win over Ann Arbor Skyline and Lilly Shannon (17). (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Carman-Ainsworth Grad Shaver Pioneering Programs in 2 College Sports

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

August 8, 2023

Alyssa Shaver has made a habit of getting women’s lacrosse programs off the ground.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.Her first year in the sport was the first year of the program at Flint Carman-Ainsworth. Her collegiate career involved playing in the inaugural seasons for both University of Detroit Mercy and Lawrence Tech University.

As a coach, she led the first team at Urbana University in Ohio.

When she left Urbana for Lincoln Memorial University, a Division II program in Tennessee, she had an opportunity to take over an established – albeit still relatively new – program.

Two years in, another chance to start a program arose, and she once again stepped up.

However, this was not a different school – but in a different sport.

The 2008 Carman-Ainsworth graduate recently finished her third year in charge of the LMU women’s lacrosse program, and is now preparing for Year 2 in charge of the women’s field hockey program at the school – coaching a sport she had never played and rarely seen.

“I had not watched ‘Ted Lasso’ but when people figured out what I was doing, they told me about it,” Shaver said. “Last fall I started watching it and I was like, ‘Oh God, this is my life right now.’”

Starting with a new sport was how Shaver’s athletic career got jump-started in the first place.

She was a volleyball, basketball and softball player prior to high school, but when her basketball coach brought up the idea of starting a lacrosse program at Carman-Ainsworth, she decided to give it a try. The connection was almost immediate.

“I didn’t know what (lacrosse) was,” she said. “But I put a stick in my hand, and it felt like the most natural thing. I was a point guard in basketball, and I had played basketball since I could walk. I think in lacrosse, the footwork, defense, concepts and ideas are similar to basketball. But when I picked up a stick, it was like, ‘I get to carry this ball around? I don’t have to dribble it?’ From there, it kind of clicked.”

Shaver was a remarkable scorer at Carman-Ainsworth, racking up 226 goals during her four-year career. That included 81 goals her senior season.

Shaver just finished her third season leading LMU women's lacrosse. While at Carman-Ainsworth, she also continued playing basketball and volleyball.

“As a point guard in basketball, I didn’t really care about scoring,” she said. “In lacrosse, I was really good at offense and scoring. I was a setter in volleyball, so my other sports I was always setting other people up.”

Her success at Carman-Ainsworth and at the club level led to an opportunity to play for U-D Mercy’s new program, led by coach Mary Ann Meltzer. Shaver was an academic all-conference selection during her time there and played for two years before coming back home.

While she was no longer playing, she continued to coach, something she had started while a freshman at Mercy.

It was while coaching a club team that the opportunity to return to playing at Lawrence Tech presented itself.

“It was terrifying,” Shaver said of returning to the game after two years away. “I would play in summer league, and I always had a stick in my hand because I was coaching, but I hadn’t really played competitively. I was 23 and most of my teammates were 18-year-old freshmen. I always joke with them now – some of them are my best friends – but the first couple years, they didn’t want to talk with me and I thought they didn’t like me. It turns out, they were scared of me.”

Shaver played three seasons at Lawrence Tech, earning All-America honorable mention from the National Women’s Lacrosse League in 2014 and first-team NWLL All-America honors in 2015 and 2016. She also was named an All-American by the NAIA as a senior.

Prior to her third season, with Lawrence Tech in need of a coach, Shaver reached out to Meltzer, who had recently retired from U-D Mercy. The two were reunited at LTU, and Shaver and her teammates reaped the benefits, reaching the NWLL championship game, which they lost 9-8 in overtime. Shaver was the NWLL National Offensive Player of the Year.

In 2017, with Shaver on the coaching staff, Lawrence Tech advanced to the NAIA national title game.

“She’s pretty much responsible for a lot of our program at Lawrence Tech,” Meltzer said. “She was the driving force in recruiting kids. She had taken a couple years off, and I think when she came here she was that responsible and was kind of the go-getter in getting players and getting people interested in LTU for quite a while. Fortunately, we’ve done well.”

Shaver (bottom row, fifth from left) was a four-year player at Carman-Ainsworth, including on this 2007 team. In 2018, Shaver took over at Lourdes (Ohio), leading the program to its first winning season in her first year.

After two years at Lourdes, she took over Urbana, building the program from scratch. She took over the LMU program prior to the 2021 season. The Lady Railsplitters were 2-5 her first season, but have gone 12-7 and 10-9 in the two seasons since.

Shaver taking over the field hockey program alongside her lacrosse duties wasn’t the original plan. But after things fell through with the coach originally hired for the job, and with some of her lacrosse players signed on to play both as well, the LMU administration turned to her.

“I have a lot of experience with new programs with lacrosse, and the girls were so great and super appreciative,” she said. “My lacrosse players have some experience, and a lot of the field hockey girls were just awesome and understanding, and helping me learn.”

Shaver is learning the game and was able to get some help from volunteer assistant Khotsofalo Pheko, a former runner at LMU who played field hockey in South Africa before coming to Tennessee.

Meltzer has faith in her former player to navigate all of it and find success, even if she told Shaver she was crazy for taking on the field hockey job initially.

“Obviously she has the work ethic, and she’s going to do what she needs to do to be successful,” Meltzer said. “As coaches, especially younger coaches, when things aren’t going well they think that more is better when sometimes less is better. I think she just needs to be patient; we all do. That’s the biggest thing. With her, starting so many programs – we’re all competitive, we all want to be successful really quick – it is going to take time.

“She’s an incredible person. She has a heart of gold.”

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Alyssa Shaver takes the field for Flint Carman-Ainsworth, and at right she coaches at Lincoln Memorial University. (Middle) Shaver just finished her third season leading LMU women's lacrosse. (Below) Shaver (bottom row, fifth from left) was a four-year player at Carman-Ainsworth, including on this 2007 team. (Photos courtesy of Alyssa Shaver and Lincoln Memorial's athletic department.)