By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Finalists taking the field Saturday to decide this season’s MHSAA girls lacrosse championships shouldn't be surprised by much from their opponents on the other side of the field.
Rockford and Ann Arbor Pioneer face off in Division 1 in a rematch of an April 2 game that the Rams won but by the slimmest of margins – 10-9. Division 2 finalists East Grand Rapids and Okemos didn't play each other during this regular season but met in both the 2013 Semifinals and 2012 championship game – with the Pioneers winning both games.
Both games will be played at Rockford High School; the Division 1 game begins at 2 p.m. and the Division 2 Final starts at 4:30 p.m.
Here's a brief look at the four teams vying for championships (player statistics do not include Semifinals):
ANN ARBOR PIONEER
Record/rank: 15-5, No. 4 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Southeastern Lacrosse Conference
Coach: Zachary Maghes, sixth season (84-36-2)
Championship history: Division 1 runners-up 2011 and 2007.
Best wins: 14-6 and 15-14 (Semifinal) over No. 7 Hartland, 14-11 over No. 6 Birmingham United, 13-12 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills, 11-10 over Division 2 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.
Players to watch: Mercedes Reyes, sr. M (59 goals, 25 assists); Juliette Killough, jr. A (42 goals, 22 assists); Caroline Hurd, sr. M (34 goals, 14 assists); Stephanie Terrell, sr. M (32 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: A team’s losses can sometimes indicate as much as its wins, and Pioneers’ are impressive – three of four in-state losses are to teams playing in this weekend’s championship games. Reyes was an all-state first-team selection last season and qualified for the MHSAA record book this spring – she added another seven goals in the Semifinal to take her total this season to 66. Starting goalie Lauren Chapman, a senior, also has been impressive – she is giving up only 5.6 goals per game.
Record/rank: 16-6-1, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Rainbow Conference
Coach: Mike Emery, seventh season (119-34-6)
Championship history: Division 1 champion in 2013 and 2010.
Best wins: 11-3 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 12-7 and 14-9 (Semifinal) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills, 10-9 over No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 22-11 over No. 9 Brighton, 16-3 and 10-7 over Division 2 No. 7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 16-15 over Division 2 No. 3 Caledonia, 6-5 over Division 2 No. 2 Okemos.
Players to watch: Meghan Datema, sr. M (58 goals, 16 assists); Alex Vandermolen, soph. M (50 goals, 14 assists); Kyleigh Egnatuk, sr. A/M (36 goals, 29 assists); Izzy Vickers, sr. M (34 goals, 29 assists).
Outlook: All but one player who scored in last season’s MHSAA Final will be back Saturday. Datema and Egnatuk both made the all-state second team last season, and Vandermolen earned an honorable mention. Datema, who added three more goals in the Semifinal, has qualified for the MHSAA record book single-season scoring list, and Vandermolen will do the same with two more goals in the championship game. Senior Kendall Short, who scored twice in last season’s Final, also had 29 goals coming into the week, with four more teammates scoring at least 10.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 17-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Rainbow Conference
Coach: Rich Axtell, fifth season (95-16)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 10-8, 9-8 and 9-8 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 3 Caledonia; 20-3 over No. 5 Grand Rapids Christian, 10-5, 16-8 and 22-5 (Regional Final) over No. 7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central; 12-10 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (Semifinal), 11-9 and 11-10 over Division 1 No. 1 Rockford, 16-5 over Division 1 No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 15-9 over Division 1 No. 7 Hartland.
Players to watch: Liza Elder, jr. A (76 goals, 46 assists); Meggan Loyd, sr. A (31 goals, eight assists); Lexi Duca, soph. A (25 goals, 14 assists); Lindsay Duca, fr. A (27 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Similar to 2013, East Grand Rapids is arguably the top team in either division entering the weekend with a pair of wins over Division 1 No. 1 Rockford and a win as well over No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer, Rockford’s opponent in that division’s Final. East Grand Rapids has lost only four games over the last three seasons, and both this spring came to teams from out of state. Elder had two more goals and two more assists in Wednesday’s Semifinal win, and her 126 points rank seventh in MHSAA history for one season. She’s verbally committed to sign next year with collegiate powerhouse Northwestern University.
Record/rank: 20-3, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference
Co-Coaches: Donny Luberto and Charley Lawler, first seasons (20-3)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2010 and 2009, runners-up 2012 and 2007.
Best wins: 9-7 over No. 3 Caledonia, 15-1 and 18-5 over No. 8 Haslett/Williamston, 15-4 over No. 6 Livonia Ladywood (Semifinal), 5-4 over Division 1 No. 6 Birmingham United, 9-6 over Division 1 No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 7-6 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills, 9-6 over Division 1 No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer.
Players to watch: Bailey Ellsworth, sr. A (55 goals, 16 assists); Kendall Luberto, soph. A (48 goals, 30 assists); Olivia Sherman, sr. A (46 goals, 27 assists); Courtney Humphrey, sr. D; Katie Johnson, sr. G (5.0 GAA, .700 save %); Alex King, sr. M (31 goals, 30 assists).
Outlook: Okemos opened with three wins over ranked Division 1 teams, and its only in-state loss came 6-5 to Division 1 No. 1 Rockford. One of the few top teams the Chieftains haven’t faced is East Grand Rapids, but they’re familiar after falling to the Pioneers 17-6 in the 2012 Final and 13-5 in last season’s Semifinal. Ellsworth added another goal Wednesday and also has qualified for the MHSAA single-season goals list. King was an all-state second-teamer last season and sophomore midfielder Angela Palmer adds another 36 goals – but defense might be what sets Okemos apart. Goalie Katie Johnson made the all-state first team as a junior, and Humphrey in front of her made the second team. No opponent in Michigan scored more than seven goals on Okemos this season.
PHOTO: Rockford senior Kyleigh Egnatuck (8) was a key part of last season’s Division 1 championship winner and will take the field again Saturday as the Rams look to repeat. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)
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.)