Both of Saturday’s MHSAA Girls Lacrosse Finals will be rematches of regular season games this season. Both also mix championship game regulars with teams that have earned first or first-time-in-a-long-time opportunities.
In Division 1, Brighton is that regular, making its fourth-straight championship game appearance. The Bulldogs will face Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, a cooperative that didn’t exist in this form until last season. FHNE defeated Brighton 15-7 and 11-7 this spring.
In Division 2, East Grand Rapids when it steps on the field will tie Rockford for the most championship game appearances in MHSAA girls lacrosse history. Country Day, meanwhile, will be returning to the Finals for the first time since 2005. EGR won the lone meeting between the teams, 15-14.
Below is a glance at all four teams playing at Rockford High School. Statistics are through Regional Finals. Rankings are based on the Michigan Power Rating formula used to seed other MHSAA sports. The Division 1 Final is set for 2 p.m., with Division 2 following at 4:30. Tickets cost $11 and are good for both games, and may be purchased online only at GoFan.
Record/ranking: 15-5, No. 6
League finish: Tied for first in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Ryan Skomial, first season (15-5)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2011, runner-up four times.
Best wins: 14-7 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills in Semifinal, 19-10 (Regional Semifinal) and 20-8 over No. 10 Northville, 12-11 over No. 3 Hartland, 20-5 over No. 5 Birmingham United, 19-16 over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Amanda Granader, sr. A; Gabriella Mainhardt, sr. M; Kaia Malachino, jr. M/D; Abigail Burchfield, sr. M; Ella Boose, sr. M. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Brighton will be playing in its fourth-straight Division 1 championship game with a number of experienced standouts leading the way. Granader made the all-state first team last season, Mainhardt made the second, and Boose, Burchfield and Malachino all earned honorable mentions in 2021. The Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight games with the only losses this season to Northern/Eastern twice, No. 2 Rockford by a goal, Division 2 top-ranked East Grand Rapids and Division 2 No. 2 Detroit Country Day. Brighton has given up single-digit goals in three of four postseason games.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN/EASTERN
Record/ranking: 17-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Joe Curcuru, second season (32-7)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 13-2 over No. 3 Hartland in Semifinal, 7-6 (Regional Final), 9-6 and 12-10 over No. 2 Rockford, 16-4 (Regional Semifinal) and 14-1 over No. 9 Haslett, 15-7 and 11-7 over No. 6 Brighton, 11-9 over Division 2 No. 1 East Grand Rapids, 13-6 over Division 2 No. 2 Detroit Country Day, 13-10 and 12-8 over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Alayna Davis, jr. A (89 goals, 36 assists); Tayler Sypien, sr. M (14 goals, 5 assists); Sommer Grieser, jr. G (5.33 goals-against average); Lexi Slywka, jr. A (31 goals, 26 assists); Daniella Washburn, sr. D (2 goals).
Outlook: In just its second season as a program, Northern/Eastern will play in its first championship game after formerly forming a cooperative with Forest Hills Central as well. FHNE avenged a Regional loss to Rockford last season with three wins this spring over the eight-time reigning Division 1 champion. The BirdDogs’ only loss came in their second game, to East Grand Rapids, which FHNE avenged late in the regular season. Davis, Washburn and Greiser made the all-state first team last year, and Slywka and Sypien made the second. Senior Carly Wittlinger (42 goals, 8 assists) and sophomore Mia Dye (30/14) also add significant scoring punch.
DETROIT COUNTRY DAY
Record/ranking: 16-2, No. 2
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Coach: Emma Kuehl, fourth season (48-5)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2005.
Best wins: 18-12 over No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy in Semifinal, 20-10 (Regional Semifinal) and 18-4 over No. 10 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 15-10 (Regional Quarterfinal) and 19-7 over No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 19-16 over Division 1 No. 6 Brighton, 21-3 over Division 1 No. 9 Haslett, 24 -8 over Division 1 No. 10 Northville, 21-6 over Division 1 No. 5 Birmingham United.
Players to watch: Hadley Keating, soph. A (70 goals, 16 assists); Olivia Winowich, fr. M (48 goals, 10 assists); Emma Arico, soph. M (45 goals, 22 assists); Ainsley Shilling, sr. M (35 goals, 19 assists); Ella Thompson, sr. M (47 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: The Yellowjackets have returned to Finals weekend for the first time since the first season of MHSAA sponsorship of girls lacrosse. And this could be just the start of a run, with eight freshmen and sophomores among the 12 starters. Their only losses were to top-ranked teams – East Grand Rapids and Division 1 Forest Hills Northern/Eastern – and they’ve given up more than 10 goals only three times this season, in those losses and the Quarterfinal win over Mercy. Thompson and Arico made the all-state second team last season, and Keating and Shilling earned honorable mentions.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/ranking: 19-2, No. 1
League finish: Tied for second in O-K Tier 1
Coach: Meggan Loyd, first season (19-2)
Championship history: Seven Division 2 championships (most recent 2021), runner-up in 2017.
Best wins: 22-8 (Semifinal) and 17-3 over No. 9 DeWitt, 12-11 (Regional Final), 24-17 and 21-17 over No. 3 Forest Hills Central, 17-7 (Regional Semifinal) and 22-8 over No. 6 Spring Lake, 23-13 (Regional Quarterfinal), 23-18 and 16-5 over No. 8 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 15-14 over No. 2 Detroit Country Day, 15-11 over Division 1 No. 1 Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 15-11 over Division 1 No. 6 Brighton, 22-9 over Division 1 No. 3 Hartland, 12-11 over Division 1 No. 2 Rockford, 14-4 over Division 1 No. 10 Northville.
Players to watch: Lucy Cavanaugh, sr. A (29 goals, 53 assists); Lizzie Lundeen, sr. M (58 goals, 8 assists); Caroline Potteiger, sr. G (.459 save %); Vivian LaMange, soph. A (42 goals, 38 assists); Eliana LaMange, sr. M (45 goals, 20 assists).
Outlook: The reigning Division 2 champion also won in 2019 and five straight titles from 2012-16, and lost this season only in its first meeting with Rockford (by two) and second with FHNE (also by two goals). Eight seniors fill the starting lineup. Cavanaugh, Lundeen and Potteiger are returning all-state first teamers, midfielder Eleanor Vander Molen was a second-team selection last season and Eliana LaMange and Vivian LaMange earned honorable mentions in 2021. Vander Molen (13 goals), sophomore Olivia Shaw (18), senior Mary Mehney (13) and senior Ella Gjorgjievski (12) have further bolstered the team’s total of 368 goals (17.5 per game) this spring.
PHOTO East Grand Rapids' Eliana LaMange (24) sends a shot during last season's Division 2 championship game.
Brighton senior Ella Boose helped her girls lacrosse team to the cusp of a Division 1 championship as both a freshman and junior before finally getting to celebrate the ultimate MHSAA prize with her teammates this spring after leading the Bulldogs past Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern in the Division 1 Final.
The senior attack tallied three goals and two assists in the championship game and was named to the Division 1 all-state first team after previously earning honorable mentions her other two varsity seasons (with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19), when Brighton finished Division 1 runner-up. Boose will continue to play at Grand Valley State University.
What the opportunity to compete as a female athlete means to Ella Boose:
“Honestly I don’t think people think about it as much just because it’s so normalized now, which I think is a great thing. I think that’s how it should be. But being a female athlete, it’s definitely very empowering and I’m really happy about the fact that we have equal rights now.
“Yes, for sure I think (younger girls) definitely look up to us. My next-door neighbor, she’s in third grade, and she actually just started playing this year. And that means a lot to me because I practice with her in the backyard sometimes, and it makes me really happy that I’ve inspired her to play lacrosse because she really loves it.”
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