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.
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.