By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There appears to be a pattern forming here.
For the second straight season, Rockford and East Grand Rapids from the west and Birmingham United and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood from the east will converge to decide the MHSAA girls lacrosse championships, this season at Brighton High School.
The Division 2 Final will be played at 2 p.m., followed by Division 1 at 4:30. Both will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, available with subscription, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information, including all tournament results.
Below is a look at all four contenders, with player statistics through Regional Finals.
Record/rank: 12-9, No. 5 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association
Coach: Jen Dunbar, 15th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2012), runner-up 2016.
Best wins: 11-9 (OT) over No. 3 Hartland in a Semifinal, 15-14 (OT) over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills in a Regional Final, 15-8 over No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 14-13 over No. 7 Brighton, 14-13 over Division 2 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Marian.
Player to watch: Danielle Augier, sr. A/M; Grace Fischer, sr. D; Grace Murray, sr. A (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: The reigning Division 1 runner-up is looking to reverse last season’s 12-9 championship game loss to Rockford. Birmingham opened this season with three wins and then six straight losses; it’s currently on a 9-3 run and avenged one of those recent defeats by beating Bloomfield Hills to win the Regional. Augier was a star last season as well.
Record/rank: 19-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mike Emery, 10th season (180-41-6)
Championship history: Division 1 champions 2010, 2013-16.
Best wins: 22-4 over No. 6 Northville in a Semifinal, 12-8 (Regional Final), 12-6 and 15-3 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 26-1 over No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 17-2 and 25-6 over Division 2 No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 18-1 and 22-3 over Division 2 No. 6 Caledonia, 20-6 over Division 2 No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 18-8 and 17-7 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 16-6 and 20-7 over Division 2 No. 3 East Grand Rapids.
Players to watch: Brooklyn Neumen, jr. M (64 goals, 43 assists); MeKenzie VanderMolen, jr. M (47 goals, 29 assists); Karrington VanderMolen, soph. M (74 goals, 12 assists), Sydney Zimmerman, fr. A/M (53 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: The Rams have won four straight Division 1 championships and continue to add big-time scorers to a dominating roster. In addition to those mentioned above, sophomore attack Isabelle Holmes had 24 goals and 42 assists and junior attack/mid Margaret Hammer had 28 goals and 15 assists entering this week. The two losses came against teams from out of state, the first by only a goal.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 22-5, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 1
Coach: Greg Courter, third season (57-16)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015 and 2016.
Best wins: 21-14 and 19-7 (Pre-Regional) over No. 10 Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, 21-14, 19-9 and 19-7 (Regional Final) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Marian; 16-9, 11-5 and 14-8 (Semifinal) over Okemos; 23-9 over Division 1 No. 5 Birmingham United, 11-5 and 15-14 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 18-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 19-5 over Division 1 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Isabelle Scane, jr. M (137 goals, 35 assists); Brigitte Ballard, jr. G (8.24 goals-against average); Sophia Milia, jr. A (80 goals, 55 assists); Delaney Langdon, jr. M (55 goals, 25 assists).
Outlook: This will be the Cranes’ third straight MHSAA Final, and they’ve played all the contenders to prepare for this point – including taking an early 8-6 loss to East Grand Rapids. The only other in-state defeat came to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. Scane added three more goals in the Semifinal, and her 140 this season are the second most in MHSAA history. Adding firepower are sophomore attack Jessica Geiger (45 goals, 13 assists), junior attack Olive Stevens (28 goals, 19 assists) and junior defense Georgia Hinnant (28 goals, 11 assists).
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 3 at end of regular season
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rich Axtell, eighth season (156-27)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2012-16.
Best wins: 19-17 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Regional Final, 8-6 over No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 18-3 and 13-10 over No. 6 Caledonia, 17-6 and 17-4 over No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 20-6 over Division 1 No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 14-3 over Division 1 No. 5 Birmingham United, 12-6 and 10-9 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 11-9 over Division 1 No. 3 Hartland, 18-11 over Division 1 No. 7 Brighton.
Players to watch: Lindsay Duca, sr. A (15 goals, 52 assists); Mary Schumar, soph. A (71 goals, 30 assists); Rebecca Scobell, sr. G (7.50 goals-against average); Audrey Whiteside, soph. M (87 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: The Pioneers made their way back to the final day of the season in part by avenging a regular-season loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Regional Final. The only other in-state losses were twice to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. Duca was a star last season as well and distributes to a number of talented scorers; sophomore mid Olivia Brown adds 33 goals and senior mid Emily Roth 28 as 10 players total had at least 10 goals entering the week.
PHOTO: East Grand Rapids’ Madison Micho (12) and Cranbrook Kingswood’s Isabelle Scane battle for possession during last season’s Division 2 Final.
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.