By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the second straight season, the best of Oakland County will try to wrest away the MHSAA girls lacrosse championships from the best of Kent County when Division 1 and 2 Finals are played Saturday at Brighton High School.
Rockford has won the last three Division 1 titles and East Grand Rapids has won the last four in Division 2. But the challengers have plenty of prestige as well; Birmingham United is tied with Rockford for most titles in Division 1 history with four, and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood faced the Pioneers in the Division 2 championship game only a year ago.
The Division 1 Final will be played at 2 p.m., followed by Division 2 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: 14-6, No. 3 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association
Coach: Jen Dunbar, 14th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2012).
Best wins: 13-9 and 19-8 (Regional Final) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills, 15-11 and 17-9 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 7 Grosse Pointe South, 7-6 over Division 2 No. 4 Okemos, 10-6 over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Anna Stachler, sr. A (72 goals); Danielle Augier, jr. A/M (55 goals).
Outlook: Birmingham is back in an MHSAA Final for the first time since 2012, with only two of its losses this season to Michigan teams and two defeats by only a goal apiece. The lineup includes eight seniors, and Stachler had seven more goals in Wednesday’s Semifinal win to give her 79 this season; that total is tied for 16th most for one season in MHSAA history.
Record/rank: 19-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mike Emery, ninth season (160-39-6)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2015)
Best wins: 13-8, 15-9 and 9-8 (Regional Final) over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United; 9-3 over Division 2 No. 1 East Grand Rapids, 19-10 over Division 2 No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Alexandra Vandermolen, sr. M (45 goals, 34 assists); MeKenzie Vandermolen, soph. M (37 goals, 24 assists); Grace Gunneson, sr. A (43 goals, 30 assists).
Outlook: The Rams have won three straight Division 1 championships, and standouts Alexandra Vandermolen and Grace Gunneson are two of only six seniors. The only losses this spring were by a goal to East Grand Rapids (since avenged) and by two to Illinois powerhouse Loyola Academy. Rockford also owns a pair of wins over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central (15-2 and 16-5) and another over Division 2 No. 4 Okemos (13-5).
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 17-6, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 1
Coach: Greg Courter, second season (35-10)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015.
Best wins: 11-5 and 9-6 over No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 15-10 over Division 1 No. 3 Birmingham United, 17-9 over Division No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 21-11 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Grace Giampetroni, sr. M (52 goals, 52 assists); Isabelle Scane, soph. M (115 goals, 26 assists); Brigitte Ballard, soph. G (8.31 goals-against average).
Outlook: After making their first championship game appearance just a year ago, the Cranes are back. Scane had six more goals in the Semifinal win over Farmington Hills Mercy, and her 121 overall rank second in MHSAA history for one season. Cranbrook Kingswood has outscored its four postseason opponents by an incredible combined score of 88-20, and that group of opponents included No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart and No. 10 Detroit Country Day.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 16-4, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rich Axtell, seventh season (136-21)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 14-7 over No. 4 Okemos in the Semifinal, 9-8 and 15-12 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 8-7, 12-7 and 11-9 (Regional Final) over No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central; 11-10 over Division 1 No. 1 Rockford, 14-2 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United.
Players to watch: Lindsay Duca, jr. A (22 goals, 66 assists); Auden Elliott, jr. M (59 goals, 10 assists); Audrey Whiteside, fr. M (55 goals, 10 assists)
Outlook: So much for rebuilding. The four-time reigning champions graduated a strong group after last season’s title but have stormed back with help from a freshman phenom in Whiteside. Duca had six more assists in the Semifinal, and 72 would put her fifth all-time for a single season. The Pioneers’ only in-state losses were in rematches to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford and Forest Hills United; they also have two wins over Division 2 No. 6 Caledonia and one apiece over Division 1 No. 3 Birmingham United and No. 5. Bloomfield Hills.
PHOTO: Cranbrook Kingswood goalie Brigitte Ballard gathers a shot while a pair of East Grand Rapids players circle the net during last season's Division 2 Final.
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.)