By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
ROCKFORD – Playing the final game of her high school lacrosse career, Rockford senior Meghan Datema was determined not to see another team celebrate winning an MHSAA title on her team’s home field.
Datema knew that feeling – but for the second year in a row it was Datema and her teammates who defended their home field and came away with a Division 1 lacrosse title.
Thanks to a strong start and some stingy defense, the Rams won a second straight MHSAA Division 1 lacrosse championship as they defeated Ann Arbor Pioneer 16-7.
“In my sophomore year we lost in the state Semifinals,” Datema said. “The state (Final) was held here at Rockford and it was not a good feeling watching another team win the state title and celebrate on our home field. We were ready this year. We were focused, and we came out ready to play.”
Rockford came out strong on both ends of the field as the Rams jumped to a 5-1 lead.
The two teams came into the match familiar with each other as Rockford edged Pioneer 10-9 earlier this year. So despite an early lead, the Rams knew it would not be an easy task putting the Pioneers away.
Pioneer battled back and cut the Rams’ lead to 5-4 before Datema scored back-to-back goals to give her team a 7-4 advantage.
“We were missing a couple of girls the first time we played them,” Rockford coach Mike Emery said. “It was also the day before spring break, so it was getaway day. We had 22 turnovers that day. Today we had eight. We did a lot better job taking care of the ball and in possession today. Our defense also did a great job today. We didn’t allow them to score for most of the second half.”
Rockford closed the first half up 13-5 after a 5-0 run. The Rams’ defense set the tone and carried the strong play into the second half.
Rockford upped its lead to 15-5 minutes after the break and held Pioneer scoreless until it added a pair of late goals.
“Winning this title was real special,” Rockford senior defender Aimee Hite said. “We lost a lot of defenders throughout the season, so seeing how the defense came together and how strong they played was real exciting. We pretty much held them without a goal the entire second half.”
In goal, the Rams received a solid effort from junior goalkeeper Katie Elwell, who finished the game with nine saves.
“This is just incredible,” Elwell said. “I never thought I would have this experience of winning it two years in a row. You just can’t describe this feeling. I’m so proud of all the players; we all just worked super hard.”
The Rams were paced on offense by Datema, who finished the game with five goals and one assist. Sophomore Alex Vandermolen added four goals.
Datema and Vandermolen have been big offensive producers all season. Datema came into the title game with 58 goals, while Vandermolen entered with 50.
Senior Kyleigh Egnatuk also ended her career in a big way with three goals and an assist.
“We worked very hard this season,” Egnatuk said. “We knew we had to put in a lot of work to get to where we wanted to be. Winning another state title was our main goal. We definitely knew how hard we had to work to do it again.”
Jumping to a lead was a key and something the Rams wanted to accomplish against a team they defeated by just one goal earlier this season.
“I thought today we came out strong and focused,” Egnatuk said. “That showed when we came out and scored those five early goals. I thought in the first game that we played against them we had a lot more turnovers, and that was something we cleaned up today.”
Winning a second title also was more difficult.
“It was definitely harder,” Egnatuk said. “It felt like we had a big target on our back all season.”
“It was so special to end the season on our home field winning a second state championship,” Datema added. “It was the perfect ending. Both of these state titles have been picture perfect. This one may have been more special because it was the last game of my career.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford’s Alex Vandermolen (11) works to get past Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Mercedes Reyes during the Division 1 Final. (Middle) Rockford and Pioneer players scramble for a loose ball during the Rams’ 16-7 win.
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.)