Rockford Adds 6th to Title Streak

June 9, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND LEDGE – As the rain lifted Saturday afternoon, a third consecutive group of Rockford seniors capped their high school girls lacrosse careers with a fourth straight Division 1 championship.

And then some.

These Rams, led by seniors Brooklyn Neumen and Mekenzie Vander Molen, made their last game perhaps a bit more memorable, setting the MHSAA Finals record for goals in a 25-5 win over Brighton at Grand Ledge High School.

Sophomore Sydney Zimmerman netted her team’s 21st goal with 16:47 to play, that score breaking the record of 20 goals by Okemos in its 2010 Division 2 championship win.

And it was just another accomplishment for a Rockford program that has won six straight Division 1 titles and hasn’t lost to a Michigan opponent since 2016.

“I played with all these girls all though middle school and elementary school; it’s like family, and that’s why I think it’s extra special,” Neumen said. “Everyone on this team, there’s not one person I would say that I wouldn’t love and that I would forget, and I’d love to play with them again if I could. I think it’s kinda sad now that it’s over, but it was a good time.”

The Rams finished 20-2, their only losses to Loyola Academy and New Trier, both of Illinois. Rockford closed with 18 straight victories.

Vander Molen had seven goals and two assists and Neumen scored six and set up two Saturday to both make the list for most goals scored by one player in a Final – Vander Molen’s goals tied for second most. Zimmerman and junior Karrington Vander Molen both added four goals.

Almost more impressive was the defense. Senior Bella VanBuren’s goal 3:45 into the game kept the Bulldogs down just 3-2 – but Rockford gave up only one more score during the first half, and at one point between the end of the first and beginning of the second held Brighton scoreless for more than 17 minutes.

The Rams extended the lead to 10 to start a running clock on a Neumen goal with 12:01 to play in the first half.

“I feel like everyone on our team has that mindset where we want to win, and we want to win by a lot,” Mekenzie Vander Molen said. “We don’t want to have a close game. We just want to go out there as fast as we can, just so we can get more people goals and just have a fun time.”

She and Neumen are two of nine seniors total who played their final high school game – Vander Molen will continue next season at Ohio State University, and Neumen will play next for North Carolina. Another senior, Maggie Hammer, has been among the team’s leading scorers the last two seasons and added two more goals in this finale.

“Some of these kids have been on four championship teams, some on three. Some it was their first, and each and every one of (our championship teams) is special in their own right,” said Rockford coach Mike Emery, whose record improved to 200-43-6 over 11 seasons with the win. “They all have their own culture and their own characteristics, and we start early trying to develop that, trying to get the best out of these kids.”

He pointed to sense of family as one of this team’s special characteristics, and also to its depth throughout the lineup. “We’re going to be back here next year; at least, that’s our plan,” he added. “We’re losing two All-Americans … (but) our plan is to be back here next year because we’ve got some great talent, and we’ll move them around and we’ll find a way.”

Brighton (14-8) intends to be the opponent waiting. The Bulldogs graduate 11 players, but also steered to this championship game despite finishing the regular-season on a 4-4 string and with a coaching change that saw assistant Ashton Peters promoted with three games to go before the playoffs. She led the team to a 6-2 record over the last month.

Peters was on the 2010 Brighton team that fell to Rockford in the Division 1 Final, and also on the 2011 team that won the Division 1 title with an overtime victory over Ann Arbor Pioneer.

“The girls rallied around this coaching staff and just were pumped. They knew we could get here, and that was in our gameplan the entire season,” Peters said. “They have become so disciplined and listen so well now, and so that’s what got us here today. There’s not doubt in my mind that my girls deserved to be here.

“Yes, it was a hard game. Rockford has an incredible program. … (But) what we did to get here paid off, because we got here. Once you get here once, you come back again because you have the drive to get here. And so we’re going to come back, and we’re going to win.”

Click for the full scoring summary.

VIDEO: Mekenzie Vander Molen scores her final high school goal.

PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford’s Brooklyn Neumen works to get past a Brighton defender during Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Mekenzie Vander Molen controls the ball for the Rams.

Representative Council Approves Limited Regional Seeding in Girls Lacrosse at Fall Meeting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 9, 2022

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.