By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
ROCKFORD – East Grand Rapids senior captain Charlotte Hooker was determined to make it back and play at least one game of her senior lacrosse season.
Hooker reached that goal and then some as she came back from injury in time to play in both the MHSAA Semifinal and Saturday’s Division 2 lacrosse championship game against Okemos.
Hooker scored goals in both games, including one in the title match to help the Pioneers defeat Okemos 11-7 to win a third consecutive MHSAA championship.
“This is very special because I’m a senior and a captain, and this was the final game of my high school career,” Hooker said. “A lot of people didn’t think I would make it back, but I was determined.”
Hooker suffered a torn labrum and underwent surgery in February, leading to months of physical therapy. Doctors told her she would not be able to play her senior year.
“I was not planning on making it back, but physical therapy went so well that I knew I had a chance to make it back in time,” Hooker said. “I really wanted to make it back and play at least one game of my senior season.”
Hooker returned in time to help the Pioneers defeat Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in the Wednesday Semifinal and then took the field against Okemos in a rematch of last season’s Semifinal and the 2012 Division 2 championship game.
With the Final tied 6-6 midway through the second half, Hooker scored as part of a four-goal run that gave East Grand Rapids control up 10-6.
While many doubted Hooker’s ability to make it back from injury, many also doubted they would see the Pioneers in the Finals again after graduating 12 starters from last year’s team.
“This one is very special because no one thought our team was this strong,” Hooker said. “It was real special to prove to everyone that we could do it again.”
Okemos suffered from the injury bug in the opening minutes Saturday. Sophomore standout Kendall Luberto suffered a severe ankle injury and was lost for the game. She entered the game as one of Okemos’ top offensive players with 48 goals and 30 assists this spring.
“I think our girls played tough,” Okemos coach Donny Luberto said. “One of our starters went down in the first three minutes of the game, and that threw us out a bit. But the girls played tough. I knew they would keep fighting and keep playing tough.”
Okemos battled the entire 50 minutes while attempting to become the first Michigan high school team to defeat East Grand Rapids since 2010. Okemos scored the first two goals before the Pioneers came back to tie the match 2-2.
Okemos again battled back and went up 4-2 before East Grand Rapids closed out the first half with four consecutive goals to take a 6-4 lead.
“They (Okemos) are a class program,” East Grand Rapids coach Rich Axtell said. “They have won two state titles, and we knew they would be tough."
Senior Meggan Loyd scored three of East Grand Rapids’ first-half goals and led the Pioneers with four for the game. For Loyd, the title was the fourth MHSAA championship she has won at EGR as she had been on the previous two lacrosse title teams and also won one with the Pioneers volleyball team.
“I think this one means the most,” Loyd said. “Being a senior and people not expecting us to win it this year, it was also the toughest. We had to work harder to get this one. All of our playoff games were close. We beat Caledonia by one goal in the Regional and Cranbrook by two in the Semifinals.”
Junior Liza Elder came into the game as the offensive leader of the Pioneers with 78 goals and 48 assists. She added three goals and will be one of the leaders next season as the Pioneers look to win a fourth straight championship.
“We had a very young team this year,” Elder said. “We knew we had to work extra hard to make it back. We started working out in the weight room back in September to get ready for this year, and we just kept going. We played some real tough games this year but nobody ever gave up.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids and Okemos players contend for the ball during the MHSAA Division 2 Final at Rockford. (Middle) The Pioneers' Liza Elder works for position as she awaits a pass Saturday.
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.)