After Rain, Westwood Reigns Again

October 1, 2014

By Dennis Grall
Special to Second Half

NEGAUNEE - Pflat! Phlop! Ping! Pitter-patter of early rain drops. 30-love! Out!

Those were the sounds of tennis on this chilly, windy fall Wednesday in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at the MHSAA Division 2 Girls Tennis Finals.

Appropriately the sun finally peaked through the overcast skies as Iron Mountain's Katie Brule outlasted Iron River West Iron County's Maddie Waara for her second straight singles title at No. 1. Only a small handful of spectators were still around for the day's only three-set match to feel the little warmth provided by those rays, including the entire Ishpeming Westwood team that was waiting for a championship trophy presentation for a record sixth straight year.

The Patriots amassed 19 points and collected six of the eight flight titles. Westwood has nine U.P. Finals championships since 2004.

Iron Mountain, the 2008 champ, was second with 15 points, followed by West Iron County with 13, Munising with seven, Ironwood and Ishpeming with one apiece, and Gwinn.

Nine seniors helped Westwood retain title honors, with doubles again playing a major role in the success.

"That is how we win most of our matches, with our doubles," said Westwood's Faith LeRoy, who teamed with Olivia Derocha to secure No. 2 and conclude an unbeaten season.

Derocha said, "Our doubles are really important. It is also important to be undefeated. We challenged ourselves to reach that goal."

They beat Kathryn Brown and Hannah Hakamaki of Iron Mountain 7-5, 6-0 in the finale. "It was definitely a challenge to get started. It was cold," said LeRoy. "Our first sets have always been closer."

To which Derocha added, "Once we get going, it is good. We need a little warm-up."

The temperature was barely 50 degrees when the tournament began about an hour late because of rain that slicked the dazzling new courts at Negaunee High School, and the wind from the south made it feel chillier. Even the multi-hued trees above Teal Lake in the background didn't do much to warm up anyone.

Westwood coach Chris Jackson said depth is a key reason for the success in doubles and as a team. "The depth comes from our numbers," he said of a team that fields 30-40 players each fall.

"We feel like we offer a great student-athlete opportunity, the players enjoy themselves, and winning certainly doesn't hurt. Everyone likes to be a part of the program. We offer something for everyone."

While the Patriots dominated, Brule struggled to repeat. She won the final set 6-0, but that followed a 6-2, 5-7 opener against the gritty Waara.

With frustration showing several times after lost points in the second set, Brule said, "I tried to calm down and just tried to remember how I played and to play my game and not get upset. I tried to forget my mistakes."

Waara, who missed last season with an knee ligament injury incurred during basketball season as a sophomore, had trouble with Brule's powerful opening serve but was able to put the second serve in play and gather numerous points in her upset bid.

"You couldn't do a lot with her serve," said Waara, who also runs cross country this fall for the Wykons. "And it probably didn't help to take a year off from tennis."

Brule said relying on her second serve wasn't a problem, but noted "I wanted my first serve to have more power and make it more difficult for her."

Additional flight champions for Westwood including Gabby Hebert at No. 2 singles, Rachel Anderson at No. 3 and Lauren Fairley at No. 4; Lacey Pietro and Jamee Ferris at No. 3 doubles and Emily Carlson and Madysen Mattias at No. 4 also won flight titles. Katie and Emily Bugni combined to win No. 1 doubles for Iron Mountain. 

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Katie Brule of Iron Mountain darts into the corner to return a shot Wednesday at the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals at Negaunee High School. Brule defeat Maddie Waara of West Iron County 6-2, 5-7, 6-0 for her second straight title at No. 1 singles. (Middle) Rachel Anderson of Westwood reaches to retrieve a ball that bounced high during her No. 3 singles final against Iron Mountain's Emily Chang. (Photos by Dennis Grall.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 9, 2024

The Girls & Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium for the first time, one of the most notable changes for this season as sports ramp up for more than 100,000 athletes anticipated to participate this spring for Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools.

The MHSAA sponsors postseason competition each spring in baseball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, girls and boys track & field, boys golf (Lower and Upper Peninsula) and girls golf (UP), and girls (LP) and boys (UP) tennis.

The U-M Lacrosse Stadium opened for competition in 2018 and seats 2,000 spectators. The Girls Lacrosse Finals will be played Friday, June 7, with Division 1 at 4 p.m. and Division 2 at 7 p.m. The Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played the following day, June 8, with Division 2 at 11 a.m. and Division 1 at 2 p.m.

Girls lacrosse also has a significant format adjustment this season, as games will be played with four 12-minutes quarters instead of the previous two halves, in part to allow coaches more opportunities to provide direct instruction during a game. Two more rules changes are expected to improve flow of play – players awarded a free position outside of the critical scoring area no longer must come to a stop and settled stance before self-starting, and false start penalties outside the critical scoring area have been eliminated.

Several more rules changes will be noticeable this spring:

In boys lacrosse, a change was made to enhance player safety. Play will stop immediately any time a player’s helmet comes off, and that player may not return until the next dead ball after play continues.

Fair and legal starts are a continued emphasis for track & field, and a rule change will allow for movement before the start of the race as long as a competitor does not leave their mark with a hand or a foot after the “set” command, or make forward motion before the starting device is activated.

A significant rule change in softball alters pitch delivery mechanics. The pitcher may now have both feet off the ground at the same time when releasing the ball as long as both feet remain within the 24-inch width of a pitching plate and the pitcher does not replant the pivot foot before delivering the pitch.

Another change in softball requires that a playbook/playcard be worn on the wrist or kept in a back pocket to reduce distractions. If worn by the pitcher, the equipment must be worn on the non-pitching arm. Similarly in baseball, a wristband with plays or instructions will be permitted but must be a single, solid color, and for pitchers may not contain the colors white or gray or be otherwise distracting. Baseball players must wear this wristband on the wrist or forearm, and pitchers may wear one only on their non-pitching arm.

Also in baseball, a rule change allows for one-way communication devices worn by the catcher to receive instructions from the dugout while on defense, for the purpose of calling pitches. The coach must be inside the dugout/bench area to use the communication device.

Golfers now are required to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that school team in an MHSAA Regional or Final. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hole events.

In tennis, for the first time in Lower Peninsula play, a No. 1 doubles flight from a non-qualifying team will be able to advance from its Regional to Finals competition. To do so, that No. 1 doubles flight must finish first or second at its Regional, and the No. 1 singles player from that team also must have qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play.

On the soccer pitch, two officiating-related changes will be especially noticeable. Officials now may stop the clock to check on an injured player without that player being required to leave the match – previously that player would have to sub out. Also, categories for fouls have been redefined: careless (which is a foul but does not receive a card), reckless (a foul with a yellow card) and excessive force (foul with red card). 

The 2023-24 Spring campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Golf and Boys Tennis Finals during the week of May 27 and wraps up with Girls Soccer, Baseball and Softball Finals on June 15. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regional Semifinals – June 5
Regional Finals, Quarterfinals – June 8
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Boys Regionals – May 28-June 1
UP Girls & Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Boys Finals – June 7-8

Boys Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 10-15
Regionals – May 16-29
Quarterfinals – May 31 or June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 8

Girls Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 16-18, or May 20
Regionals – May 22-June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 7

Girls Soccer
Districts – May 22-June 1
Regionals – June 4-8
Semifinals – June 11-12
Finals – June 14-15

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regionals – June 8
Quarterfinals – June 11
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Girls Regionals – May 15-18
UP Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Girls Finals – May 31-June 1

Track & Field
Regionals – May 16-18
Finals – June 1