Despite Rival's Return, Forest Hills Northern Completes Repeat Run

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 4, 2022

HOLLAND – Last year was a breeze for the Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern girls tennis team as it won the Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship by 14 points.

This year, with rival Birmingham Seaholm back from playing in Division 1, the Huskies knew they were in for another battle – which is why all of them took out a black Sharpie and wrote one word of motivation on their left forearm.

“We write FIGHT on our arms for a reason, because we never give up,” explained FHN senior Rhea Marwaha, who teamed with fellow senior Sophie Richards to knock off both of the top seeds to win the No. 1 doubles title.

“We knew this was our last hurrah, so we just decided to keep fighting and keep smiling.”

There were certainly plenty of smiling Huskies on Saturday at Hope College, after they outlasted Seaholm for their 11th Finals championship over the past 20 years.

Forest Hills Northern won with 34 points, with Seaholm right behind with 30 points – a full 12 ahead of the rest of the field, giving the end of the two-day tournament the feel of a dual match.

FHN and Seaholm squared off in all four of the doubles finals, with the Huskies winning first and second doubles and the Maples taking third and fourth. Ironically, neither school won a singles flight, but Northern was runner-up in all four, while Seaholm had no singles players reach the finals.

Mattawan placed third with 18 points as seniors Lizzie Novak and Romika Shokohi won the top two singles flights. Portage Central and Birmingham Groves tied for fourth with 17 points.

Seaholm, which was tied at the top with FHN after the first day with 24 points, needed to sweep the four doubles finals to have a chance. But Forest Hills Northern had other ideas.

Mattawan tennisMarwaha and Richards, seeded third at No. 1 doubles but the reigning champions at that flight, rode the momentum after downing second-seeded Portage Central in the semifinals to win an intense three-set match over top-seeded Madeleine Leo and Nina Graham of Seaholm in the final, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

“We lost to Seaholm earlier this year, but we knew exactly what we did wrong and we fixed it up,” explained Richards. “We wanted to win today for the team, and we really wanted to beat Seaholm.”

FHN also won No. 2 doubles with the duo of senior Isabella Paul and sophomore Ryan Morey.

While Marwaha and Richards were the “giant killers” for the Huskies in doubles, it was junior Miriam Ogilvie who played that role in singles.

Ogilvie, a junior who was seeded fifth at No. 4, made it all the way to the finals – stunning the top seed in three sets in the semifinals before losing in another three-setter in the final to second-seeded freshman Paula Martinez of Battle Creek Lakeview in the last match of the day.

“I had some really tough battles, and I proved to myself that I could stay intense the whole time,” said Ogilvie. “It feels great to know that I came through for my team.”

Ogilvie was one of four singles runners-up for FHN, and it was those extra points which proved to be the difference against Seaholm. Also placing second for the Huskies were seniors Abby Siminski (No. 1 singles), sophomore Nathalie Lanne (No. 2) and junior Anna Dinsmore (No. 3).

Forest Hills Northern tennisThe Huskies reached the finals in all eight of the flights, an incredible showing of depth, which put a smile on the face of veteran coach David Sukup.

“It doesn’t get old, because the kids keep me young,” said Sukup, who has led the Huskies to three second-place Finals finishes over the past 20 years, to go along with the 11 titles. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing this, but at this point, I’m on a one-year contract every year.”

Seaholm, which now has four Finals titles and four second-places over the past 10 years, pulled out a couple of big upsets in doubles over FHN to keep its title hopes alive.

Jane Wineman and Tatum Hirsch upset top-seeded FHN at No. 3 doubles, while the duo of Sydney Fong and Jenna Ting went three sets to do the same at No. 4 doubles – but, ultimately, the lack of presence in the singles finals proved costly for the Maples.

The top two singles flights belonged to the Mattawan, as Novak dispatched Siminski (6-1, 6-3) and Shokohi defeated Lanne (6-1, 6-0). Novak will play college tennis next year at the University of Richmond (Virg.), joining her older sister Kate (Bucknell) in the college ranks.

“Oh, we aren’t competitive at all,” Novak said with a laugh, when asked about playing against her sister. “We have good matches, but I think I can beat her.”

Portage Central junior Anna Dinsmore, the third seed at No. 3 singles, upset second-seeded Courtney Marcum of Seaholm in the semifinals, then knocked off top-seeded Andrea Wang of FHN in the final.

At No. 4 singles, Battle Creek Lakeview freshman Paula Martinez became a Finals flight champion by downing Ogilvie in the day’s final match, 7-6, 0-6, 6-2.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern doubles teammates show their "FIGHT" during a match Saturday. (Middle) Mattawan's Lizzie Novak returns a volley during her No. 1 singles title match. (Below) FHN serves during another doubles match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.) 

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