Escanaba, Negaunee 'As Even As It Gets' Again in Sharing UPD1 Title

By Mitch Vosburg
Special for

October 5, 2023

MARQUETTE — On Sept. 13, Escanaba and Negaunee collided in a dual meet in Escanaba. The Eskymos and Miners tied 4-4.

Flash forward 21 days and both squads once again found themselves neck and neck on the court. With a Finals title on the line, the Eskymos and Miners, similar to their first meeting, finished tied for the Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship Wednesday at Marquette High School.

The squads were crowned co-champions after each accumulating 16 points.

Ishpeming Westwood finished in third place with 14 points, Marquette finished fourth with four points, Gladstone and Kingsford tied for fifth with two apiece and Menominee finished seventh with one point.

For Escanaba, Wednesday was its first share of a team Finals championship since 2011.

“It’s a great ending,” Escanaba coach Chris Ogren said. “We had two really good teams this year. When we played head-to-head we were as even as it gets. On the last day of the year with everybody here, we were as even as it gets. It’s perfectly fitting. It feels great.”

For the Miners, it was their sixth claim of a Finals title since 2015.

“This is probably one of our most rewarding titles that we've had in any particular year,” Miners coach Kyle Saari said. “These girls battled through an awful lot of adversity this season. Some had injuries, and just a variety of different things kind of popped up. Coming into today we knew we needed a lot of things to go right to have a chance. Every single thing we needed … they answered the bell and it happened.”

In No. 1 singles action, the Eskymos claimed three critical points behind the efforts of Sophie Derkos. The senior knocked off the reigning No. 2 singles champion, Gladstone’s Tia Schone, 6-0, 6-1 in semifinal action. In the final, Derkos collided with Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson, who was runner-up to Schone in No. 2 singles action in 2022. The Esky senior earned a decisive 6-1, 6-0 win to finish undefeated at 18-0 and claim her second-straight individual Finals title in the process.

Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson tracks a shot during her semifinal against Westwood’s Lexi Olson.The Miners earned two individual titles Wednesday. Rheana Nelson claimed hers at No. 3 singles, besting Gladstone’s Alexis Burch in quarterfinal action 6-0, 6-0, Westwood’s Emersyn Nelson 6-1, 6-3, in the semi and earning a 6-2, 7-5 win over Escanaba’s Sam Korpi to clinch. Nelson finished the season with a record of 18-1.

Madalynn Peters, the top-seeded competitor at No. 4 singles, toppled Westwood’s Morgan Schnieder 6-1, 6-3, in semifinal action and earned a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Escanaba’s Maggie Martin in the final.

Escanaba made up ground on Negaunee with a pair of championship victories in doubles play.

In No. 1 doubles action, the tandem of Natalie Williams and Sam Manninen first defeated Kingsford’s Audrey Veale and Libby Vross 6-2, 6-4. In the final, Williams and Manninen vanquished Westwood’s Isabelle Marta and Alyssa Couveau 6-4, 6-3 to finish their senior seasons with a perfect record of 15-0.

Williams and Manninen weren’t the only Eskymos pairing to find success Wednesday and in 2023. Escanaba’s No. 4 doubles pairing of juniors Danni Hughes and Carly Bowden bested Marquette’s Eva Sjoholm and Mylee Muscoe 6-0, 6-2, before toppling Westwood’s Taylor Jackovich and Kaya Etelmaki 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match to finish their season at 19-0.

Negaunee claimed the No. 3 doubles title. The tandem of Autumn Ring and Alyssa Borlace – the latter subbing in at the last minute Wednesday – ran the table by defeating Kingsford’s Addisyn Kreigl and Eden Janousek 6-1, 6-1, in quarterfinal action, top-seeded Laura Barsch and Aubree Blackburn (Marquette) 7-5, 6-0, and Escanaba’s Sophie Wagner and Val Royer 2-6, 6-0, 6-1, in the final.

Westwood’s Samantha Ruby earned the crown in No. 2 singles by defeating Kingsford’s Allette Shanks 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinal, knocking off Gladstone’s Addie Thombley 7-6, 6-3, in their semifinal and besting top-seeded Lilliana Saunders from Negaunee 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, to clinch.

The Patriots also claimed a title in No. 2 doubles action. The pairing of Nolia Dawson and Kaylin Doney knocked off Menominee’s Isabelle Bentley and Isabelle Busher 6-3, 6-0 in a quarterfinal, defeated Escanaba’s Sonya Maki and Molly Smale 6-2, 7-6 (2) in the semifinals and vanquished Negaunee’s Olivia Lunseth and Sage Juntti in a thrilling 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (5) championship match.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Escanaba senior Sophie Derkos returns a volley during her semifinal match with Gladstone’s Tia Schone on Wednesday. (Middle) Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson tracks a shot during her semifinal against Westwood’s Lexi Olson. (Photos by Mitch Vosburg.)

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