Forest Hills Northern Finds Winning Mix

June 1, 2019

By Greg Chrapek
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – One of the biggest challenges a high school coach can face is blending a talented group of freshmen with a successful group of returning players.

Veteran Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern tennis coach Dave Sukup faced that challenge this year.

With a core of tennis players returning from a team that placed fourth at the MHSAA Finals last year, Sukup welcomed a skillful group of freshmen making their high school debut this season. The blending process proved to be a success for Sukup and Northern as the Huskies came together to win the Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship Saturday.

Northern totaled 31 points to claim its first Finals title since sharing the 2014 championship with Birmingham Seaholm. This title was Northern’s first outright since 2011. Seaholm placed second with 29 points, followed by Bloomfield Hills Marian with 26.

“We had some outstanding freshmen come into our school this year, and they really made a difference,” Sukup said. “We had all eight of our flights reach at least the semifinals, and that is something we’ve never done before. That made the difference.”

Northern finished with a pair of individual flight champions. Freshman Isabela Paul won the No. 3 singles title by outlasting Romika Shokoni of Mattawan 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

“It feels pretty amazing,” Paul said. “I just had to keep pushing through. Winning a individual state title and the team state title is real special. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Sophomore Alexis Pena claimed Northern’s other singles title. Pena defeated Greta Albertie of Birmingham Seaholm 6-1, 6-1.

A returning player, Pena put the team first and herself second this year. Pena played No. 1 singles in 2018, but with all the talented freshmen singles players coming into the program, she moved down to No. 4 singles for the good of the team. The move certainly was worth it.

“Last year we finished in fourth place,” Pena said. “It feels really special to go from fourth place last year to first place this year.”

Pena credits the leadership of Northern’s three seniors, who also served as team captains, as being a major key to the team’s success this season.

“Definitely having Meg Millar, Hannah Petersen and Oliva Dicks as captains,” Pena said. “They just made it so fun. Since we have a lot of freshmen on the team; they did such a good job of including everyone. We have a special team this year.”

Forest Hills Northern was not the only team with impressive freshmen in the lineup. Mattawan, which finished fifth as a team, was led by freshman Elizabeth Novak at No. 2 single. The top seed, Novak held form as she claimed a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Alba Delapena in the championship match.

“It’s really exciting,” Novak said. “We have a real close team, and having my teammates here with me made this so special.”

One of Novak’s teammates is her older sister Kate, who reached the quarterfinals at No. 1 singles and cheered her younger sister on in the title match.

“This was the first year we’ve been able to be on the same team,” Novak said. “Being on the same team with my sister is very special.”

While the freshmen were making impressive debuts, East Grand Rapids senior Sloane Teske accomplished an impressive feat as she finished her high school career with three straight No. 1 singles championships. Teske turned back Forest Hills Northern freshman Abigail Siminski 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

“This means everything,” said Teske. “I’m just happy that all my team and my family and fans were able to be here and support me. It meant the world.”

Teske, who will continue her career at the University of Toledo, remained focused and dialed in the entire match and throughout the tournament.

“My attitude and my mind was my main focus,” Teske said. “It pulled me through all my matches. I just went out there and played my game and hoped for the best. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Birmingham Seaholm relied on outstanding play from its doubles teams to secure second place. Seniors Madison Daminato and Emily Hirsch claimed the title at No. 1 as they came from behind to defeat Mia Schwartz and Marlo Hudson of Marian 5-7, 6-1, 6-0.

For Hirsch, it was her second Finals title as she was part of the champion No. 1 doubles team last season.

“This was so special,” Hirsch said. “I won it last year, and this year I won it with a different partner. We had a tough first set, but we picked up our game in the next set.”

For Daminato, the title was special in that she played singles all the way up until this spring, when a back injury forced her to switch to doubles.

“I looked at it as a new challenge,” Daminato said. “I learned a lot this year, and it was fun being able to partner with Emily. The season turned out good.”

Seniors Brooke Forte and Lilly Trinch teamed up to win their second straight title at No. 2 doubles, over Abigail Zhang and Lilia Henkel of Forest Hills Northern 7-6 (5), 6-3.

“This was very special,” Forte said. “We’ve played together for three years, and this was our last time playing together.”

The Seaholm duo stayed together and battled through the tight first set to set the stage for the win.

“We are all such good friends,” Trinch said. “We get together in the winter to play, and that really helps us.”

At No. 3 doubles, Seaholm’s Charlie Kuchman and Sofia Manzo defeated Marian’s Ragad Almsaddi and Gigi Kalabat 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. At No. 4 doubles, the Seaholm team of Ashley Buechner and Remi Maynard held off Marian’s Sara Kuredijian and Elizabeth Meathe 6-2, 6-4. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern celebrates its latest MHSAA Finals championship. (Middle) East Grand Rapids’ Sloane Teske sends back a volley. (Click for more from

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