Pair Cracks Lineup, Clinches Seaholm Title

By Pam Shebest
Special for

June 2, 2018

KALAMAZOO — A year ago, Charlie Kuchman and Sofia Manzo could not crack Birmingham Seaholm’s varsity lineup.

On Saturday, the duo’s three-set win at No. 4 doubles clinched the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 tennis team title for Seaholm, its first since 2015.

The Maples finished with 34 points, followed by Bloomfield Hills Marian with 27 and East Grand Rapids with 26.

“To win all four doubles says a lot,” Seaholm coach Casey Cullen said. “Five flight championships. Even where we lost, we fought hard.”

For the third-year coach, who played high school tennis at Seaholm, the title is extra special.

“In high school, I never won a team championship,” he said, adding, “I played at Western Michigan (University) so this is my backyard. It was meant to be.”

He said the team knew it had a chance at the title.

“They knew they had a good team; we knew we were something special,” he said. “The rankings would come out and they are No. 1 and they’re like, ‘Man, now we have a target on our back.’

“But they handled that really well. They continued to get better every day, and this is the result.”

Although Seaholm won five flights, the Maples did not have a player in the No. 1 singles final.

That individual title went to reigning champ Sloane Teske of East Grand Rapids, who defeated freshman Olivia Weiss of Royal Oak, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, in the final.

Teske’s first lead of the match was at 5-4 in the second set.

“I just had a moment of realization and I looked around with all my family and friends supporting me,” the top-seeded junior said. “I just thought whatever happens, happens.

“I know they’ll support me and love me no matter what if I win or lose.”

Weiss, the second seed, was coming off another tough three-setter in the semifinal, with a hard-fought 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3) win over Holly’s third-seeded Taylor Barrett.

Weiss qualified for the Finals but her Royal Oak team did not, leading her to figure she would not be seeded at all, let alone second.

“We’re in a little lower flight in our region,” she said. “Our team works really hard and really good, but we just happen to be at a lower flight, and I didn’t think I’d be seeded at all.

“To be in the first singles seeds is an accomplishment in itself.”

Top-seeded Nicole Johnson of Holly ended her senior year with a 6-4, 6-4, win at No. 2 singles over Seaholm freshman Sofia Gryzenia, the second seed.

“This was my biggest goal for a long time,” said Johnson, who lost in the semifinals last year at the same flight.

“Being a senior didn’t matter. I have experience but she’s a very, very good player. I couldn’t have done it without (my team’s) support cheering me on.”

Gryzenia lost to Johnson earlier in the season.

“I think it makes me a little more nervous because I already think sometimes that I’m going to lose,” the freshman said.

“I think I just needed to keep more balls in against her because she has a really good backhand, so I tried to hit it to her forehand.”

At No. 3 singles, a pair of sophomores went against each other with second-seeded Halley Elliott of East Grand Rapids defeating fifth-seeded Marlo Hudson of Marian, 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Hudson upset top-seeded Mollie Judge, from Seaholm, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, in the semifinal, a match watched by Elliott.

“They both played such a great match,” Elliott said. “I wasn’t expecting an easy match, but we both gave it our all.”

Although Elliott defeated Hudson earlier in the season, “definitely going into the tournament, I had a little more confidence, but when I saw her play Seaholm, she played so well, I definitely had to adjust my plan a little bit,” Elliott said.

At No. 4 singles, another pair of sophomores faced each other with a very animated Greta Albertie, also of Seaholm, defeating top seed Yana Semerly of Okemos, 6-1, 6-1.

“Last year, I lost in quarterfinals to my best friend (Marian’s Gigi Kalabat),” Albertie said.  “I realized that you have to cheer for yourself. You are out on the court alone. You really have to support yourself, and that just really pushed me to win.”

Albertie not only had the crowd with her (“I’ve had like eight different teams cheering for me. I make friends with everyone,” she added) but the second seed was a dynamo on the court with fist pumps toward the crowd.

“Every single time I won a point, I screamed, ‘Yeah’ like that,” she said. “This was states, and I kinda just really stepped that up.”

While Albertie cheered for herself, she said her mother will not allow her to cheer for her twin sister — who plays No. 4 doubles for Marian.

“Me and my sister are close at home, but I just wanted to try something new and be different,” Emma Albertie said of choosing the all-girls school.

“She always tries to ask me ‘What are your weaknesses?’ And I’m like, ‘Ah, I’m not telling you.’ I try to ask her and she says ‘I’m not telling you.’”

As for the cheering, “My mom does not let me cheer for my sister,” Greta Albertie said. “I can’t be down there. It’s that serious. Whenever I cheer for the other team, my sister will start losing really bad.

“I got like grounded because I did that. It was terrible.”

Kuchman and Manzo were stunned to learn they had the team title-winning match.

“This whole team depends on each other, and it’s going to fall to somebody, and we really wanted to make the lineup this year and we made it,” Kuchman said. “We’re really happy. It was worth it. All our hard work paid off.”

The top seeds defeated Marian’s second seeds, sophomore Emma Albertie and freshman Kathryn Torak, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

Kuchman, a sophomore, said their mindset heading into the third set was “it’s just like have fun because, honestly, nothing’s worth it if you can’t have fun. It’s the whole reason why I do tennis.

“I was trying to play to win before and it wasn’t working, but when I didn’t worry about it and tried to have fun, it was better,” Manzo said

The pair trailed 0-3 in the third set before turning things around.

“It was kind of hard,” said Manzo, a junior. “They were playing really well, and we were trying to figure out what to do differently because it’s hard when you’re in the finals and you’re down 0-3.

“I just looked at Charlie and said, ‘We have to get this.’ 

“We worked so hard for it. I think it’s more in your head, and our heads were in the right place.”

Cullen did not know at the time that his team had clinched the title but was not too surprised that Kuchman and Manzo did it.

“To win in their first year in the lineup says a lot about how hard they worked,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a team effort.

“They’ve been playing really well lately. They beat Midland Dow, which was undefeated, in the last week. So they were playing well at the right time.

“I was probably hardest on them because they had the most to learn being in the lineup. They totally took it and ran with it. It’s just awesome to see.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Seaholm’s Greta Albertie volleys while helping her team to an MHSAA title Saturday. (Middle) East Grand Rapids’ Sloane Teske rockets a return during her repeat run at No. 1 singles. (Click to see 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