Sacred Heart Sends Coach Out as Champ

By Pam Shebest
Special for

June 1, 2019

KALAMAZOO — By the end of play Friday, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart had already repeated as the Lower Peninsula Division 4 team champion, but don't ask any of the girls how that felt.

The coaches did not mention it until Saturday at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium.

“We didn’t find out until just now,” No. 1 doubles champ Annie Keating said after her Saturday final. “We assumed, but no one really knew. We just went out and played our best.”

Sacred Heart, with the top seeds in every doubles flight, swept those four. But the match of the tournament was the No. 1 singles final.

Freshman Moorea McNalley, the second seed from Clarkston Everest Collegiate, rallied to defeat top-seeded Melanie Zampardo, a Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).

The barnburner was the last match on the court, with the crowd inside the Markin Racquet Center sending deafening cheers after each point, especially during the third set.

“We played during the regular season, and she beat me both times,” McNalley said. “Today, I just tried to get everything back and not get mad.

“Last time, I was getting upset at myself, so I was trying not to do that this time and just keep playing.”

Playing in her first MHSAA tournament, “I had no clue if it was going to be good or bad,” she said. “It was good, definitely.

“Since it’s my last match of the season, I was giving it my all.”

With the doubles semifinals played on Friday because of the projected rain the next day, Sacred Heart’s four semis points clinched the title. They ended with 31 points, eight more than runner-up Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.

“We knew (Friday) we couldn’t catch Sacred Heart but the kids have been motivated all year, so there was no problem getting them motivated to play,” St. Mary coach Wayne Asher said.

“Grosse Ile was right there with us, and there were a couple other schools not too far away also.”

Grosse Ile, which moved from Division 3 this year, finished third with 21 points, North Muskegon (17) was fourth and Everest (16) fifth.

Sacred Heart’s sixth title in eight seasons is bittersweet for coach Judy Hehs, who is leaving the school at the end of the year.

Hehs has coached the girls since the 1996-97 season.

“In their hearts they decided in March they were going to win a state championship,” Hehs said. “We had several kids make sacrifices about where they played, with whom they played, in order to get here.

“They, as a team, made that decision to work to that goal.”

Each doubles team had at least one past Finals champ in the pairing to mentor the younger players, Hehs said.

Keating, a junior, said losing their coach gave she and her teammates motivation.

“She’s the best coach we’ve ever had,” she said. “We really wanted to win this one for her. That was our motivation.”

Keating and sophomore Reagan Beatty defeated North Muskegon seniors Belles Hardman and Lily Montgomery, the second seeds, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.

Beatty won the title at No. 3 singles last year but wanted to play doubles with Keating, her cousin.

“The biggest adjustment was mostly working with a partner and it was nice having my cousin, which was amazing,” Beatty said.

“But I also think it was difficult because you have a little bit of pressure, saying I don’t want to let my partner down. But it also has its upsides because you have a partner if you’re not doing well.”

Playing with her cousin has advantages.

“We can communicate with each other without having to talk,” Beatty said. “We just look at each other, and we know.”

At. No. 2 doubles, senior Nolwenn Crosnier and freshman Marisa Nafso defeated second seeds, senior Katy Zink and freshman Katherine Kemp of Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, 6-2, 6-1.

It was the second No. 2 doubles title for Crosnier.

“It feels good, but it’s also nerve-wracking because there are high expectations,” she said. “We really wanted the title.”

Nafso was happy for the mentoring.

“I have a lot of nerves so she calms me down a lot,” Nafso said of her partner. “When we’re on the court, we really like to laugh and smile and be friends with our opponents.

“We’ve been spending every single day together trying to prepare for states.”

The friendliness extended to the final.

“I was surprised at No. 2 doubles,” Hehs said. “They spent more time at the net at the end of the match, where we wanted to congratulate them.

“They were enjoying the company of their opponents, discovering where they were going to college and stuff like that.”

Junior Kate Myers and senior Serena Seneker won the title at No. 3 doubles, and senior Catherine Blumberg and junior Hannah Kakos won at No. 4.

At No. 2 singles, Grosse Ile junior Jessica Schutt, the top seed, defeated Shrine’s unseeded senior, Ann Gladstone, 6-1, 6-1.

Gladstone stunned No. 2 seed, Sarah Schmidt of Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 6-4, 6-3, then dispatched No. 6-seeded Claire McCall of North Muskegon, 6-3, 7-6(6)

“I played (Gladstone) at Regional, and then hearing about her big upset I was like she must have improved a lot in the last couple weeks,” Schutt said. “I was really nervous.

“I was just hitting it deep, keeping at it, not letting her in.”

Gladstone said she ended her senior season “just playing my heart out.

“It’s my last year, and I just wanted to give it my all and just battle. My coach said, ‘Imagine, believe, achieve’ and I just used that.”

The senior said she had a mental adjustment after Regionals.

“I was a very timid player and I would just try to get the ball back, and now I was more on the offensive and just hit my shots,” she said.

At No. 3 singles, St. Mary senior Taylor Kennedy, the top seed, defeated second seed Madelyn Vitu, a junior from Everest Collegiate, 6-1, 6-3.

After losing in the final at No. 3 last year, “I learned to stay steady and always be consistent and don’t try to hit a hard shot and always just stay steady because that’s how you win points,” Kennedy said.

“I learned not to get in my own head. Last year, I would always get mad at myself and get down, but this year I learned just to get the ball in and do my thing and play my game.”

At No. 4 singles, second seed Jenna Sheets, a Grosse Ile senior, defeated St. Mary junior Hannah Hodgson, the top seed, 7-5, 6-1.

Despite being tucked back on Court 4 at the Markin Center, the farthest from the bleachers, Sheets said she had no problem hearing the crowd.

“I think I have a pretty good mental game, but (the crowd) just helps you think about what the reward is if you get through it,” she said.

It was especially rewarding for the senior Saturday.

“In past years, I never made it past the quarterfinals,” she said.

“My mental game has improved. I’m a very relaxed player and never get mad at myself, so I think that’s definitely my strongest thing.”

Click for full results

PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Isabelle Burg lines up to return a volley during a Friday match at No. 2 singles. (Middle) Clarkston Everest Collegiate’s Moorea McNalley prepares to serve on the way to winning the No. 1 singles title this weekend. (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