Senior-Powered Ishpeming Follows Doubles Dominance to 1st Finals Win

By Jason Juno
Special for

October 5, 2023

KINGSFORD – Ishpeming coach Kaitlin Rich said she had a call to make after Wednesday’s Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals. 

The school never needed a girls tennis banner before, but they do now.

The Hematites won their first U.P. title Wednesday at Kingsford, edging West Iron County 19-18 on a warm, windy day in Dickinson County.

It’s been their goal since finishing runner-up to Iron Mountain last year. Rich was reminded of that earlier this week in her Facebook memories – her team of mostly seniors were juniors then, and their goal was, “U.P. ’23.”

“They set that goal, and they crushed it,” Rich said. “They showed up every day. They worked hard.”

Munising was third with seven points. Gwinn, Iron Mountain, Ironwood and Norway all had three.

West Iron County's Aubrey Bice won No. 1 singles.After the longest event of the day finally wrapped up, the Ishpeming players went to the scoring area and confirmed their victory. They celebrated with their trophy and looked forward to their fire truck escort into Ishpeming later that evening.

Ten of the 12 Ishpeming players were seniors. One of the two sophomores is Rich’s sister.

“I have been connected to these seniors since I taught them in third grade, and as a coach, there’s not a greater moment that I think I’ve had or will ever have than this moment right now,” Rich said. “These girls work so hard every day. Most of them dual sport. They are the definition of athlete: They have commitment to each other, they have true grit and there’s nothing that will top this day for me as a coach – going forward, in the past, nothing.”

West Iron County, which won all four singles flights, came up just short of a first U.P. title since 2020.

“Overall a very good day for the team,” WIC coach Jen Schive said. “They are a team of seniors, so we were coming out and we were ready to compete against them. I think the girls overall did pretty well this year. I’m excited for next year because I have a good group of incoming juniors.”

Ishpeming won on the strength of its doubles teams, all four of which won Wednesday.

Addison Morton and Payton Manninen defeated West Iron County’s Destiny Lemery and Olivia LaMay 6-2, 6-0 in the No. 1 doubles final.

The No. 1 seeds started slow in their semifinal win over Ironwood after a first-round bye. They had to wait again to play the final, and they overcame a slow start once again.

“But we were able to bring the energy and play how we know we can play,” Morton said. “It was really good to be able to take the championship.”

She said the team title was “really important for us,” with all the seniors they had this season.

Rich said it’d be hard to find a more athletic doubles team than her No. 1 pair.

“They are just so athletic,” she said. “And I’ll tell you, those two have a fire in them that you can’t coach and they are just mentally tough.”

Ishpeming’s No. 2 doubles team of Jenna Maki and Emma LaFave defeated West Iron’s Aubrey Richardson and Kaycee Ingram 6-2, 6-0.

“I think this is the best me and Emma have ever played together,” Maki said. “We were pretty nervous going into it. Last time we played, we played about two weeks ago in Ishpeming, and it was tiebreaker each set, so we thought it was going to be a lot more of a challenge. But we played really great and swept them.”

They complement each other well, Rich said. 

“Jenna Maki is just a beast at the net and Emma has just beautiful placement. She can get the other team running. She sees the gaps and hits them all the time,” Rich said.

The No. 3 duo of Ciara Schaffer and Kadie Kaukola downed Munising’s Tessa Salo and Emmy Crisp 6-1, 6-4.

 “It feels really good to finally see our work pay off, all the practice we’ve put in, and also being our senior year, getting the title,” Kaukola said. 

They work well together also, Rich said.

“The growth they’ve shown from the beginning of the season to now is just amazing,” she said. “And I’ll tell you, Katie Kaukola is just an athlete and she can get to any ball on that court. Ciara is a competitor, and she loves the game more than anybody.”

Gwinn's Miaha Schiefel finished runner-up at No. 1 singles. Rich’s sister, Ava Jo Hares, and Kaitlyn VanDeuren defeated Munising’s Tamryn Nolan and Lauren Nelson 6-2, 6-0, for the No. 4 doubles win. Hares said they did well battling the strong wind.

They’d lost only to Negaunee in what was a dominant season.

“They again are very well-balanced,” Rich said. “Kaitlyn is phenomenal at the net. She’s very intimidating up there. She’s very tall, and she gets a lot of the balls down. And then Ava hustles and she has very good placement and she also has a really good serve, especially for a sophomore.”

West Iron County swept the singles championships.

The Wykons’ Aubrey Bice defeated Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in No. 1 singles.

“It shows me that all my hard work finally paid off and at least I can go out with a bang in my last year,” Bice said.

Coach Schive said Bice is a phenomenal player.

“She’s a very focused player; she is a true No. 1,” Schive said. “I am glad that she won today, she fully deserves it. She’s been fighting all season and working every little bit, everything that she knows that she needs to win.”

Seanna Stine swept Ishpeming’s Emily DeMarois 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.

“I stayed confident, and I hit well,” Stine said. 

Schive said Stine showed her senior athleticism all season.

“She hits the ball well, and she strives to really work on her placement as a strategy,” she said. 

Kaitlyn Smith took No. 3 singles 6-3, 6-1, over Ishpeming’s Lilly Swanson.

“What a competitor,” Schive said. “All year long, she strives to do well, she works and puts a lot of time in. You can see it paid off today.”

Erin Kolbas defeated Ishpeming’s Lilly Ryan 6-1, 6-0, at No. 4 singles. It was the final match of the day and all of the remaining players were able to watch.

“At first it was just me and the other team, and my team wasn’t over there. I was a little bit worried, I was scared. But then my team came over and they were cheering me on, so I felt a lot better,” Kolbas said. “I genuinely didn’t expect to get this far because this is my first year.”

Schieve said the sophomore has improved “leaps and bounds” this year.

“She has put her time in,” Schive said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Ishpeming's Emily DeMarois finished second at No. 2 singles at Wednesday's UP Division 2 Finals in Kingsford. (Middle) West Iron County's Aubrey Bice won No. 1 singles. (Below) Gwinn's Miaha Schiefel finished runner-up at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Jason Juno.)

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