By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Two tremendous streaks will be on the line at this weekend's MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.
Muskegon Mona Shores will play for its fourth-straight Division 2 championship with four girls who were on the first three winning teams. Lansing Catholic will try to make it three straight victories in Division 4, with three girls who finished among the individual top 10 during the first two title runs.
The favorites in Division 1 and 3 are a little tougher to call, with a number of veteran teams expected to contend.
Click for links to Finals qualifiers in all four divisions. See below for some of what to expect at every tournament this weekend, and come back Saturday evening and Sunday for coverage from all four Finals.
Division 1 at Forest Akers East
Three of the top four-ranked teams have never won an MHSAA team championship, and the other – Grosse Pointe South – is the reigning champion after winning for the first time last season. The individual competition should be fierce. Champion Gabby Yurik of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek graduated, but seven of the top 10 from last season are back.
Plymouth: The Wildcats are led by seniors Kelsey Murphy and Sarah Thompson – Murphy finished third last season and made the all-state Super Team, while Thompson was a Division 1 all-state selection. Plymouth has never won an MHSAA team title, but posted a Division 1-best 330 at its Regional and is ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll.
Utica: The Chieftains also are seeking their first MHSAA championship, and enter the weekend ranked No. 2. They’re bolstered by seniors Taylor Clark and Julia Montgomery, both returning all-staters who finished tied for sixth, and eighth, respectively, at last season’s Final.
Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils return two all-staters from last season’s first-ever championship team – juniors Lily Pendy and Tenley Shield – plus senior Hannah Buzolits. Shield tied for sixth at last season’s Final, and Pendy missed tying for the top 10 by two strokes.
Brighton: The Bulldogs have been among favorites all season, keyed by returning all-state Super Team selection Hannah Pietila – who finished fourth individually at last season’s Final as her team placed seventh. Brighton also is seeking its first MHSAA title. Juniors Nicole Meyer and Logan Street and sophomore Jennica Long also played in last season’s tournament.
Other individuals of note: East Kentwood sophomore Sarah White was the individual runner-up last season, only four strokes off the lead. Saline junior Emily White also earned all-state honors and finished fifth individually. Holt junior Pader Her and Davison senior Andrea Richards shot sub-80 Regional rounds last week.
Division 2 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State
Top-ranked Muskegon Mona Shores can become the first Lower Peninsula girls golf team to win four straight MHSAA championships. The usual contenders will push, however, including Battle Creek Lakeview and Birmingham Seaholm. Six of the top seven individuals from last season are back, including reigning champion Elle Nichols of Okemos.
Mona Shores: Four seniors who have played on all three championship teams – Morgan Smith, Hailey Hrynewich, Britni Gielow and Kelsey McKinley – stand a strong chance at making it four straight. They shot a team-record 296 at the Meadows earlier this season. Smith finished third and Hrynewich tied for fifth individually at last season’s Final.
Okemos: The second-ranked Chieftains didn’t make the Finals as a team last season, and have never won an MHSAA title. But they’re led by reigning champion Nichols, a junior, and bolstered by seniors Marie Lazar, Ryleigh Gordon, Katy Hollis and Sydney Williams. All four seniors finished among the top 23 at the Regional; Nichols was first, with Lazar fourth and Williams ninth.
Battle Creek Lakeview: The Spartans are frequent contenders, with recent runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2009, and are ranked No. 3. Senior Danielle Little made all-state last season, and teammates Sarah Vocke, Amanda Noakes and Alex Popovich also are back after helping the team tie for fourth in 2011.
Birmingham Seaholm: Three standouts return from the team that finished runner-up at the 2011 Final, and it added freshman Jordan Michalak – who beat junior teammate Megan Lam in a tie-breaker for the individual Regional championship. Lam earned all-state honorable mention last season, and junior Riley Miller and sophomore Jamie Green also played big parts on the runner-up team.
Others individuals of note: East Lansing senior Kristyn Crippen finished runner-up at last season’s Final and to Nichols again at last week’s Regional. Portage Central senior Jessica Heimonen is back as an individual qualifier after tying for fifth last season, and Traverse City Central senior Courtney Dye should also be in contention again after tying for seventh in 2011.
Division 3 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
The top two ranked teams have won the last two MHSAA championships – No. 1 Ada Forest Hills Eastern finished first in 2010, and No. 2 Grosse Ile took home the title last season. Past champions Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and Grand Rapids South Christian also should be in the mix, as should Detroit Country Day – which is seeking its first MHSAA title. The individual standings will show some significant change from last season, as only three of the top 10 are back.
Ada Forest Hills Eastern: The Hawks return three players from last season’s team that finished fourth at MSU’s Forest Akers West. Senior Jordan Duvall finished third individually in making all-state, while sophomore Henna Singh and senior Anne Parlmer rounded out the team’s top three in 2011. They’re joined by two more seniors this fall.
Grosse Ile: The Red Devils are looking to repeat, and also finished Division 4 runner-up in 2010 and Division 4 champion in 2009. They graduated two players who earned all-state recognition last season, but have three more back who were part of last season’s lineup and finished among the top 13 at a tough Regional – senior Marissa Piunti and juniors Katherine Kuzmiak and Emily Bagardi.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood: The Cranes are looking to climb from 10th last season to their first MHSAA title since 2001, but are ranked No. 3 and coming off a Regional win over Grosse Ile and No. 4 Detroit Country Day. Four starters from last season’s Final are back in the top five, led by junior Greer Clausen – who tied for 10th individually last season – and sophomore Cordelia Chan, the Regional runner-up.
Detroit Country Day: The Yellow Jackets put three players among the top nine and four among the top 16 at the Regional at New Boston’s Willow Metropark, a great sign as they pursue their first MHSAA title. Three players are back from last season’s seventh-place team, and senior Piumi Jayatilake and junior Ellie Miller tied for fifth at the Regional.
Other individuals of note: Linden senior Julie Guckian finished sixth last season and is back as an individual qualifier. Dearborn Divine Child senior Natalie Blazo missed the top 10 last season by nine strokes, but her 75 last week was the lowest Regional score anywhere in Division 3.
Division 4 at Forest Akers West
Lansing Catholic has cruised to the last two Division 4 championships, and is the only team ranked among the top five that owns a title. The Cougars have beaten many of the much larger powers this season, with only Division 1 No. 1 Plymouth a consistent nemesis among those they’ve faced. Some of the state’s top individuals also are in Division 4, with eight of the 12 who finished among the top 10 (with ties) last season back this fall.
The Cougars are paced by junior Jacqueline Setas and seniors Danielle Crilley and Janie Fineis, top 10 individual finishers at the last two Division 4 Finals. Crilley finished third both times. Lansing Catholic’s Regional score of 339 was the best in Division 4 by 15 strokes.
Hanover-Horton: This group of Comets got a taste of the postseason in finishing 10th last season, and returned all five players this fall including all-state honorable mention junior Megan Klintworth. She won the Regional at Cascades in Jackson as No. 2 Hanover-Horton won the team title by 31 strokes over the likes of No. 6 Jackson Lumen Christi and No. 7 Hillsdale Academy.
Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central: Hackett has finished sixth, seventh and third the last three seasons, respectively, and is ranked No. 3 as it also seeks its first MHSAA championship. Four of the five from last season’s team are back, keyed by senior Abby Radomsky, who missed the individual top 10 by five strokes last season. She finished third at her Regional as all five Fighting Irish placed among the top 18 at Kalamazoo’s Milham Park.
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian: The No. 4 Mustangs appear poised for a move up after edging Hackett by a stroke at the Regional and putting three players among the top six individuals. Junior Monica Koert finished second individually at last season’s Final after falling in a one-hole playoff for first place. She and senior Mallory Antor, the Regional runner-up last week, are the only players back in the lineup from last season’s eighth-place team.
Other individuals of note: Muskegon Catholic Central senior Aya Johnson tied with Crilley and Setas for third last season and is considered among the elite regardless of division. Frankenmuth senior Kaitlyn Watkins was eighth in 2011, and Farwell sophomore Bria Colosky and Ann Arbor Greenhills senior Annie Aldrich were among three who tied for 10th. Hillsdale Academy senior Elyse Lisznyia could break into the mix after shooting a 79 at her Regional last week.
PHOTO: Plymouth's Kelsey Murphy lines up a putt during the second day of last season's Division 1 Final. She finished third and should contend again this weekend.