By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Every championship effort is not created equal.
The last two seasons, Lansing Catholic cruised to MHSAA Finals wins of 38 and 63 strokes, respectively. In 2010, the Cougars placed all five players among the top eight individuals, and last year they put four among the top 10.
But only three of those high placers remained this season. And that made Saturday’s third-straight Division 4 title special for additional reasons.
Lansing Catholic shot a two-day 658 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West to finish 64 strokes ahead of runner-up Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central. Those three players again placed among the top 10 – junior Jacqueline Setas second, senior Janie Fineis third and senior Dani Crilley tied for fourth. Lansing Catholic also got a score each from fourth player Mary Beth Maddalena and fifth player Lauren Burnett, both juniors.
“Last year, we had four players who could all shoot in the 70s. This year, we had to have a (number) four that really needed to work hard and count her score,” Setas said. “That made (winning) a lot more special.
“We just had to make sure they worked hard day in and day out. I just like to have fun at practice, (so) it was just easy.”
After dominating the last two regular seasons as well, Lansing Catholic loaded its schedule this fall with tough opponents from every division – and nearly dominated in the same fashion.
Only Division 1 champion Plymouth and 2011 Division 1 champion Grosse Pointe South finished ahead of the Cougars in events this season.
Lansing Catholic led by 37 strokes after Friday's round, but that didn't allow coach Mary Schafer any relief. Only at the end did it come pouring out.
“I’m not a crier, believe it or not, but something just took over,” a tearful Schafer said. “It’s very tough to be the target of everybody.
“I think I was pacing out there at 17. I think I wore a line into the mud. And then with the playoff, I thought it was one of the longest 18 holes I’ve ever had.”
Before the Cougars could claim that third MHSAA team trophy, their best had to play one more hole.
Setas and Muskegon Catholic Central senior Aya Johnson both shot 153 over the two rounds, Johnson with a 73 after firing an 80 on Friday. The two close friends and frequent summer opponents had to face off once more in a sudden-death tie-breaker.
Both hit their drives off West’s No. 1 into a group of trees on the right. But Johnson’s shot found a friendlier tree, and she ended up with a clean approach that she finished for par. Setas ended with a bogey and finished second.
“I was really nervous because I had a playoff hole sophomore year too, and I totally blew it,” said Johnson, who fell in a playoff to Caro’s Bailey Cockerill at the 2010 Final. “I hit my tee shot right and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, now I have to punch out.’ But I guess I hit a tree and it ended up in the middle of the fairway, so that was kinda good.
"I was excited because I had a tough day (Friday) and I needed to come back, and I did.”
Frankenmuth senior Kaitlyn Watkins, first individually after Friday’s round, finished tied with Crilley for fourth. Hackett junior Abby Jasiak shot a 180 to miss the top 10 by four strokes, and senior Abby Radomsky missed by six. But all five of the Fighting Irish shot 198 or lower for the tournament, and that balance allowed them to edge third-place Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian by three strokes.
All three top finishers graduate top players and significant chunks of their line-ups. But Setas didn’t take more than a few minutes to start thinking ahead to 2013.
“Three straight, it’s great, but I want to win one more if possible,” Setas said. “It’ll be hard because we’ll have a ton of new people from the junior varsity. But we’ll overcome it, hopefully.”
Also of note, Imlay City's Hannah Campbell scored a hole-in-one on No. 7. An individual qualifier, she finished the tournament with a two-day 216.
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PHOTO: (Top) Lansing Catholic's Jacqueline Setas (left) and Kalamazoo Hackett's Abby Radomsky line up a putt during Saturday's final round. The Cougars finished first and the Fighting Irish runner-up. (Middle) Muskegon Catholic Central's Aya Johnson finished as the individual champion after defeating Setas in a one-hole tie-breaker. (Below) Hannah Campbell views her scorecard, which includes a notation for her hole-in-one. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)