By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the second straight season, the best of Oakland County will try to wrest away the MHSAA girls lacrosse championships from the best of Kent County when Division 1 and 2 Finals are played Saturday at Brighton High School.
Rockford has won the last three Division 1 titles and East Grand Rapids has won the last four in Division 2. But the challengers have plenty of prestige as well; Birmingham United is tied with Rockford for most titles in Division 1 history with four, and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood faced the Pioneers in the Division 2 championship game only a year ago.
The Division 1 Final will be played at 2 p.m., followed by Division 2 at 4:30. Both will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, available with subscription, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information, including all tournament results.
Below is a look at all four contenders, with player statistics through Regional Finals.
Record/rank: 14-6, No. 3 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association
Coach: Jen Dunbar, 14th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2012).
Best wins: 13-9 and 19-8 (Regional Final) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills, 15-11 and 17-9 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 7 Grosse Pointe South, 7-6 over Division 2 No. 4 Okemos, 10-6 over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Anna Stachler, sr. A (72 goals); Danielle Augier, jr. A/M (55 goals).
Outlook: Birmingham is back in an MHSAA Final for the first time since 2012, with only two of its losses this season to Michigan teams and two defeats by only a goal apiece. The lineup includes eight seniors, and Stachler had seven more goals in Wednesday’s Semifinal win to give her 79 this season; that total is tied for 16th most for one season in MHSAA history.
Record/rank: 19-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mike Emery, ninth season (160-39-6)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2015)
Best wins: 13-8, 15-9 and 9-8 (Regional Final) over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United; 9-3 over Division 2 No. 1 East Grand Rapids, 19-10 over Division 2 No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Alexandra Vandermolen, sr. M (45 goals, 34 assists); MeKenzie Vandermolen, soph. M (37 goals, 24 assists); Grace Gunneson, sr. A (43 goals, 30 assists).
Outlook: The Rams have won three straight Division 1 championships, and standouts Alexandra Vandermolen and Grace Gunneson are two of only six seniors. The only losses this spring were by a goal to East Grand Rapids (since avenged) and by two to Illinois powerhouse Loyola Academy. Rockford also owns a pair of wins over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central (15-2 and 16-5) and another over Division 2 No. 4 Okemos (13-5).
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 17-6, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 1
Coach: Greg Courter, second season (35-10)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015.
Best wins: 11-5 and 9-6 over No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 15-10 over Division 1 No. 3 Birmingham United, 17-9 over Division No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 21-11 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Grace Giampetroni, sr. M (52 goals, 52 assists); Isabelle Scane, soph. M (115 goals, 26 assists); Brigitte Ballard, soph. G (8.31 goals-against average).
Outlook: After making their first championship game appearance just a year ago, the Cranes are back. Scane had six more goals in the Semifinal win over Farmington Hills Mercy, and her 121 overall rank second in MHSAA history for one season. Cranbrook Kingswood has outscored its four postseason opponents by an incredible combined score of 88-20, and that group of opponents included No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart and No. 10 Detroit Country Day.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 16-4, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rich Axtell, seventh season (136-21)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 14-7 over No. 4 Okemos in the Semifinal, 9-8 and 15-12 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 8-7, 12-7 and 11-9 (Regional Final) over No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central; 11-10 over Division 1 No. 1 Rockford, 14-2 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United.
Players to watch: Lindsay Duca, jr. A (22 goals, 66 assists); Auden Elliott, jr. M (59 goals, 10 assists); Audrey Whiteside, fr. M (55 goals, 10 assists)
Outlook: So much for rebuilding. The four-time reigning champions graduated a strong group after last season’s title but have stormed back with help from a freshman phenom in Whiteside. Duca had six more assists in the Semifinal, and 72 would put her fifth all-time for a single season. The Pioneers’ only in-state losses were in rematches to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford and Forest Hills United; they also have two wins over Division 2 No. 6 Caledonia and one apiece over Division 1 No. 3 Birmingham United and No. 5. Bloomfield Hills.
PHOTO: Cranbrook Kingswood goalie Brigitte Ballard gathers a shot while a pair of East Grand Rapids players circle the net during last season's Division 2 Final.