By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There appears to be a pattern forming here.
For the second straight season, Rockford and East Grand Rapids from the west and Birmingham United and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood from the east will converge to decide the MHSAA girls lacrosse championships, this season at Brighton High School.
The Division 2 Final will be played at 2 p.m., followed by Division 1 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: 12-9, No. 5 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association
Coach: Jen Dunbar, 15th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Four Division 1 titles (most recent 2012), runner-up 2016.
Best wins: 11-9 (OT) over No. 3 Hartland in a Semifinal, 15-14 (OT) over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills in a Regional Final, 15-8 over No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 14-13 over No. 7 Brighton, 14-13 over Division 2 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Marian.
Player to watch: Danielle Augier, sr. A/M; Grace Fischer, sr. D; Grace Murray, sr. A (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: The reigning Division 1 runner-up is looking to reverse last season’s 12-9 championship game loss to Rockford. Birmingham opened this season with three wins and then six straight losses; it’s currently on a 9-3 run and avenged one of those recent defeats by beating Bloomfield Hills to win the Regional. Augier was a star last season as well.
Record/rank: 19-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mike Emery, 10th season (180-41-6)
Championship history: Division 1 champions 2010, 2013-16.
Best wins: 22-4 over No. 6 Northville in a Semifinal, 12-8 (Regional Final), 12-6 and 15-3 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 26-1 over No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 17-2 and 25-6 over Division 2 No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 18-1 and 22-3 over Division 2 No. 6 Caledonia, 20-6 over Division 2 No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 18-8 and 17-7 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 16-6 and 20-7 over Division 2 No. 3 East Grand Rapids.
Players to watch: Brooklyn Neumen, jr. M (64 goals, 43 assists); MeKenzie VanderMolen, jr. M (47 goals, 29 assists); Karrington VanderMolen, soph. M (74 goals, 12 assists), Sydney Zimmerman, fr. A/M (53 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: The Rams have won four straight Division 1 championships and continue to add big-time scorers to a dominating roster. In addition to those mentioned above, sophomore attack Isabelle Holmes had 24 goals and 42 assists and junior attack/mid Margaret Hammer had 28 goals and 15 assists entering this week. The two losses came against teams from out of state, the first by only a goal.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 22-5, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 1
Coach: Greg Courter, third season (57-16)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015 and 2016.
Best wins: 21-14 and 19-7 (Pre-Regional) over No. 10 Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, 21-14, 19-9 and 19-7 (Regional Final) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Marian; 16-9, 11-5 and 14-8 (Semifinal) over Okemos; 23-9 over Division 1 No. 5 Birmingham United, 11-5 and 15-14 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 18-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 19-5 over Division 1 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Isabelle Scane, jr. M (137 goals, 35 assists); Brigitte Ballard, jr. G (8.24 goals-against average); Sophia Milia, jr. A (80 goals, 55 assists); Delaney Langdon, jr. M (55 goals, 25 assists).
Outlook: This will be the Cranes’ third straight MHSAA Final, and they’ve played all the contenders to prepare for this point – including taking an early 8-6 loss to East Grand Rapids. The only other in-state defeat came to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. Scane added three more goals in the Semifinal, and her 140 this season are the second most in MHSAA history. Adding firepower are sophomore attack Jessica Geiger (45 goals, 13 assists), junior attack Olive Stevens (28 goals, 19 assists) and junior defense Georgia Hinnant (28 goals, 11 assists).
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 3 at end of regular season
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rich Axtell, eighth season (156-27)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2012-16.
Best wins: 19-17 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Regional Final, 8-6 over No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 18-3 and 13-10 over No. 6 Caledonia, 17-6 and 17-4 over No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 20-6 over Division 1 No. 8 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 14-3 over Division 1 No. 5 Birmingham United, 12-6 and 10-9 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United, 11-9 over Division 1 No. 3 Hartland, 18-11 over Division 1 No. 7 Brighton.
Players to watch: Lindsay Duca, sr. A (15 goals, 52 assists); Mary Schumar, soph. A (71 goals, 30 assists); Rebecca Scobell, sr. G (7.50 goals-against average); Audrey Whiteside, soph. M (87 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: The Pioneers made their way back to the final day of the season in part by avenging a regular-season loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Regional Final. The only other in-state losses were twice to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. Duca was a star last season as well and distributes to a number of talented scorers; sophomore mid Olivia Brown adds 33 goals and senior mid Emily Roth 28 as 10 players total had at least 10 goals entering the week.
PHOTO: East Grand Rapids’ Madison Micho (12) and Cranbrook Kingswood’s Isabelle Scane battle for possession during last season’s Division 2 Final.