By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A pair of past contenders are back and will attempt to take down the reigning champions at Saturday’s MHSAA Girls Lacrosse Finals at Grand Ledge High School.
Brighton and Okemos have raised title trophies as well in the past, but will be seeking their first since 2011 and 2010, respectively. The Bulldogs will face five-time reigning champion Rockford in Division 1, while Okemos will look to avenge an earlier loss for the second game in a row in taking on Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in Division 2.
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 Semifinals.
Record/rank: 13-7, No. 6 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association
Coach: Ashton Peters, first season (6-1)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2011, runner-up 2010.
Best wins: 16-14 over No. 7 Bloomfield Hills in Semifinal, 14-9 (Regional Final) and 18-8 over No. 8 Northville, 11-9 over No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer in Regional Semifinal, 16-15 over No. 3 Hartland.
Players to watch: Cameron Stilson, sr. G; Mackenzie Kelbert, sr. A; Jessica Daniels, sr. M; Riley Browne, jr. D; Allison Falk, sr. M, Hannah Kelley, sr. A. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: The Bulldogs have won eight of their last 10 games to reach their first Final since 2011, while weathering a late coaching change that saw Peters promoted after serving as an assistant. Kelley made the all-state first team last season and had five goals in the Semifinal win over Bloomfield Hills. Stilson also is a returning all-state first teamer, while Kelbert made the second team and Daniels, Browne and Falk earned honorable mentions in 2017. Brighton has held opponents to single-digit goals in 12 of 20 games.
Record/rank: 18-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mike Emery, 11th season (198-43-6)
Championship history: Division 1 champions 2010, 2013-17.
Best wins: 25-8 over No. 3 Hartland in Semifinal, 13-6 (Regional Semifinal), 18-3 and 14-10 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United; 15-10 over Division 2 No. 1 East Grand Rapids, 18-8 over Division 2 No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 12-1 and 21-6 over Division 2 No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Brooklyn Neumen, sr. M (70 goals, 28 assists); MeKenzie Vander Molen, sr. A/M (47 goals, 26 assists); Karrington Vander Molen, jr. A/M (28 goals, 4 assists), Sydney Zimmerman, soph. A/M (38 goals, 31 assists); Bailey Banfield, soph. D (1 goal, 1 assist); Isabelle Holmes, jr. A (35 goals, 18 assists).
Outlook: For the second straight season, Rockford’s only losses have come against out-of-state opponents – and a number of this season’s standouts have been part of the sustained success that has the Rams playing for a sixth straight Division 1 title. Neumen and both Vander Molens made the all-state first team last season, while Banfield made the second and Holmes and Zimmerman earned honorable mentions. Senior Maggie Hammer (24 goals, 16 assists) also is back as one of the team’s scoring threats, and freshman Katie Rodriguez (26 goals, 18 assists) looks to be one of the next group of stars.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 16-1-1, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 1
Coach: Evan Foulsham, first season (16-1-1)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2017, runner-up 2015 and 2016.
Best wins: 22-4 (Semifinal) and 22-9 over No. 9 Farmington Hills Mercy, 18-8 (Regional Semifinal), 14-10 and 14-11 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian; 14-10 over No. 3 Okemos, 22-9 over No. 10 Farmington, 11-3 and 21-14 over No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 18-17 over Division 1 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills United.
Players to watch: Isabelle Scane, sr. M (96 goals, 22 assists); Brigitte Ballard, sr. G; Sophia Milia, sr. A (57 goals, 51 assists); Delaney Langdon, sr. M (21 goals, 8 assists); Angelina Wiater, sr. M (17 goals, 11 assists); Jessica Geiger, jr. M (51 goals, 15 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook broke through for its first championship in this sport in 2017 and will make its fourth straight appearance on the final day of the season. The only loss this time was to Division 1 reigning champion Rockford, and the tie came in the first of two meetings with Forest Hills United. Scane is the state’s all-time leading goal scorer with 456, nearly 200 more than the next player on that list, and she’s surrounded by much the same talented cast as a year ago. She and Wiater made the all-state first team last season, while Milia made the second team and Ballard, Langdon and senior defender Courtney Paulus earned honorable mentions. Geiger is over 40 goals for the second straight year.
Record/rank: 19-3, No. 3 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference
Coach: Brandon Schwind, third season (54-14-1)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2009-10, runner-up 2007, 2012 and 2014.
Best wins: 10-9 over No. 1 East Grand Rapids in Semifinal, 9-7 over No. 7 Flint Powers Catholic in Regional opener, 23-13 over No. 5 Mattawan, 14-6 over Division 1 No. 4 Ann Arbor Pioneer, 20-5 over Division 1 No. 6 Brighton, 12-1 and 15-9 over Division 1 No. 7 Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Melaina Grewal, sr. M (69 goals, 20 assists); Emily Renfrew, sr. M (51 goals, 20 assists); Alyssa Karber, sr. A (39 goals, 16 assists); Grace Bielby, sr. M (35 goals, 26 assists); Lola Gonzalez, soph. A (41 goals, 23 assists); Mallory Keenoy, sr. G.
Outlook: After three straight Semifinals losses, the Chiefs have broken through to return to the championship game. Like Cranbrook, Okemos has dominated with mostly the same crew over the last few seasons; Grewal and Keenoy made the all-state first team last season, while Beilby made the second and Karber, Renfrew and defenders Lauren Foltz and Allison Schloss earned honorable mentions. Junior Grace Richardson (35 goals, 23 assists) provides more scoring for a team that went over 20 goals in eight games and lost only to East Grand Rapids early, Cranbrook and Forest Hills United.
PHOTO: Rockford’s Brooklyn Neumen leads a rush during last season’s Division 1 championship game win.