By BUTCH HARMON
The sport of lacrosse continues to gather momentum across Michigan. Numbers of individuals and teams involved in the sport continue to grow for both boys and girls.
A number of local teams have been improving their programs, and the sport is no longer dominated by high schools in Southeast Michigan.
Following is a look at boys’ and girls’ lacrosse in the state in Division 1 and 2.
BOYS’ DIVISION 1
When it comes to boys’ lacrosse in the state of Michigan, few teams can compare to the history of Brother Rice. The Warriors have dominated lacrosse in the state and have another solid team this season. Although Brother Rice suffered some major graduation losses, it has another wave of talent ready to step up. Sergio Perkovic leads the way this season. One of the most talented players in the state, he scored 60 goals last season and has committed to play college lacrosse for the University of Notre Dame.
Clarkston lost to Brother Rice in the regional semifinals last season, and the Wolves have a solid team this season that will again give the Warriors a major challenge.
The combined team from Midland and Midland Dow began the season with some strong wins. Junior Evan Loftis is one of the offensive leaders, while Britt Brillhart and Tanner Dimment have also been key contributors.
Heritage is paced by Matthew Wilson on offense. The Hawks look to be an improved team this season.
Rockford has a young and improving squad. Senior Kento Nakano and junior Kane Wolfer are a pair of attackers who earned all-state honors last season. Senior Caleb Cuneo is a returning long stick who also gained all-state mention.
Holt has a number of key players back from a team that went 18-2 last season. Junior attacker Paulie Schalau is a talented offensive player who has committed to play college lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts. Senior midfielder Erick Sundstrom earned all-state honors last season and will be joined in the midfield by fellow senior Mark Hildenbrand, who was an all-conference player. The Rams also feature a solid defense anchored by senior goalkeeper Abe Flores and junior defender Connor Butch.
BOYS’ DIVISION 2
Forest Hills Central has been the team to beat in Division 2 the past few years. The Rangers defeated Detroit Country Day for last year’s Division 2 title and have won two out of the last three D2 state titles. The Rangers were hit hard by graduation but still return plenty of talent. Chris Bosscher and Collin Schlosser lead the way. Both were named not only all-state last season but also all-American.
The combined Haslett/Williamston team is one of the top squads in the Lansing area. Senior Aaron Baetz is a returning all-conference player who will anchor the defense. Junior Noah Taylor earned honorable-mention all-state honors a year ago and anchors the offense, while Zach Hubbell is a talented midfield player back in the fold.
East Lansing has a veteran team that is led by one of the top goaltenders in the area in Kevin Murphy. Murphy earned all-conference and all-district honors last year.
DeWitt lost some key players to graduation. The Panthers will build this year’s squad around senior defender Austin Calkins and senior midfield player Tyler Ellsworth. A talented young player to watch is sophomore Drew Zamiara.
Powers Catholic is paced on offense by Dominic Hamper. Hamper leads the Chargers in scoring this season and was an all-state player last spring. Midfielder Nick Racine is second on the team in scoring, while Joe Slater is a solid specialist who excels at winning face-offs. The Chargers are also solid in goal with Kevin Byrne.
GIRLS’ DIVISION 1
Rockford and Hartland have been ranked in the top three in the state for most of the season and will be the teams to beat in Division 1.
Rockford features a solid offense led by senior midfielder Erika Neumen. A first-team all-state selection last season, she has totaled 45 goals and 19 assists in 15 games for the Rams this season. Alex Vander Molen is also off to a strong start, as she has totaled 32 goals in the first 15 games this season. Junior midfielder Meghan Datema also returns after earning honorable-mention all-state honors last season. She has totaled 24 goals in 15 games this spring. The Rams also feature a solid defense led by goalkeeper Katie Elwell, while senior Kendal Carr is a returning defender who earned second-team all-state honors last year.
Hartland also features a high-powered offense. The Eagles are led by senior midfielder Ryan Skomial, who earned first-team all-state honors a year ago. They also return a standout goalkeeper in senior Tabitha Ferguson, who earned honorable-mention all-conference honors last season.
GIRLS’ DIVISION 2
East Grand Rapids defeated Okemos for last year’s sate title in Division 2, and the two lacrosse powers are back as strong as ever.
East Grand Rapids features a strong defense and has some outstanding offensive players returning. Eleven seniors return from a team that compiled a perfect 28-0 record enroute to the state title last year.
Senior Claire Ludlow, a returning first-team all-state selection, is back to lead the offense after finishing second in scoring last season. The Pioneers also return a standout goalkeeper in Kristy Allen, who is a three-year starter. The top four defensive players, as well as the starting midfield, all return this year.
East Grand Rapids defeated Okemos 6-2 earlier this season in a defensive struggle.
Okemos has one of the premier defensive teams in the state this season. The Chieftains return junior goalkeeper Katie Johnson ,who eared first-team all-state honors last year. The defense also welcomes back junior defender Courtney Humphrey, who also earned all-state honors. The team features a potent attack, led by senior Olivia Sherman who earned all-state honors last season, and senior Bobbie Hall, who is coming back from an injury. Senior midfielder Alex King is another returning player who earned all-state honors last season.
The combined team from Williamston and Haslett continues its improvement. Earlier this season, it gave rival Okemos all it could handle before dropping a 7-6 decision. Williamston/Haslett is paced by senior midfielder Sierra Bain, who earned first-team all-state honors last year, and senior midfielder Jenna Oberski, who earned second-team all-state honors.
In the Flint area, Powers Catholic has a solid team this spring. The Chargers are paced by senior midfielders Darbie Barkman and Courtney Rosol, who both earned honorable-mention all-state honors.