BY DAN STICKRADT
BRIGHTON — Rockford wasn’t always this good in girls lacrosse. It took a few years to reach the pinnacle.
Now, the Rams are firmly planted on top.
Rockford captured its fourth straight Division 1 state title June 11 at Brighton High School, topping Birmingham United, 12-9. The win marked the Rams’ fifth state title in seven sevens, while the program has reached the Final Four seven straight times.
Since the MHSAA adopted the state tournament in 2005, Rockford now has the most D-1 state titles with five, followed by four from Birmingham United, two by Grosse Pointe South and one by Brighton.
The lacrosse program is less than 15 years old.
“We never really had a winning record before 2008 when I took over,” said coach Mike Emery. “There was a club team for a few years and a varsity for one year before I took over. So I would say that we have come a long ways as a program.”
Rockford, which will host a University of North Carolina satellite camp this July for the entire state of Michigan in efforts to continue to grow the sport, has pumped out plenty of talent through its well-nourished pipeline in recent years. This year’s unit included two All-Americans, four MHSGLCA All-State First Team honorees, one All-State Second Team selection and two more players that garnered All-State Honorable Mention status.
Brooklyn Newman (North Carolina) and Alex VanderMolen (Ohio State) are the two All-America selections for Rockford, which finished the campaign 20-2.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group. It is not easy defending a state title, but they worked hard all season and had an outstanding season,” said Emery, whose team finished the campaign ranked third in the Midwest. “We lost to East Grand Rapids by a goal early in the season, then came back and beat them 9-3 later in the season. Our only other loss came against (Chicago) Loyola Academy (Illinois) and that game was 12-10 and was called due to bad weather. We were really coming at them when the game was called.”
Rockford saw six starters graduate in June, but there is plenty of talent in the program returning next year and no reason to believe that the Rams will fall away from the group of contenders in 2017.
“We started three freshmen and three sophomores in the championship, and we have some other nice players coming up,” noted Emery. “I truly believe that we will be one of the top teams again next year. I’m excited for that.”
The mark of a quality program.