By John Raffel
No more fall girls basketball in Michigan.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week declined a request from the Michigan High School Athletic Association to hear its appeal of lower court rulings that said the MHSAA's season alignment discriminated against women.
The nine-year-old legal battle the MHSAA has had with Communities for Equity, a Grand Rapids-based group, has ended and it means that starting with the 2007-08 season, the 33-year-old format of girls basketball in the fall and volleyball in the winter will flip flop.
Also, the golf season changes, meaning the girls teams will play in the fall - when August and September weather is better than in the spring during April and May. The boys will now play in the spring.
Boys tennis will move to the fall and girls to the spring.
Michigan administrators and most girls basketball coaches opposed the move, arguing that the females were able to have the spotlight all to themelves in the fall, and now will go head-to-head in the winter with the boys for gym space and media attention.
Supporters of the move said having basketball and volleyball in nontraditional seasons for the girls hurt their prospects of getting scholarships for college sports. The other side argued that college coaches could recruit in Michigan during their own offseason.
College basketball coaches, for example, could spend plenty of time in September and October watching Michigan hoops stars in action.
"As an administrator, we'll now have a serious crimp in facilities," said Jeff Bauer, athletic director of Howard City-Tri County, located near Grand Rapids. "With volleyball, we could use auxiliary facilities for practices. With basketball, you'll have three teams for high school boys and three teams for high schools girls who will need to use the gym."
Jen Drumm of Stanton-Central Montcalm, is likely an All-State candidate next year in both basketball and volleyball.
"I'll be doing AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) volleyball in the spring and beach volleyball in the summer," Drumm said. "So I'm excited about having volleyball in the fall. That's my favorite sport.
"But some of the girls who concentrate on basketball may not come out for volleyball like they did in the past."
Orchard Lake St. Mary's finished the regular season with a 9-9-5 record, not bad, but not good enough to make them a favorite going into the postseason.
Despite the so-so record, the Eagles rolled through the playoffs, beating Redford Union 4-1, Livonia Stevenson 4-3, and Royal Oak Kimball 5-2 in the regionals. They followed that up with a win over Northville 4-1 in the quarterfinals, East Kentwood 1-0 in overtime in the semifinals, and Marquette from the Upper Peninsula 4-2 in the championship game last month.
"There was no key to it," said St. Mary's coach Brian Klanow. "The team played well all year long. We had eight of our nine losses by one goal. That tells me that we're right there. We had trouble at the beginning of the season breaking out of our zone. We clamped down on that and that led to success in the playoffs. We were confident of doing well in the playoffs. We knew we had the ability to go all the way.
"We played well offensively and defensively. We had good unity. As a group, we didn't look at our win-loss record. We knew if we'd played the way we were capable of and made a few changes, we'd end up on top."
Bill Balent was the leading scorer for St. Mary's, which netted its first ever hockey state title.
"We always look to be competitive every year," Klanow said. "It's nothing different for next season. We'll be a young team. But we'll be strong and competitive."
Vicky Groat's Battle Creek St. Phillip team has been on both ends of a Class D state title match. Her team won in 2005, lost the title in 2006 but won the finals this year. She obviously likes being on the winning side.
In fact, prior to winning in 2005, St. Phillips had been in the title match 2002, 2003 and 2004, but lost each time. But after beating Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian 25-17, 25-14, 25-15, Groat now has a 2-4 record in the title match.
"I coached here for two years, then left, not thinking I'd be back, Groat said. "But I came back several years ago."
Groat expected to be a state contender again this season.
"I had a great returning class," Groat said. "I only lost two players to graduation from the 2006 team. I had four starters who had played for me on the varsity since they were freshmen. I had high expectations for them. We were more well-rounded than we've been in the past. I told them to remember last year.They responded. Our defense was the best I've seen."
St. Phillip wound up with a 70-5-1 record, a school record for wins. Middle hitter Allison Doyle, a finalist for Miss Volleyball honors in Michigan, was among St. Phillips' top players and will be playing Division I volleyball for Western Michigan University. Amanda Horton, another senior, was outstanding at setter and Laura Toth got the job done at outside hitter.
"I lose six seniors and six will be returning," Groat said. "I don't think we'll see 70 wins (again next year). But I expect them to have a good season."
Addison was 39-3 this season in Division 4 wrestling action under Rick Sherry who had to put together one of his best coaching jobs ever to take the title.
"This team had a lot overcome against us during the season," Sherry said. "A couple of guys dropped weight classes and that really helped us.
"Last year's team had 12 guys with more than 40 wins."
The team had one state champion in the individual tournament with senior heavyweight Wes Schroeder.
Other standout wrestlers were Corey Kratze at 152 pounds, Chet Green at 171, Nate Elston at 125 and Tom Schneider at 189.
As for his team's prospects next year, "We're losing six really strong seniors. That really makes it a challenge for us."