MWPA Quarterfinal Preview of Birmingham Seaholm vs. East Grand Rapids
A quarterfinal of two teams looking to make some serious history will kick off the 2021 Girls MWPA State Tournament at East Kentwood when the top ranked and unbeaten East Grand Rapids Pioneers take on the ninth ranked Birmingham Seaholm Maples.
Meet the first seeded Pioneers
Prior Match-Ups: EGR leads series 1-0 (20-2, May 8 @ Ann Arbor Pioneer)
This Year: District 2, OK Conference, and West Regional Champions
Head Coach: Justin Hulsebus (Co-West Coach of the Year)
Award Winners (Below)
Claire Witting -West Region MVP (Season & Tournament)
Kamryn Kerr - First Team All-Region
Annika Lampen (G) - All-Region Tournament Second Team, All-West Region HM
Anna Milnes - All-Region Tournament First Team, All-West Region HM
Barbara Bart - All-Region Tournament HM
Plain and simple, the Pioneers are on a mission for their first State Championship since 2005. They've run through the state unblemished (23-0) and should they win the whole thing, it would need to be a perfect 26-0. They beat out three-time defending state champion Hudsonville by a goal in the regular season and later by three in the West Regional Championship on the road.
“After losing an entire season of preparation, team bonding, learning and fun it is amazing to have the opportunity to compete at the State Tournament," Head Coach Justin Hulsebus said. "We’ve been a team together for 5 years now [citing their middle school experience together] and it means the world to h ave this opportunity to compete and to be playing at the level we are.”
On his match-up, Hulsebus congratulated the Maples on making what is their first ever appearance.
"I want to congratulate them on making their first ever State Tournament, it's good for the growth of the sport when more teams get to experience it."
The Pioneers are balanced and experienced. As often cited, the bulk of the roster were sophomores when they went to the State Tournament two years ago.
One of the more tested teams in the state, the Pioneers are not only perfect, but 13-0 against top ten teams, the most victories by anyone against top ten teams in the MWPA.
Meet the fourth seeded Maples
Prior Match-Ups: EGR leads series 1-0 (2-20, May 8 @ Ann Arbor Pioneer)
This Year: District 3 Champions
Head Coach: Kellie Howe
Award Winners (Below)
Katie Gillette - All-Region First Team, All-Region Tournament HM
Emily Jacoby (G) - All-Region First Team, All-Region Tournament HM
Elise Liddell - All-Region HM
Lauren Terlep - All-Region Tournament HM
The Maples come into the state tournament having already made history. This is the first ever visit to the MWPA State Tournament for the Seaholm Maples, as program alum Kellie Howe guided them past another team who had made history, making it to regionals for the first time ever in the Chelsea Bulldogs.
"Competing for the state championship means everything to Seaholm," Head Coach Kellie Howe said. "This is the first time in program history our girls team has made it to the state tournament. It is exciting to be that first team and experience all that goes along with it. I mean we have had and outpouring of support from former players, former coaches, our administration, and athletic department as well as parents, family and friends. The whole community is cheering these girls on."
As for the match-up with the Pioneers, the new kids on the block are embracing the challenge.
"Having East Grand Rapids as our first game is extremely exciting," Howe said. "They have been on top of the girls rankings all season and deservedly so. When we had the opportunity to play them at the Pioneer Invitational, it was impressive to see their communication, teamwork and skill level. We are looking forward to playing them again."
All said, the Maples ran into a few hot teams in the Regional Tournament, falling to eventual East Region Champion Ann Arbor Skyline, followed by Saline in the Regional Third Place game, the Maples get a full two weeks to try to rebound. The Maples, who ran their way through District 3, are looking for their first top ten victory, with three previous tries.