The Royal Oak Shrine girls tennis team is pictured at a Division 4 regional tournament May 16 at Ann Arbor Greenhills. For the third consecutive year, the Knights secured enough points to qualify for the state finals.

The Royal Oak Shrine girls tennis team is pictured at a Division 4 regional tournament May 16 at Ann Arbor Greenhills. For the third consecutive year, the Knights secured enough points to qualify for the state finals.

Photo by Kate Brueckman


Shrine soaring high in postseason

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published May 28, 2019

 Royal Oak Shrine’s Hannah Groth races up the field in a game earlier this season at home. With a 5-2 victory over Wixom St. Catherine May 18, the Knights captured their first CHSL title since 2016.

Royal Oak Shrine’s Hannah Groth races up the field in a game earlier this season at home. With a 5-2 victory over Wixom St. Catherine May 18, the Knights captured their first CHSL title since 2016.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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Over the past school year, Royal Oak Shrine athletics has accomplished much. 

During the fall season, Shrine saw its boys soccer team win the Catholic High School League C-D Division championship and its football team clinch a playoff berth in coach Oscar Olejniczak’s first season.

The winter season came and went, but not without top performances from the boys and girls basketball teams, as both programs won their respective CHSL tournaments.

The championship culture being constructed at Shrine has now flowed into the spring season.

The girls soccer team is currently in the midst of a season to remember. The Knights started the year on a 13-game winning streak, and junior goalkeeper Allison LaPointe surrendered just four goals in that stretch.

At press time, the Knights — ranked No. 2 in the state among Division 4 teams — were 16-3-3 overall and set to take on No. 5 Madison Heights Bishop Foley in a first-round district game at 7 p.m. May 24 at Foley.

Along the way this season, the Knights won their third CHSL title in the past five years. Shrine beat Wixom St. Catherine 5-2 May 18 to claim the C-D championship.

“To win the CHSL championship is a great accomplishment for the girls, the program and coaches,” coach Mark Soma said. 

The Shrine boys and girls track and field teams also had an impressive showing. In a D-4 regional meet May 18 at Lutheran Westland, the Knights won the girls regional with 169 points. The boys team took third place with 101.5 points.

The Lady Knights had a plethora of athletes qualify for the state tournament. Among them were the 4x800-meter relay team (10 minutes, 41.74 seconds), the 4x400 relay (4:39.48), the 4x200 relay (1:52.62) and the 4x100 relay (52.71). Katie Arce qualified in the 100 hurdles (18.05) and the 300 hurdles (52.04). Kennedy Kilgore made it in the 100 dash (12.87) and the 200 (27.03). 

Others qualifying included Elle Kendell in the 1,600 (5:17.25) and the 3,200 (11:35.62); Carolyn Luddy in the 800 (2:36.75);  Chloe Woodbeck in the high jump (5 feet); and Ugochi Ike in the shot put (28-5 1/2). 

On the boys side of the meet, the 4x200 (1:37.35) and 4x100 (47.49) relay teams qualified for states

Owen Groth qualified in the long jump (19 feet), and Dan Romano punched his ticket to states in the shot put (41-1 1/2).

The state final meet is June 1 at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School.

Shrine’s girls tennis team also recently qualified for its state final. The Knights participated in a D-4 regional final May 16 at Ann Arbor Greenhills.

No. 3 singles player Grace Murray finished as the runner-up in her flight; the No. 1 doubles pairing of Elizabeth Kemp and Fiona Brueckman met the same fate as Murray; and the No. 2 doubles pairing of Katy Zink and Katherine were flight champions.

Typically, 18 points are needed to qualify for the state finals, and the Knights only secured 10. But teams competing in a regional tournament with eight schools or less are still able to qualify by either winning, securing the runner-up spot or recording 10 points. That’s exactly what the Knights were able to do. 

“We knew regionals were going to be extra tough this year since five of the top 10 teams in D-4 were all going to be in our regional,” coach Keri Pilkey said. “The girls came prepared, and they played their best tennis all year. Everyone played a part in us going to states. So proud of these girls.”

The D-4 state finals take place May 31-June 1 at Kalamazoo College.

Soma said the Knights as a whole are working on building a championship culture at the school. The past school year might suggest they are well on their way to doing that.

“Many of our girls have had the same successes in basketball,” Soma said. “The mental and physical toughness each program passes to the other, across all sports teams, is critical for the success of our student-athletes. I think this sums up what we are trying to do at Shrine very well.”

Call Sports Writer Jacob Herbert at (586) 498-1062. Follow Sports on Twitter @CandGSports.

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