Boys soccer tournament preview: Many district match-ups feature ranked teams
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
This best describes the boys soccer scene in Michigan over the years. While many of the traditional state powerhouses still thrive today, as they did some three decades ago, the talent growth and shifts has allowed the talent pool to spread to all corners of the Lower Peninsula.
In the Lansing area, Division 2 top-ranked East Lansing has become one constant example of a program never falling off the map as more and more schools have added soccer or have garnered respect.
Since winning the Class A state title in 1987, East Lansing has captured five titles with two state runner-up trophies. Beginning with the 1982 season, soccer became a Michigan High State Athletic Association-sanctioned sport. Before that the coaches association ran a small state tournament from 1974-81 for the scant amount of programs around at the time.
The Trojans (16-1-2) have captured a number of conference and district championships and are perhaps the most successful program in the Lansing area.
Can East Lansing make it title No. 6? The Trojans will have to get by No. 18 Haslett and DeWitt to win a district. Possible match-ups with No. 2 Spring Lake or No. 6 Lowell could await in the balance during the regional round.
Making a run is not simple for any of the top programs.
In all four divisions, some districts offer up several ranked squads (one district in Division 3 has five ranked teams) while other districts have schools under the radar waiting for the right moment to spring an upset.
Here is a look around some of districts in the state and what to expect in the opening week of the postseason, which begins Monday.
Top District: No. 5 at Detroit Catholic Central features four top-20 ranked teams and five high-quality teams. No. 7 Northville, No. 8 Brighton, No. 11 Catholic Central and No. 14 Novi, the latter two face each other in a pre-district contest, are all in the same group. Don’t count out Livonia Stevenson, one of the state’s winningest programs.
Other Top Districts: No. 15 at Rochester Adams features four teams that have spent time in the top 20. Adams, which has reached the Final Four the past two years, faces formally-ranked Clarkston in the opening round. No. 12 Rochester Stoney Creek and Rochester, which was ranked earlier in the campaign, could also emerge.
District No. 2 at East Kentwood also features four ranked squads, including defending champion Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (No. 19), Rockford (No. 6), East Kentwood (No. 17) and Grand Ledge (No. 20), a school ranked for the first time.
Top-Ranked: Portage Northern has been ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season and carries a 17-1-1 record into the postseason. The Huskies will have to get past No. 18 Portage Central and always-tough Okemos to win their district.
Canton, the state champion in 2011 and 2014 and runner up in 2015, enters the postseason ranked No. 2. The Chiefs are capable of making a long run if they can get past previously ranked Plymouth in the opener and Salem (No. 13) in the district semifinals.
In northern Michigan, No. 15 Traverse City West will have to get past unranked Midland Dow (16-0-4).
Ann Arbor Skyline, the 2013 state champion, takes a 17-0 record into the tournament and must get past No. 11 Saline to reach the regionals.
Fourth-ranked Troy Athens and No. 9 Utica Ford are also grouped together.
Behind No. 1 East Lansing, several other squads are eyeing a run to the Final Four.
Top-District: No. 21 at Dexter features defending champion Mason, No. 5 Tecumseh and No. 13 Dexter. Tecumseh is enjoying its best season in school history.
Other Notable Districts: Third-ranked Auburn Hills Avondale, the 2011 state champion, only has one loss entering the postseason. The Yellowjackets are lumped with No. 17 Ortonville Brandon and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, another quality side, in the same district.
No. 12 Mattawan and No. 16 Stevensville Lakeshore open up against one another. St. Joseph, which was ranked earlier in the year, awaits the winner.
No. 6 Lowell opens with No. 11 Grand Rapids Northview. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, the runner-up last season which spent most of the season ranked No. 1 and is now No. 4, is on the other end of the district bracket.
Spring Lake has once-beaten Ludington (No. 20) in its district.
Holland (No. 9) and Holland Christian (No. 14) should face each other in a district semifinal.
Coldwater (No. 8) has emerged on the scene the past three years as a ranked squad and could make a deep run.
Top District: No. 34 at Grand Rapids South Christian offers up five ranked teams, and two opening round games feature four of them.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (No. 2) and Kentwood Grand River Prep (No. 19) open up with one another with the winner facing No. 3 South Christian in the semifinals.
Wyoming Godwin Heights (No. 16) and Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy (No. 17) will also tangle on Monday.
Other Notable Districts: Top-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central should face previously-ranked Belding in the district final as its first test of mettle.
Gladwin, which reached the semifinals last season, is ranked No. 11 and should face No. 10 Tawas City in the district semifinals.
Unbeaten Grosse Ile (No. 6) opens up with Catholic League Division 2 champion Allen Park Cabrini.
Elk Rapids (No. 19) and Charlevoix (No. 12) should collide in a district semifinal.
Williamston (No. 5) will have to get past pesky Lansing Catholic or Leslie.
Imlay City, Macomb Lutheran North and Richmond were all ranked at one time this season and will battle in District No. 42.
Flint Powers (No. 4) and Clawson (No. 7) are the only ranked teams in their respective districts. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (No. 9) is enjoying one of its best seasons, as is No. 20 Big Rapids.
Top-District: No. 61 at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christianb: Grandville Calvin Christian (No. 8), Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (No. 10) and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (No. 11) are one big happy family. NorthPointe Christian and Covenant Christian are destined to meet up in the district semifinals.
Other Notable Districts: The key matchup will be Monday, where No. 1 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and No. 2 North Muskegon are matched up.
Leland (No. 9) and Harbor Springs (No. 15) are together, while unranked Suttons Bay is capable of an upset.
Ann Arbor Greenhills (No. 4) and Adrian Lenawee Christian (No. 16) should meet in a district semifinal clash.
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (No. 5) has an intriguing first round matchup with Royal Oak Shrine (No. 18).
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (No. 3) is in the midst of its best season and is on collision course with Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (No. 19).
Hillsdale Academy (No. 7) is a program on the rise with a likely showdown in the district finals with Lansing Christian (No. 11), which opened the season ranked in the top spot.
Defending state champion Burton Genesee Christian (No. 6) is the only ranked team in its district.
Unranked Marlette is a sleeper pick, losing just one game in the Thumb region. Westland Lutheran is another unranked team to watch with only one loss in the regular season.
STATE CHAMPS NETWORK DISTRICT PICKS
REGION NO. 3
District No. 9: Detroit Western; District No. 12: Utica Eisenhower; District No. 10: Troy Athens; District No. 11: Fraser
REGION NO. 4
District No. 13: Troy; District No. 16: Grand Blanc; District No. 14: Hartland; District No. 15: Rochester Adams
REGION NO. 2
District No. 5: Novi Detroit Catholic Central; District No. 8: Dearborn; District No. 6: Canton; District No. 15: Ann Arbor Skyline
REGION NO. 1
District No. 1: Jenison; District No. 4: Traverse City West; District No. 2: East Kentwood; District No. 3: Portage Northern
REGION NO. 7
District No. 17: Mattawan; District No. 20: Coldwater; District No. 18: Plainwell; District No. 19: Holland
REGION NO. 6
District No. 29: East Lansing; District No. 32: Petoskey; District No. 30: Lowell; District No. 31: Spring Lake
REGION NO. 8
District No. 21: Tecumseh; District No. 24: Dearborn Divine Child; District No. 22: Gibraltar Carlson; District No. 23: Riverview
REGION NO. 5
District No. 25: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood; District No. 28: Fenton; District No. 26: St. Clair; District No. 27: Auburn Hills Avondale
REGION NO. 11
District No. 33: Paw Paw; District No. 36: Whitehall; District No. 34: Hudsonville Unity Christian; District No. 35: Grand Rapids Catholic Central
REGION NO. 10
District No. 45: Freeland; District No. 48: Charlevoix; District No. 46: Gladwin; District No. 47: Big Rapids
REGION NO. 12
District No. 37: Delton Kellogg; District No. 40: Grosse Ile; District No. 38: Williamston; District No. 39: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard
REGION NO. 9
District No. 41: Clawson; District No. 44: Montrose; District No. 42: Macomb Lutheran North; District No. 43: Flint Powers
REGION NO. 15
District No. 49: Bridgman; District No. 52: Lansing Christian; District No. 50: Hartford; District No. 51: Kalamazoo Hackett
REGION NO. 14
District No. 61: Grandville Calvin Christian; District No. 64: Leland; District No. 62: Muskegon Western Michigan Christian; District No. 63: Buckley
REGION NO. 16
District No. 53: Ann Arbor Greenhills; District No. 56: Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett; District No. 54: Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central; District No. 55: Westland Lutheran
REGION NO. 13
District No. 57: Burton Genesee Christian; District No. 60: Roscommon; District No. 58: Auburn Hills Oakland Christian; District No. 59: Marlette