LOOKING BACK: The Top 10 Saline High School Sports Teams of the Decade

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 12/27/2019 - 02:26
Former Saline baseball coach Scott Theisen hands the state championship trophy to Ryan Foley in 2017.

 

The last 10 years have been a period of excellence for Saline High School athletics, highlighted by individual and team state titles, regional championships, district trophies and dozens of SEC Red championships.

Today, we take a look at the very best Saline High School athletics teams of the decade.

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10. 2016 Saline Boys Cross Country

The Hornets, coached by Carl Spina, won the SEC Red, captured the regional and then tied for their best finish ever at the state meet with a team that might have been easy to under-estimate. The Hornets used their depth to hold off challenges from a rising Pioneer team in the SEC Red championship and again in the regional. At the state meet, senior Aidan Carichner, who'd shown incredible improvement between his junior and senior year, ran the race of his life, taking 12th in 16:07. Junior Anthony DeKraker was 18th in 16:15. Strong runs by Evan Koerschner, Connor Meehan and Jevin Nishioka contributed to Saline’s great finish. Joshua Cook and Aidan Delfuoco also ran for Saline.

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9. 2011 Saline Girls Cross Country

During the first half of the decade, the Hornets’ girls cross country program continued was in the midst of an amazing streak of conference and regional championships. In both 2011 and 2013, coach Mike Smith’s teams went first in the SEC Red and Regional and 2nd at the state meet. In both cases, the regional team won with perfect 15-point finishes. Both teams deserve mention in this feature, but the 2011 team gets the nod because it was just five points from the state championship. The Hornets did it without a top 20-runner. Freshman Abby Rentschler was the Hornets fastest runner, taking 23rd. Lauren Green, Amy Creutz, Elianna Shwayder, Gloria Park, Alyssa Cummings and Amy Frauhammer ran for Saline.

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8. 2015 Saline Field Hockey

It was the game that put the Saline field hockey program on the map. Competing in Division 2, the Hornets advanced to the championship game and defeated Detroit Country Day, 2-1, in a shootout. The team was coached by Erica Reilly and led by her daughter Shannon Reilly - the oldest of three sisters who starred in Saline athletics for much of the decade. In the championship game, Saline was down 1-0 when Abby Morton passed to Shannon Reilly who scored on a penalty corner.

Saline got goals from Devin Reilly and Sophie Tzavaras in the shootout and then Erica Boyer clinched the state championship with a sprawling save.

The Hornets were bumped to Division 1 and have been state contenders ever since.

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7. 2010 Saline Girls Golf

The state championship was held in Saline’s backyard - at Eagle Crest, on Oct. 15-16, 2010. The Hornets took advantage of their “home-field advantage,” taking the tournament by three strokes. Saline, coached by Betsy French, shot 330 on day one and then improved to 327 on day two. Karla Gross led the Hornets shooting 78 and 79. Shannon Fraser (163), Emily White (165) and Kristen Areddy (172) also finished in the scoring. Morgen Horan also golfed for the Hornets.

A terrific Saline team from 2017 also warrants mention here. The team shot 326 and 323 at Grand Valley State. That team featured Catherine Loftus, whose two-day score of 150 was tied for third in the state, Molly Pribble, Sydney Page, Stephanie Schick, Gabi Solis and Emily Woodman.

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6. 2014 Saline Football

Considering the thousands of Salinians who visited Ford Field to watch the Hornets play on Nov. 28, 2014, against Clarkston in the state championship game, one could easily name this the team of the decade. But we saved the top five spots for state champions.

The Hornets, coached by Joe Palka, lost their opening-night game to Mona Shores, 31-28, and then went on a 12-game winning streak, winning the SEC red and district and regional trophies. Along the way, Josh Jackson, who’d been splitting time with Trent Theisen at QB, won the starting job. On Nov. 4, in the semifinal at Troy High School, the Hornets stopped heavily favored Detroit Cass Tech and their star running back Mike Weber, 30-15. Saline played a smash-mouth brand of football that day, with Colin Payne delivering several heavy hits on Weber.

Saline led 17-7 with 9:46 to play in the fourth when Stephen Slattery intercepted a short pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown - essentially clinching the game for the Hornets. In the championship game, Saline led 10-7 at halftime after a 27-yard touchdown run by Kevin Gross and 39-yard field goal by Will Breen. But Clarkston responded with three straight touchdowns to take control of the game. Gross and Jackson rushed for late touchdowns. After Gross’s TD run with 1:09 to play, Jackson threw to Cam Cole for a two-point play, making it 33-25, but the Hornets couldn’t get the ball back on the onside kick. On defense, the Hornets were led by Alec Richards, John Raupp, Payne, Chris Terech, Cal Criner, Grant Ellis, Tyron Miller and Stephen Slattery. Jeb Palka, Chris Mercer, Bruce Wolma, and Cam Cole also played big roles on offense.

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5. 2015 Saline Boys Track & Field

The Hornets, coach by Al Leslie, dominated the relays and were outstanding on the track at the MHSAA Division 1 meet as Saline capped one of the greatest seasons in program history. The Hornets defeated a strong Monroe team on their own track in the SEC Red meet, with Skyler Bowden winning the 200 and 400. Logan Wetzel won the 1600 and Kevin Hall won the 3200. Saline also won three of the four relays. Saline repeated its victory over Monroe at the regional at home. Bowden won the 200. Wetzel won the 800 and 1600. Hall won the 3200. Josiah Davis won the 300 hurdles. Saline won three of four relays and took second in the other. Saline won again at the state meet. Bowden won the 400 and was second in the 200. Wetzel was second in the 800 and 1600. Hall was third in the 3200. Davis was third in the 300 hurdles. David Alberdi, Wetzel, Davis and Bowden won the 4-by-400 relay and Wetzel, Hall, Austin Welch and Josiah Humphrey won the 4-by-800 relay. Saline won the event with 71 points to East Kentwood’s 52.5.

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4.  2015 Saline Girls Soccer

The Hornets, coached by Dana Rosselot (then known as Restrick), capped a nearly perfect season with a 4-0 victory over Grand Blanc in the championship game. Saline went 22-0-3.

Taylor Mulder, the all-time leading Hornet goal scorer, tallied twice for the Hornets. Molly O’Sullivan and Allison Luurtsema also scored. Luurtsema, Sarah Livesey, Morgan Jones and Amanda Zylstra limited Grand Blanc to just four shots on goal, allowing Sofia Sweier to post yet another shutout victory. Sweier and the Hornets posted 22 shutouts in 25 games - the most shutouts in Class A/Division 1 history. Mulder scored a school-record 43 goals on the season for Saline. She posted 80 during her four-year varsity career.

Saline finished the season with 104 goals scored and just four goals against.

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3. 2014 Saline Girls Swim & Dive

It was a great decade for Saline girls swim and dive. They won two championships (2010 and 2014) and were runners-up four times. Their excellence continues to this day. In 2019 they were third. The Hornets, coached by Todd Brunty, started the decade by winning their second straight state championship. Saline easily outpaced everyone - winning the meet with 307 points - more than 80 points better than their runner up. But in 2014, Saline pulled off a stunning upset. At swim and dive meets, it’s often said that meets are won and lost during the preliminaries. And after the prelims, it certainly seemed like Farmington Hills Mercy were a lock to win the state title. But on championship day, during event nine, the 200-yard freestyle relay, the Mercy team was disqualified. Mercy had been expecting at least 30 points in the event. Now they had zero. That opened the door for Saline, who, to their credit, had been swimming hard and performing very well in diving, too.

Sophomores Amy Stevens and Cameron McPherson went 1-2 in diving. Amelia Armstrong Grant was second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle. Alex McPherson was second in the 500 freestyle. And then came the 200-yard freestyle relay. Mercy disqualified and Armstrong-Grant, Gillian Gatecliff, Alex McPherson and Lisa Gross took third - giving the Hornets their shot. Allison Eppinga held her own in the breaststroke and and Lizzy Spears maintained her position in the backstroke. That set up a winner-take-all final event - the 400-yard freestyle relay. Armstrong-Grant, Eppinga, Alex McPherson and Spears had won the prelims in 3:30.2. Mercy was third, 2.17 points behind.

Mercy improved by a full second - but Saline improved by more than two! And the Hornets won the state championship.

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2. 2013 Saline Boys Swim & Dive

It’s probably not fair to coach Todd Brunty and his swim and dive teams that he has only one entry in this feature. The Saline boys won four straight championships, from 2010-13.  The first championship team won by more than 70 points. The 2011 team nearly doubled runner-up Pioneer, 384-197. The 2012 team won by more than 80 points over second-place Rockford. In 2013 - the Hornets won by just four points over Brother Rice - doing just enough in the final relay to hold onto the trophy. So why pick the 2013 team? It’s hard to ignore the “Fab 4.” David Boland, Adam Whitener, Joshua Ehrman and Michael Bundas might be the greatest senior class in MHSAA swim and dive history. Boland, Whitener, and Ehrman played critical roles in all four championships. Bundas emerged as a major threat in his junior year. Over their four years, Boland won 13 individual and relay events, Whitener won 12, Ehrman won eight and Bundas won four. The fab four barely pulled it out in 2013. Another thing that makes this victory special is the way their record still holds up. Swimmers keep getting faster and faster. Records fall every year. The all-class records posted by Ehrman and Boland have since been trumped. But in one of the events the Fab Four swam together the 2013 record still stands today. They swam the 200-yard medley relay in 1:30.01 - a full second faster than the second-fastest team.

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1. 2017 Saline Baseball

Few high schools have enjoyed as many state championships as Saline. But doesn’t mean the Hornets don’t treasure their victories. And in Saline, perhaps no victory was celebrated quite as much as the state championship won by Coach Scott Theisen’s baseball team in 2017. From 1998 to 2017, Theisen’s teams were 0-5 in state championship games. In 2016, they lost, 7-6, to Warren DeLaSalle after coming back from a 4-0 deficit to take the lead in the sixth inning.

In 2017,  the Hornets would not be denied. Most of the seniors throughout the starting lineup - Ryan Foley, Zach Schwartzenberger, Jake Finkbeiner, Sean O’Keefe, Kellen Huang, Ted Eppinga and Sean Millspaugh - had been playing together since they were in little league. The team had power (O’Keefe’s 10 home runs), speed (Foley’s 16 stolen bases), pitching (Cole Daniels went into championship weekend with an ERA of 0.28) and defense.

Saline steamrolled through the SEC Red, going 15-0. The Hornets cruised through the districts with wins over Pioneer and Huron. In the regional, Saline bested Allen Park and Bedford. The Hornets were finally tested in the quarterfinal at the University of Michigan. With Saline up 3-2 in the top of the seventh, Holt threatened with two on and one out. Theisen turned to senior Paul Kiyabu, who threw one pitch and induced a game-ending double-play ball to Finkbeiner at shortstop. Saline defeated Grosse Pointe Woods, 12-0, in the semifinal and then bested Northville, 5-2, in the championship game. Theisen retired from coaching to become interim Athletic Director.

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected]hesalinepost.com or call him at 734-272-6294.

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