By Scott Keyes
Special to Second Half
MIDLAND – From the flustered feeling of not knowing how bad the elements were going to be to start the season, to the snow showers that hit the courts during late April, the Grosse Pointe South girls tennis team prepared for everything as this rugged season began to take shape.
The results showed.
The No. 1-ranked team in Lower Peninsula Division 1 all season proved why as the Devils earned their second MHSAA LP Division 1 championship in three seasons with a convincing victory Saturday afternoon at the Midland Tennis Center.
Grosse Pointe South had 28 points, followed by Clarkston with 22 and Bloomfield Hills and Northville with 19 each. Port Huron Northern was fifth with 16 points.
"We knew what he had coming into this season after last year's third-place finish," Grosse Pointe South coach Mark Sobieralski said. "The girls came into this season on a mission. They kept improving every time they hit the court. It's always nice to win a state title, but this championship is extra special for the entire team. From the newcomers to the veterans, everyone on the team played a key role in making this happen. I couldn't be prouder."
Grosse Pointe South clinched the championship early, having earned multiple points in every flight Friday – and winning all four of their three-set matches that day.
"Last year we may have lost them because of the lack of experience," Sobieralski said. "The kids really grew up this season."
At No. 1 singles, Utica's Davina Nguyen defeated Clarkston’s Lexi Baylis, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match that was worth the price of admission.
A year ago Baylis lost in the final to Saline’s Mary Hanna, while Nguyen was ousted in the semifinal by Baylis.
This time, Baylis (headed to Michigan State University) blitzed Nguyen in the first set, 6-2, but Nguyen rebounded to win, 6-3, 6-4, to claim her second high school singles title.
Nguyen admitted the win was extremely gratifying, defeating someone of Baylis' caliber.
"On that last point I knew I needed to finish it then because I couldn't feel my hand at all during that last point," Nguyen said. "It was crazy. I lost to her last year, and to be able to gain a little redemption is pretty gratifying. My mindset coming in was the same as it was my freshman year when I won the state championship. I knew Lexi was going to give it her all, and to get the win is pretty amazing."
Besides winning the team title, Grosse Pointe South also had two individual flight winners on the day.
Maddie Paolucci defeated Elaina Parrillo (Midland Dow), 6-4, 6-2, at No. 4 singles, while the No. 4 doubles team of Ginny Hayden and Kelly Beardslee defeated Libby Quinn and Chloe Page (Northville), 6-2, 6-4.
Grosse Pointe South also reached the finals in two other flights but finished runners-up. Willard lost to Clarkston's Dana Olsen, 6-2, 6-1, while Sydney Keller and Morgane Flournoy lost to Amy Tseng and Maggie Bacheller (Port Huron Northern) at No. 2 doubles, 6-2, 6-2.
Raven Neely (No. 1 singles) and Angelica Kalogeridis and Jennifer Moy (No. 3 doubles) were semifinalists for Grosse Pointe South.
Parrillo wasn't the only Dow player that made it into the finals. Bloomfield Hills' Kerry Hu defeated Chargers freshman Caroline Szabo at No. 2 singles, 7-5, 6-3.
Dow coach Garrett Turner was impressed by the efforts of his team during the tournament.
"The future is definitely bright," Turner said. "In the finals Caroline ran out of gas, but she has nothing to hang her head about. We had a great tournament, and the kids will learn from this experience heading into next season."
PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Pointe South raises its championship trophy Saturday afternoon at the Midland Tennis center. (Middle) Utica’s Davina Nguyen sends a shot during a No. 1 singles match en route to winning the flight. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)