Different Team, Same Result for Country Day
By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com
October 19, 2013
KALAMAZOO — Behind his blistering serve, senior Garrett Goldman accomplished a tennis hat trick at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 championships, moved inside at Kalamazoo College’s Markin Racquet Center because of rain Saturday.
The East Grand Rapids senior won an MHSAA title at No. 1 singles, clinched second place for his team and kept Detroit Country Day from scoring a perfect 40 points.
Paul Ballard, tournament chairman, said this was an unusually competitive tournament.
“We had three teams with nearly perfect scores: Detroit Country Day up through the semifinals was perfect, East Grand Rapids and St. Joe were one point each from perfect,” he said. “It made for a very tight race up at the top.”
Goldman’s win gave EGR 27 points, one better than St. Joseph. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood was fourth with 20 points.
With just three seniors on the championship team, coach Josh Molino said he’s excited for the future of Country Day tennis.
“Last year, we had a senior-loaded team that did a phenomenal job,” Molino said. “We were one set away from getting 40 (points). This season, it’s a different team: a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys.
“These guys play in the offseason. Each year we come back with a new set of goals of getting better each practice. I think that translates to getting better each match, and hopefully, we’re playing the best tennis come October toward the state tournament.”
The top-seeded Goldman, who defeated Country Day senior Rishi Patel, the third seed, 7-5, 6-4, knew his win would give his team sole possession of second place.
“I did know and that’s why I tried my best,” Goldman said. “I went out there expecting a tough match and I played my heart out and I got it done.
“I played him earlier in the season in a meet in EGR and won 6-2, 6-4. It did give me some confidence. I also beat (second seed Thomas Bellio, St. Joe); he played in the semis, so I went into this tournament pretty confident, expecting to win.”
Goldman took his first lead of the second set at 4-3.
“I sort of came to the realization that I needed to win and I needed to close it out,” he said. “I wasn’t about to let it go to a third set. I tried my hardest.”
Patel, who moved up from No. 3 singles last year, said he’s never faced a serve as hard as Goldman’s.
“He was probably serving above 110 mph and when it went in, it was hard to get back,” Patel said. “It was pretty hard to return indoors.
“It made a little bit of a difference (playing indoors) just because he hits a bigger ball than me. Outdoors, I can use the wind to my advantage and play more defense.”
Although Patel has two MHSAA titles at No. 3 singles, “This (third consecutive team championship) is more important, even though I lost, because I’m a senior.”
Molino credits Patel with the team’s success.
“He stepped up and really led this group of young guys,” the coach said. “We filled six or seven guys into the lineup and we worked hard all year. We had a goal of winning state again.”
EGR junior Grant Bailey gave Country Day sophomore Noah Karoub a battle at No. 2 singles with Karoub, the top seed, winning 7-5, 6-4, in one of the last matches on court.
“I liked being one of the last (on court),” Karoub said. “The (very loud) crowd is really important. It gives you confidence and makes you play better. I was grinding it out.”
Bailey said it was the second time this season he’s lost to Karoub. The first time was in a third-set tiebreak.
“Noah’s a great player,” Bailey said. “Congrats to him. I know he’s just going to scrap it out. I don’t think he missed a ball the whole match.
Bailey was playing on the court next to Goldman.
“I was watching Garrett’s match the whole time,” Bailey said. “I’m so happy for him. The team did fine. I’m really excited for us.”
Being one of the final matches, “I had the whole place watching,” an exuberant Bailey said after learning his team finished second. “Garrett just won, so we have the best player in the state. I’ve got the whole team cheering me on. It was a great experience.
“I love my team, what can I say. I’m really proud of our doubles. They were a big question mark coming in and they stepped up.”
EGR coach Mickey Mikesell had no idea his team finished second.
“I don’t follow that stuff,” he said. “I get out here in the trenches and watch the matches. I don’t really sit back there and count too much because I’d rather stay focused on these guys.
“Garrett is a personal student of mine at MVP, Grand Rapids, so it’s a pretty special day for me as his high school coach and his personal coach.”
Mikesell said his team is designed for tournament play.
“For example, we played Cranbrook earlier and lost three matches to five,” he said. “We played St. Joseph earlier and lost two matches to six.
“We’re all good teams, but from top to bottom, we have a lot of depth. And when you go to tournament play, you can have success that way.”
At No. 3 singles, second-seeded Jakob Gahn, a Country Day sophomore, defeated St. Joseph’s top seed, Kenny Garstecki, 7-6(4), 6-1.
“(Gahn) could pull off the winning shot,” Garstecki, a senior, said. “Other players couldn’t hit that winning shot. It’s just inches that separate wins from losses. In the first set, it was a tiebreaker, so it was pretty tight. He just played a little bit better in that tiebreaker.”
Brendan Childress and Andrew Joslyn, the top seeds on Country Day’s No. 4 doubles team, defeated second seeds Steven Meng and Alex Hubers, Cranbrook-Kingswood, 6-4, 6-3, to clinch the team title, even though they were the first finals match to finish.
Gahn said knowing the team already clinched didn’t make a difference in the way he played.
“Both things are important: the team victory and the individual victory,” he said. “I feel good that we won as a team and I feel good that I won as an individual.
“(Garstecki) played some great tennis. I feel like I was more consistent and more aggressive in the second. I came to the net more. In the first set, I was too passive and let him dictate the point, which he did remarkably well, as I learned.”
A pair of freshmen battled it out at No. 4 singles with top-seeded Davis Wong, Country Day, defeating No. 2 Ahmeir Kyle, St. Joseph, 6-0, 6-4.
Wong said he knew a week before that he could be facing a girl in the final.
“I know she’s a good player,” he said. “I looked up her records and she has really good statistics. I knew coming in, it would be a hard match whoever I played in the finals.
“In the second set, her game rose a lot and we had a battle. She played really well. She changed up her tactics and I just had to adapt to them.”
Garstecki said Kyle is a good addition to the team.
“She’s really good,” he said. “It’s good to play against her (in practice). She hits the ball really hard.”
Said St. Joe coach Pat Hoffman: “Ahmeir has played in our summer program for years and has been on USTA teams, so she seemed to be a natural fit.”
Kyle didn’t lose a set until the finals.
“I was giving away points in the first set,” she said. “In the second set I started serving and volleying more and I was a little more consistent.”
PHOTOS: Detroit Country Day doubles player Blake Burstein (left), coach Josh Molino (center) and No. 1 singles player Rishi Patel pose with their Division 3 championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Country Day boys tennis.)
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