Clarkston's No. 1 Rises to New Challenge

May 10, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Take the word "enthusiastic," make it an adverb, grab a thesaurus, and find a number of ways to characterize how Katie Brozovich plays tennis.

Her energy and spirit show through in how she puts her body into every shot. And they come out when she’s frustrated with herself and fires up an impromptu personal pep talk on the court.

“When I’m frustrated, I’m not the one to hold it in. I have to say something,” Brozovich said. “I’m not saying things critically. I’m just working on not bringing myself down.

“I get a lot of people (looking like), ‘What are you doing?’”

The answer: Winning every match.

Brozovich, in her first season at No. 1 singles after dominating lower flights, is 15-0 atop the lineup for the reigning Division 1 champion Wolves.

She gets a Second Half High 5 this week for winning her flight at the Holly Red and White Invitational, beating Port Huron Northern’s Taylor Sweeney 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match. Clarkston, ranked No. 4 in the state coaches poll, tied Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Marian for the team championship – ahead of Division 1 top-ranked Port Huron Northern, No. 7 Ann Arbor Huron and No. 8 Midland Dow.

Sweeney advanced to last season’s MHSAA Quarterfinals at No. 1. But Brozovich is plenty used to top competition – and fully embracing the opportunity to finish her high school career playing against the best.

She’s been in Clarkston’s singles lineup all four years of high school – she played No. 3 as a freshman, before finishing MHSAA runner-up at No. 2 as a sophomore and then winning the No. 3 championship last spring.

“Each year I was happy with the spot I was playing. But I thought it was a better opportunity to play (No.) 1 because of the big competition,” Brozovich said. “That what I like. I felt good, and I prepared myself for it.”

The Clarkston singles lineup was set to be loaded again this spring with No. 1 Semifinalist Gabriella Spindler a senior and reigning No. 2 champion Lexi Baylis also expected back. But Spindler opted to not play this spring, and Brozovich and Baylis battled through two three-set challenge matches to determine who would fill the top spot.

“Katie is a beast. She wanted that number one spot, and being her senior year, she was not going to take anything less,” Clarkston coach Becky Freeman said. “This year, being a senior, she knows what we’re looking for. She’s seen it all – the good, bad and ugly.”

Brozovich has signed with Bowling Green, a regular contender in the Mid-American Conference, and expects to be part of the lineup as a freshman. Her aunt, Sue (Brozovich) Kaleel, was a four-time champion at Miami (Ohio). Click to read more about Brozovich's family connections, dream matchup and future endeavors.

PHOTO: Clarkston's Katie Brozovich prepares to return a shot during her No. 3 singles match at last season's MHSAA Division 1 Final. 

Team of the Month: Negaunee Girls Tennis

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

October 21, 2022

The Negaunee girls tennis team’s Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals championship won Sept. 28 was its seventh over the last 10 seasons, to go with runner-up finishes the three seasons the Miners didn’t win it all during that time. 

So when coach Kyle Saari says this year’s team stands out among them, that’s actually saying quite a lot.

And what all of it says about his program is pretty defining as well. 

Negaunee is the fifth-biggest tennis school in the Upper Peninsula, but with an enrollment count of 414 has about 700 fewer students than Marquette and even about 235 fewer than the second-biggest tennis school, Escanaba.

And yet, the program may be on its way to getting even stronger coming off this season’s championship, won with 19 points and flight championships at Nos. 3 and 4 singles and Nos. 2 and 3 doubles and earning Negaunee tennis the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” honor for September. 

“We’ve been fortunate, really beyond the (last) decade, to just get solid groups of athletes out that want to compete. I think what happened, on the girls side anyway, is when we won our first Division 1 title in 2012, the next group that comes in wants to leave their mark and wants to do a little more,” Saari said. “When you have a solid group of leaders throughout the course of the last decade, it’s contagious with the freshmen and even trickles down to the middle school too.”

That might sound like an understatement given the success of the middle school tennis program last year, it’s first. More than 100 students attended, and the middle school has only about 450-500. The tennis program was for only sixth, seventh and eighth graders – so it’s fair to put an estimate at roughly 25 percent of the community’s middle schoolers had a racket in their hands.

They have plenty of standouts to look up to, as both Finals singles champions were freshmen and both doubles pairs finished the fall undefeated. Together, those six players are among 10 total starters who should be back next season. Negaunee will graduate only No. 1 singles Jordan Enright and No. 1 doubles Stella Harris.

Harris and sophomore Madison Frustaglio finished runner-up at the Final, and with No. 2 champs Olivia Lunseth and Sage Juntti and No. 3 winners Kallen Schultz and Madalynn Peters gave the Miners a comfortable predicament in August as Saari believed all six were capable of playing the No. 1 flight. As they powered to titles, Paytin Brunette and Autumn Ring finished out the strong doubles lineup with a runner-up Finals finish at No. 4. 

On the singles side, the freshmen pair of Rheana Nelson at No. 3 and Lilliana Saunders at No. 4 anchored like veterans, joining No. 2 singles runner-up Aubrey Johnson and Enright at the top as all eight flights scored at least one point at the championship tournament. 

Negaunee finished 13-0-1 in dual matches this fall, that lone tie coming midway through the season against more experienced Iron Mountain. The Mountaineers were on the cusp of victory when Nelson stepped in to seize the tie-saving point. 

She and Saunders, because of their inexperience, carried some uncertainty entering this season. They also ended up major reasons why this championship team will continue to stick out among the many the program has celebrated.  

“We felt pretty good about two freshmen stepping into our singles lineup. We knew they were athletic, and we knew they were high-character kids,” Saari said. “But at the same time, under pressure at the end of the year, you don’t know how they’re going to react. 

“Those are two (singles) titles, as time has really went on, it’s put into perspective how special those two flights were for us.”