Country Day Rises with Super Saturday

June 1, 2019

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

NOVI – For a squad that had won the previous three championships and was ranked No. 1 in the state, there was still understandably a lot of nervousness within the Detroit Country Day girls tennis team going into the final day of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals.

Country Day entered the day trailing rival Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingwood by a point, and that actually was a deficit that provided a bit of relief among the Yellowjackets.

“Before Cranbrook’s No. 4 doubles team lost, we were down four points to them and they weren’t supposed to lose that quarterfinal match,” said assistant coach Jane Ziecik, the acting head coach for the second day of competition. “Being down four points to Cranbrook is way different than down one.”

But while there were feelings of nervousness for Country Day, it didn’t translate into its play on the last day.

Country Day showed its championship mettle, rising up by winning six of the eight flights and claiming its fourth straight Finals title with 33 points, good enough to outlast runner-up Cranbrook’s total of 26.

“It was definitely more nerve-wracking than what our girls are used to,” Ziecik said. “They are used to not having to worry as hard.”

Leading the way was senior Monique Karoub, who ended her high school career by winning her fourth individual Finals title to complement being part of four team champions.

Karoub beat Nina Govila of Cranbrook in the No. 1 singles final 6-0, 6-1.

“I definitely was confident, but every year I get super nervous,” Karoub said. “It’s never a guarantee at all. It’s just the best feeling to be able to come out on top like this. Especially as a team, too. That’s the best.”

This was a season of transition once again for Karoub, who won last season at No. 2 singles when Country Day had a highly-touted then-freshman, Julia Fleigner, win at No. 1.

Fleigner decided not to play high school this year, and Karoub returned to No. 1 singles, a flight she won as a sophomore in 2017.

Karoub also won the title at No. 2 singles as a freshman.

“It was a difficult transition,” Karoub said. “But I was able to be successful with it. We had a quad in Allegan, and it was our first quad of the season. I had a really close three-set match, and it just emphasized how difficult No. 1 can be and how good the girls are.”

Karoub is moving on to attend college at Michigan State. She said she is undecided on whether she will play tennis.

“I just tried to be consistent because I was really nervous,” Karoub said. “I just tried to focus on footwork and try and control the things I could control.”

Other flight champions for Country Day were Elle Hartje at No. 2 singles, Alexis Nardicchio at No. 3 singles, the team of Tara Rahmani and Nina Khaghany at No. 1 doubles, the tandem of Ruhe Wayak and Lana Haddad at No. 2 doubles and the team of Maria Sicilia and Rachel Jeong at No. 3 doubles.

Cranbrook, which won five team Division 3 championships in a row from 2011-15, finished runner-up for the second straight year.

Charlotte Brown won the title at No. 4 singles for Cranbrook.

“Country Day is a really strong team, and we’ve been chasing them all year,” Cranbrook head coach Grant Asher said. “We feel like we have been getting closer and closer, and I think that was evident after day one. But they’re a really strong and deep team. I was really proud of our girls in a sense that they put themselves in a position to put some pressure on them. Unfortunately, Country Day elevated their game at the end.”

The only flight that didn’t have a champion from Country Day or Cranbrook was No. 4 doubles, where Grand Rapids Christian’s team of Grace Maurer and Calista Bremer, seeded sixth, won the title.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day celebrates its fourth straight LP Division 3 title Saturday. (Middle) Country Day's Maria Sicilia returns a volley during a match at No. 3 doubles. (Click for more from

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.”