Cranbrook-Kingswood Near-Perfect Again

June 1, 2013

By Alan Babbitt
Special to Second Half

HOLLAND – Alexandria Najarian and the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood girls tennis team are a nearly unbeatable combination.

Najarian, a junior, served up her third individual flight title with a third unblemished season Saturday at Hope College, helping Cranbrook-Kingswood complete a near-perfect run to the team Lower Peninsula Division 3 title.

Cranbrook-Kingswood won seven of eight flights for 39 points — one point from perfection. The Cranes finished comfortably ahead of runner-up Allegan (23).

It was a satisfying conclusion to a season that started slowly, Najarian said.

“We took a Florida trip at the beginning of the year for spring break, and we were down there for a week. We all were really frustrated with our play at the beginning because we were working so hard. We felt like nothing was coming together,” Najarian said. “Today it finally came together. This is a really happy moment.”

Cranbrook-Kingswood earned a three-peat of team titles with its fifth consecutive top-two finish.

 “We came in favored, but all year our girls worked really hard,” said Cranbrook-Kingswood coach Jeff Etterbeek, a Holland native. “They came out here in some tough, windy conditions and kept their composure. They played one point at a time and did a great job. I’m really proud of all of them. They really came through.”

Najarian contributed by taking first at No. 1 singles.

In Saturday’s final, she defeated a familiar foe — second-seeded Sydney Liggins of Grand Rapids Catholic Central — 6-1, 6-4. It was a rematch of the 2012 title match.

“She’s been my biggest competitor the past few years. She’s played so well,” Najarian said. “She came out a little nervous. Usually it’s the opposite. I got a better head start. Last year, I went down 0-4 and had to fight back. This year it was the opposite. She put up a great fight. It means a lot I could pull through again.”

Cranbrook-Kingswood swept the rest of singles play and won three doubles flights.

Detroit Country Day took third with 19 points, while Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern (17) and St. Clair (16) rounded out the top five.

Allegan spoiled Cranbrook-Kingswood’s bid for a perfection.

Allegan’s top-seeded No. 1 doubles team of seniors Christin Drozd and Kaycee Harness outlasted Cranbrook-Kingswood’s third-seeded pair of Alissa Rowens and Meg Phyle 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in the championship match.

It was the first MHSAA doubles title together for Drozd and Harness, who went unbeaten. Drozd earned one title as a freshman at No. 2 doubles before finishing Finals runner-up the past two seasons at No. 1, including 2012 with Harness.

“To finish my senior year undefeated, state champs, is absolutely amazing,” Drozd said.

Harness moved from No. 3 singles after her sophomore season to play with Drozd.

“When her partner graduated, I wanted to jump in. We’ve been such good friends,” Harness said. “I think the fact we lost (in the finals) last year made us want that much more this year. We were motivated and worked hard all season.”

In other flights, No. 2 singles top seed Anna Short of Cranbrook-Kingswood defeated third-seeded Madeline Bissett of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern 6-1, 6-0 in the championship match.

At No. 3 singles, top-seeded Allison Motea of Cranbrook-Kingswood beat second-seeded Haley Mullins of Detroit Country Day 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

At No. 4 singles, Cranbrook-Kingswood’s Sarah Lipworth held her No. 1 seed, scoring a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (5) win in the title match against third-seeded Sarah Carroll of Detroit Country Day.

In doubles play, Cranbrook-Kingswood’s second-seeded No. 2 pairing of Kendra Sweet and Christina Roualet won by knocking off top-seed Blake Day and Emmarie Gorby of Allegan 6-4, 7-5 in the finals.

At No. 3 doubles, Cranbrook-Kingswood’s No. 1-seeded duo of Briana Latica and Holly Meers defeated sixth-seeded Taylor Orr and Carlie VanKlompenberg 6-0, 6-1 for the championship.

At No. 4 doubles, Cranbrook-Kingswood’s top-seeded pair of Lauren Lanzon and Emily Harvey beat second-seeded Anna Bosgraaf and Lisa Busscher in the final 6-2, 6-1.

Najarian now has her sights set on a rare four-peat of MHSAA Finals flight championships.

“I hope so,” she said. “I worked a lot over the summer. Staying healthy and not getting injured is important. (Liggins) won’t be back, but there’s still some good competition to get used to. I got used to her.”

Etterbeek is confident Najarian will be in the hunt again next spring.

“She has a lot of variety in her game. She can beat you in so many different ways” Etterbeek said. “She’s just a smart experienced player. She is such a great competitor. She’s going to figure a way to beat you when she’s not playing her best.

“That’s certainly proven so far because she’s never lost a match. It doesn’t always go perfect. She’s had some close matches this year, and she came through every one of them. She’s a great leader on our team. We’re so happy to have her, obviously.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook-Kingswood's Alexandria Najarian sends a shot during a No. 1 singles match; she won the flight for the third straight season. (Middle) Allegan's Christin Drozd, together with partner Kaycee Harness, won the No. 1 doubles championship. (Click to see more at

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.”