MIDLAND – Runner-up to Detroit Country Day in 2021, 2019 and 2018, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood finally broke through with a cast of veterans and youngsters Saturday to capture the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 girls tennis championship at the Midland Tennis Center.
Cranbrook swept singles and scored 37 points, while Chelsea held off East Grand Rapids by one point, 21-20, to finish second.
Cranbrook previously had captured the team title from 2011 to 2015 before Country Day took over and won the following five championships in LPD3.
The Cranes' lineup featured one senior, two juniors, and nine freshmen and sophomores.
Freshman sensation Yenna Park, the top seed at No. 1 singles, didn’t disappoint as she defeated Otsego sophomore Aly Aldrich, 6-0, 6-2, in that flight’s championship match.
“This was very exciting,’’ Park said. “I knew a lot of people expected me to win and there’s some pressure with that, but I just wanted to go out and play my game. When warming up, I try to look at my opponent and see what their weak areas are. If it’s the back-hand, I’ll hit to the back hand. I was comfortable.
“When I play USTA I play to get better. Here it’s about winning the championship. We lost by one point to Country Day last year, so it was good to finally break through.’’
Aldrich entered the championship match coming off a semifinal with Bloomfield Hills Marian’s second-seeded Gaby Gryzenia that lasted nearly three hours. Aldrich previously had reached the No. 1 semifinals as a freshman and entered this weekend as the sixth seed.
Cranbrook senior Charlotte Brown, last season’s No. 2 singles champion, retained her crown and was the tournament’s first champ of the day with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Chelsea sophomore Anne-Marie Begola. Brown was the top seed in the bracket, while Begola was unseeded but defeated the third, sixth and second-seeded players to reach the finale.
“I just decided to keep my head in the game and disregard anything about the lineup,’’ said Brown. “I just play my game. We’ve seen so much success this season. We had a lot of freshmen that came in this year and helped our team. Our No. 1 singles (Park) is a freshman, and she just beat everybody.
“I’m thankful for the way we played. Going back-to-back (at No. 2) is definitely a great feeling, but I’m more excited about the fact we were able to win the team title.’’
Top-seeded sophomore Sienna Ilitch gave Cranbrook another flight championship at No. 3 singles with a 6-3, 6-2 win over freshman Josie Arbanas of Stevensville Lakeshore, who also entered the tournament unseeded but defeated the second and third seeds to advance.
“I had a three-set match in the semis, which I did last year,’’ said Ilitch. “I got to the finals and said this is my second chance where I can get redemption. I locked in. I hit my targets. I played confident. I played wanting to win, knowing my team was relying on me. Even though our team was doing well overall, for me personally I wanted to be a state champion in my flight. Last year I lost in the final. Even though we were up, it mattered to me.’’
Top-seeded sophomore Olivia Zhang made sure Cranbrook swept singles, defeating Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s third-seeded Addison Bellows 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4 singles.
“I got off to a slow start,’’ said Zhang. “I was afraid to play her.’’
Top-seeded freshman Ava Clogg and sophomore Grace Zhang claimed No. 3 doubles for Cranbrook with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 win over Chelsea senior Kendall Spink and junior Izzy Barkey, who entered as the sixth seeds. At No. 4 doubles, Cranbrook’s top-seeded Daryn Krause and Kayli Lala defeated East Grand Rapids’ second-seeded Kelly Couvrier and Kate Simon 6-1, 6-2 for the flight championship.
Upstart Chelsea’s runner-up team finish was its highest at a Girls Tennis Finals.
“One of the advantages we have is we have a middle school program, and we have a little kids’ program,’’ Chelsea coach Rahn Rosentreter said. “We really don’t have a lot of clubs. Most of our work is done during the summer. We’ve been lucky. We have a lot of parental support, and the school supports us. We have a community that puts a lot behind their boys and girls tennis.’’
After EGR, Bloomfield Hills Marian was fourth and Country Day fifth in the team standings.
Country Day’s second-seeded Peja Liles and Lana Haddad claimed No. 1 doubles with a 7-6, 6-2 victory over top seed Chloe Qin and Gaby Levine of Cranbrook.
At No. 2 doubles East Grand Rapids’ top-seeded Meg Simon and Ella Webb held off Country Day’s third-seeded Aryasai Radhakrishnan and Marin Norlander 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in the final.
PHOTOS (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood's Yenna Park prepares to return a volley during her No. 1 singles championship match Saturday. (Middle) Otsego's Aly Aldrich sends a shot back to Park during that title decider. (Below) Chelsea's Kendall Spink and Izzy Barkey and Cranbrook's Ava Clogg and Grace Zhang greet each other at the net during their No. 3 doubles match at Midland Tennis Center. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.
Negaunee, which came into this season as reigning Division 1 champion, has taken the U.P. crown seven of the past nine years. Ishpeming Westwood took the title in 2021.
Negaunee is 11-0-1 after a win over Gwinn on Tuesday. The tie came last week against Escanaba.
"We knew we were going to have a target on our backs," said Miners coach Kyle Saari. "We told the girls they have to be ready for every meet. The target is pretty huge, and I think we were sluggish out of the gate. I don't think we finished particularly well at the net. I think our tradition helps us for sure, although it can be a double-edged sword. We want to keep striving to reach benchmarks and make sure we don't get lackadaisical."
Sophomore Liliana Saunders is 12-0 at No. 2 singles. She was the UPD1 No. 4 single champion as a freshman.
"I'm starting to play my game," Saunders said after her 6-0, 6-1 victory over Escanaba’s Molly VanDamme. "I think I'm controlling the ball pretty well, but I need to work on my net play and improve my serving a little.
“Overall, we have a real strong team. We're pretty close-knit and play a lot over the summer. I think our tradition gives us a lot of confidence going into matches."
Saunders' summer work included a trip in early August to Escanaba, where she earned the age 16-18 title in the 76th Annual Michigan-Wisconsin Open with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Escanaba senior Sophia Derkos.
"I think that really helped me," she said. "She's really a good player. My toughest match this season was against the Westwood girl (sophomore Samantha Ruby). The Gladstone girl (Addy Trombley) is also pretty good."
Derkos – last season’s UPD1 No. 1 singles champion – remained undefeated in five matches after taking a 6-0, 6-1 decision from Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson at No. 1 singles last week.
"She's a good player, and they're a good team," Derkos said after the match. "This is a big win. I've been waiting to play them and Westwood. Those are the two toughest teams. This is a big confidence boost."
Johnson, last season’s UPD1 runner-up at No. 2 singles, bounced back with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Munising's Bailey Corcoran on Thursday and also won Tuesday, and gave Derkos her due after the Escanaba match.
"Sophia knows what she wants to do," said Johnson. "She plays at a pretty fast pace, and I didn't get to the net as much as I'd like. She's very patient. You can tell she's an experienced player. I can learn from playing against her."
The Miners, as they did in singles, split their four matches with Escanaba in doubles.
Seniors Sage Juntti and Olivia Lumseth are the reigning UPD1 champs at No. 2 doubles, and Kallen Schultz was part of the No. 3 champion last season and is playing No. 1 this fall with Madison Frustaglio, who was part of the 2022 runner-up at their flight.
“We have a very good coach. He always challenges us, so we can get better,” Juntti said. “We do our usual stuff. If it's not good, he just makes us work on it until it is good."
Except for the Escanaba tie and a 5-3 triumph over Westwood, all of the Miners' victories have been shutouts (8-0).
"The biggest part of our success is the girls are supportive of each other," Saari said. "They're all quality kids."
Negaunee's success also has made Escanaba coach Chris Ogren take notice.
"Kyle has been there a long time," he said. "They have one of the most athletic teams, and they're very disciplined. You always have to be ready when you play them.
“We have some good teams up here. You always have to be mentally prepared."
Negaunee hosts Gwinn, Menominee and Marquette before also hosting the Mid-Peninsula Conference tournament Sept. 27.
The U.P. Division 1 Finals will take place Oct. 4 in Marquette.
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTO Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson serves during her match against Escanaba’s Sophia Derkos on Sept. 13. (Photo by Mitch Vosburg/Escanaba Daily Press.)