Favorites Marian, Fox Finish First

June 1, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP — Athletes sometimes have a mantra they repeat to get through tough patches in the heat of competition.

Power-packed words like “compete,” “strong” and “courage” often provide a mental boost to the struggling athlete.

So, what went through the mind of Bloomfield Hills Lahser junior Mollie Fox with the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 No. 1 singles championship on the line?

“‘Angry bubbles and elephants,’” she said. “Those are the words I repeat to myself to laugh and keep things more lighthearted, just when things start to get close.”

There were plenty of tense moments for the top-seeded Fox, who was pushed to a rare three-set match before emerging victorious by a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 score over previously unbeaten senior Sara Remynse of Richland Gull Lake on Saturday at Genesys Athletic Club.

Fox broke Remynse’s serve in the third set to take a 4-2 lead. A break by Remynse closed the deficit to 5-4 before Fox closed it out on her opponent’s serve.

After taking a 4-1 lead in the first set, it was a battle all the way for Fox, who was upset in last year’s semifinals after also coming in with a No. 1 seed.

A relaxed approach helped Fox overcome the burden of high expectations.

“I went in with a little less pressure than before, knowing it’s a game and whatever happens will happen,” Fox said.

Remynse was the Division 3 runner-up as a freshman in 2010. She didn’t play high school tennis the last two seasons, focusing on United States Tennis Association tournaments. After signing with the University of Michigan in the fall, she decided it would be fun to play high school tennis as a senior.

Remynse beat Fox in a USTA tournament last summer, but wound up on the short end of a highly competitive match on Saturday.

“She’s a really good player,” Remynse said. “She deserved to win. She was the better player in the third set. I can’t be mad.”

Birmingham Marian, a powerhouse in Division 2, added a second MHSAA championship to its string of 19 consecutive top-10 finishes. Marian beat Birmingham Seaholm, 27-23. Ada Forest Hills Eastern finished among the top three for the 11th straight year, placing third with 21 points.

“People didn’t think we were going to be as good as what we were,” Marian coach Lincoln Wirgau said. “We have 14 girls on our team, myself and my assistant. We circled up after our team was set, and it was us 16 against everybody else; we were fine with that. I like our odds with those girls and our six seniors.”

A common thread for this year’s team and Marian’s 2010 squad is the presence of a Lunghamer sister.

Kelly Lunghamer was the No. 3 singles champion, and Kristin Lunghamer made the No. 1 doubles semifinals in 2010. This year, freshman Breann Lunghamer matched Kelly’s feat by winning No. 3 singles.

After winning a marathon 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 semifinal over Mason’s Samantha Perkins, Lunghamer won the title with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Claire Markley of Seaholm.

“I always saw them winning state titles and never knew what a state title was like,” Lunghamer said. “I always watched them being excited and happy about it. It’s pretty cool.”

Lunghamer was Marian’s only singles champion. The Mustangs also had champions at No. 2 doubles, with first-time finalists Tatyanna Dadabbo and Sally Thorensen winning.

Okemos sophomore Emily Struble repeated as No. 2 singles champion in dominant fashion, winning 48 games and losing only five in four matches. She led 5-0 in the first set of the finals against Lauren Dietz of Marian, then lost two games in a row before regrouping for a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

The No. 1 doubles championship duo of senior Nancy Benda and junior Jackie Meier of Seaholm never played together before this year.

Benda was a successful singles player, losing in the semifinals in 2011 and the second round last season in the No. 1 flight. Because of a wrist injury, it was determined that playing doubles would be best for her.

“It was definitely a different game,” Benda said. “I wasn’t used to doubles at the beginning of the season. It was an adjustment period, but Jackie and I came together. It was mostly getting used to the court and having two girls on the other side of the net. There’s more strategy involved.”

Meier was on the championship No. 3 doubles team last year before making the leap in competition to No. 1 doubles.

“At No. 1 doubles, every single team comes out to play so hard,” Meier said.

Lahser won half of the singles titles, with Meryl Reams taking the No. 4 flight with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Catherine Yaldoo of Marian.

Forest Hills Northern’s Stephanie Nguyen and Sarayna Sundaram won No. 3 doubles by beating Kyra Fitz and Danny Harro of East Grand Rapids, 6-2, 6-0.

Seaholm’s Lauren Benderoff and Sam Lareau won No. 4 doubles by a 6-2, 6-1 score over Charlotte Garrison and Madison Lorenz of Bloomfield Hills Andover.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Marian's Sally Thorensen returns a shot during Saturday's LP Division 2 Finals. She and partner Tatyanna Dadabbo won the No. 2 doubles flight. (Middle) Lahser's Mollie Fox won the No. 1 singles championship, taking the final match in three sets. (Below) Birmingham Seaholm's Nancy Benda and Jackie Meier (left) shake hands with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern's Victoria Minzlaff and Shelby Moored after winning the No. 1 doubles final. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.) 

Reigning UPD1 Champ Negaunee Setting Pace Again as Finals Approach

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

September 21, 2023

ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.

Upper PeninsulaNegaunee, 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 VrancicJohn 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.)