G.P. South Completes Title Mission

May 31, 2014

By Scott Keyes
Special to Second Half

MIDLAND – From the flustered feeling of not knowing how bad the elements were going to be to start the season, to the snow showers that hit the courts during late April, the Grosse Pointe South girls tennis team prepared for everything as this rugged season began to take shape.

The results showed.

The No. 1-ranked team in Lower Peninsula Division 1 all season proved why as the Devils earned their second MHSAA LP Division 1 championship in three seasons with a convincing victory Saturday afternoon at the Midland Tennis Center.

Grosse Pointe South had 28 points, followed by Clarkston with 22 and Bloomfield Hills and Northville with 19 each. Port Huron Northern was fifth with 16 points.

"We knew what he had coming into this season after last year's third-place finish," Grosse Pointe South coach Mark Sobieralski said. "The girls came into this season on a mission. They kept improving every time they hit the court. It's always nice to win a state title, but this championship is extra special for the entire team. From the newcomers to the veterans, everyone on the team played a key role in making this happen. I couldn't be prouder."

Grosse Pointe South clinched the championship early, having earned multiple points in every flight Friday – and winning all four of their three-set matches that day.

"Last year we may have lost them because of the lack of experience," Sobieralski said. "The kids really grew up this season."

At No. 1 singles, Utica's Davina Nguyen defeated Clarkston’s Lexi Baylis, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match that was worth the price of admission.

A year ago Baylis lost in the final to Saline’s Mary Hanna, while Nguyen was ousted in the semifinal by Baylis.

This time, Baylis (headed to Michigan State University) blitzed Nguyen in the first set, 6-2, but Nguyen rebounded to win, 6-3, 6-4, to claim her second high school singles title.

Nguyen admitted the win was extremely gratifying, defeating someone of Baylis' caliber.

"On that last point I knew I needed to finish it then because I couldn't feel my hand at all during that last point," Nguyen said. "It was crazy. I lost to her last year, and to be able to gain a little redemption is pretty gratifying. My mindset coming in was the same as it was my freshman year when I won the state championship. I knew Lexi was going to give it her all, and to get the win is pretty amazing."

Besides winning the team title, Grosse Pointe South also had two individual flight winners on the day.

Maddie Paolucci defeated Elaina Parrillo (Midland Dow), 6-4, 6-2, at No. 4 singles, while the No. 4 doubles team of Ginny Hayden and Kelly Beardslee defeated Libby Quinn and Chloe Page (Northville), 6-2, 6-4.

Grosse Pointe South also reached the finals in two other flights but finished runners-up. Willard lost to Clarkston's Dana Olsen, 6-2, 6-1, while Sydney Keller and Morgane Flournoy lost to Amy Tseng and Maggie Bacheller (Port Huron Northern) at No. 2 doubles, 6-2, 6-2.

Raven Neely (No. 1 singles) and Angelica Kalogeridis and Jennifer Moy (No. 3 doubles) were semifinalists for Grosse Pointe South.

Parrillo wasn't the only Dow player that made it into the finals. Bloomfield Hills' Kerry Hu defeated Chargers freshman Caroline Szabo at No. 2 singles, 7-5, 6-3.

Dow coach Garrett Turner was impressed by the efforts of his team during the tournament.

"The future is definitely bright," Turner said. "In the finals Caroline ran out of gas, but she has nothing to hang her head about. We had a great tournament, and the kids will learn from this experience heading into next season."

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Pointe South raises its championship trophy Saturday afternoon at the Midland Tennis center. (Middle) Utica’s Davina Nguyen sends a shot during a No. 1 singles match en route to winning the flight. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)

Team of the Month: Negaunee Girls Tennis

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.”