Greenhills Finds 'June Magic' Again to Extend Division 4 Streak to 3-Peat

By Jeff Bleiler
Special for

June 1, 2024

ANN ARBOR — The Ann Arbor Greenhills High School girls tennis team has a motto:

“All joy, no fear, can’t lose.”

On Saturday at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals, the Gryphons felt plenty of joy, feared no one and just could not lose.

Led by junior Maddie Morgan’s three-set thriller at No. 1 singles, Greenhills collected its third straight Finals team trophy and its fifth overall by claiming all but one flight championship at the University of Michigan’s William Clay Ford Outdoor Courts.

“We’re very thrilled at the outcome. They worked very hard, the parents have been incredibly supportive, the school has been supportive, and when you have all of that going for you, it’s hard not to put in a good effort,” said coach Mark Randolph, who in addition to coaching the past three Finals champions also coached the team to titles in 2017 and 2009.

“We feel very privileged, and we want to use our privilege the right way. We want to be grateful and play the game the right way.”

Greenhills nearly swept the tournament, scoring 38 of a possible 40 points to outdistance Division 4 newcomer Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s 27 points. Traverse City St. Francis was third with 19, followed by Elk Rapids with 17 and Wixom St. Catherine and Grand Rapids West Catholic tied with 16.

Greenhills and Notre Dame Prep entered Saturday’s matches tied at 24 after each advanced all eight entries to the semifinals Friday. Greenhills then put seven singles and doubles teams into the finals, including all four singles entries, while Notre Dame Prep advanced one singles player and one doubles team to the championship matches.

Morgan, the second seed at No. 1 singles, faced top seed and undefeated senior Ayva Johnstone of Elk Rapids in a rematch from a meeting earlier this year, won by Johnstone in three sets.

“Ayva had beaten Maddie earlier in the year, and when she walked off the court, I said to her, ‘June,’” Randolph said. “The magic happens in June.”

Morgan finished on top this time with a back-and-forth 6-4, 5-7, 6-0 victory. Johnstone had a 4-1 lead in the first set before Morgan roared back, and Morgan led 3-1 in the second set before Johnstone responded. The third set was all Morgan as she repeated as No. 1 singles champion after falling in the semifinals as a freshman.

“Of course it was going to be a close match,” Morgan said. “It was essential to focus at the beginning of that third set and kind of get her off her feet a little bit. After that, it felt like I was in the zone.”

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Megan Fitzpatrick sends back a backhand at No. 3 doubles.Freshman Ellie Kim won the No. 2 singles championship 6-0, 6-1 over Elk Rapids junior Anneka Croftchik to polish off a 25-0 campaign. The top seed, Kim lost just three games over four matches during the weekend.

“It’s really nice. I’ve been preparing the whole season, so it feels really nice to have it pay off,” Kim said.

Junior Shangyang Xia won at No. 3 singles to collect her third-straight singles and team championships. Xia, who defeated Notre Dame Prep senior Addison Bellows 6-2, 6-0, was the No. 2 singles champion the past two seasons and provided a massive spark for the team.

“Maddie has been a real cornerstone, but you look at what Shangyang Xia has done,” Randolph said. “She’s now won three individual state titles and three state team titles. No one in the history of our school has ever done that. She’s another essential part. As I go through the team, everybody is essential to our team concept.”

Sophomore Danica Rakic-Dennis was the No. 4 singles champion with a 6-0, 7-6 victory over St. Francis senior Ava Pomaranski.

In doubles, Greenhills sophomore Lauren Ye and freshman Nina Malani teamed up to claim the No. 1 championship with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 thriller over West Catholic junior Alivia Mott and senior Brooke Tietz.

Juniors Sophie Chen and Sophia Kleer defeated St. Catherine senior Sarah Palushaj and junior Lily Wolocko 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles, while senior Parini Rao and freshman Alyssa Hong took the No. 4 doubles title with a 6-1, 0-6, 6-2 victory over West Catholic seniors Carly Wright and Emily Dorato.

Rao played No. 1 doubles as a freshman for Randolph, before Greenhills began its tear through Division 4, and was the only senior on the team.

“She was a ninth-grader when people used to clown us,” Randolph said. “We were trying to build. The next year Maddie, Shangyang, Sophia, Sophie, Meera (Tewari), Meera (Pandey), all joined our team, and they stayed with it. I credit my wife (Becky Randolph) with creating a team atmosphere and getting these kids to appreciate staying at Greenhills. They’ve helped Parini become a three-time state champion.”

The only flight that alluded the Gryphons was No. 3 doubles, where the Notre Dame Prep duo of junior Erin Delaney and senior Megan Fitzpatrick defeated Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian freshmen Laura Brandt and Leah Ulstad 6-3, 6-1.

The fourth seed, Delaney and Fitzpatrick earned a hard-fought 6-3, 7-5 victory in the semifinals over top-seeded Tewari and Pandey to claim the Fighting Irish’s lone flight championship.

A year after a fourth-place finish in Division 3, third-year coach Brandon Clayton was thrilled with his team’s showing.

“This core group of girls has really raised the standards for the program,” Clayton said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Division 4 or Division 3. We came into this with expectations, and they lived up to every one of them.

“About four years ago, they weren’t a team that anybody had any thought about, let alone fear about. Now we’re at the top of the state. It’s a little Cinderella story for them, so that makes it pretty special despite it not being first place.”

Randolph, who was hired as an assistant coach for the girls team at Greenhills 27 years ago, said he began to contemplate this year’s Finals on the drive back from Kalamazoo after the Gryphons won last year’s championship. While he’s already doing the same for next year, he said he plans to savor this one if not just for a bit.

“We’re at the mountaintop right now, but it took 27 years to climb the mountain,” he said. “I’d just like a minute to enjoy the view.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Ann Arbor Greenhills’ Shangyang Xia smashes a forehand during a No. 3 singles match Saturday. (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Megan Fitzpatrick sends back a backhand at No. 3 doubles. (Click for more at High School Sports Scene.)

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