Grosse Ile Ends Wait for 1st Championship

May 31, 2014

By Keith Dunlap
Special to Second Half

HOLLY – MHSAA Finals championships are typically remembered forever in trophy cases of schools around the state. But sometimes there are championships that differentiate themselves more than others from a historical perspective.

No doubt, the championship the Grosse Ile girls tennis team captured Saturday is one of those unique pieces of history that will stand out forever.

Coach John Shade has presided over Grosse Ile’s program for 42 years, but never got to experience the feeling of winning an MHSAA Finals championship until the Red Devils won the Lower Peninsula Division 4 title on Saturday at Holly High School.

Grosse Ile won its first-ever championship by collecting 26 points, finishing five ahead of Kalamazoo Christian and six ahead of third-place Traverse City St. Francis.

Needless to say, there were a lot of fellow coaches who wanted to offer congratulations to Shade afterward, and there will likely be many more in the coming days who couldn’t be happier to see him win his first title with the girls after previously winning with the boys program.

“It’s nice to hear congratulations from your peers,” Shade said. “I think most people know me and know Grosse Ile.”

The Red Devils produced individual champions at two flights, Kennedy Quinn at No. 4 singles and the team of Rose Tucker and Casey Guthrie at No. 4 doubles. But it was the overall depth of Grosse Ile that stood out.

Ola Latala at No. 3 singles and the team of Karolina Kvasnitova and Elli Formentin at No. 2 doubles finished second in their respective flights, and Julia Formentin at No. 2 singles and the No. 3 doubles team of Katherine Kuzmiak and Luna Terauchi reached the semifinals to add more valuable points to Grosse Ile’s total.

The seeds for Grosse Ile’s title were really sewn at last year’s MHSAA tournament, where the Red Devils finished an agonizing three points behind champion Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart.

With much of its core returning, Grosse Ile knew this could be the time to win that elusive championship, and it was.

“This was our goal since last year,” Latala said. “We are all really excited that we are state champs. We really wanted to make our coach really proud.”

Redemption from last year was also a theme for Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard senior Colleen O’Brien, who finished off an unbeaten season by winning the title at No. 1 singles.

O’Brien, who will play at Michigan State University, lost in last year’s championship match, but avenged that by beating Calla Ramont of Lansing Catholic, 6-3, 6-2.

“I think I was motivated to win more,” O’Brien said. “I just never wanted to give up, and keep fighting. Obviously last year I needed to fight a little more to win that match. I just had that mentality.”

It often can be a mental strain for a player to try and keep a perfect season going, but O’Brien’s focus turned out to be too good.

“I blocked it out,” O’Brien said. “It didn’t really affect me too much.”

Gabriel Richard also had the champion at No. 2 singles, as Maddy Szuba beat Jessica Bouma of Kalamazoo Christian, 6-3, 6-2.

Audrey Bouma of Kalamazoo Christian beat Latala, 6-3, 6-1, to win the No. 3 singles title, and Quinn beat Sydni Greenhoe of Portland at No. 4 singles, 6-2, 6-3, to round out the singles portion of the tournament.

At No. 1 doubles, Sacred Heart’s team of sophomore Gretchen Lemon and senior Sarah Spangler beat Chrissy Flynn and Ella Anteau of Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the final, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

In the semifinal, Flynn and Anteau upset the top-seeded team, Gabrielle Kelly and Stephanie Kelly of Ludington, and both Lemon and Spangler admitted they were surprised to not be facing the Ludington team in the final.

That set up a rematch from a regular-season match, when Lemon and Spangler rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win the first set and ultimately beat Flynn and Anteau.

Lemon and Spangler rallied again Saturday after dropping the first set.

“In the first set, we didn’t really realize their disadvantages,” Lemon said. “In the second and third set, we figured it out and that is how we won.”

Olivia Laman and Brooke Schneider beat Kvasnitova and Formentin, 6-4, 6-4, to win the title at No. 2 doubles, Sarah Stayman and Rosie Wilson of Traverse City St. Francis won the title at No. 3 doubles by beating Julia Maltbie and Claire Flewelling of Ludington in the final of that flight, 6-1, 7-5, and Tucker-Guthrie beat Brooke Butterfield and Morgan Wittkopp of Portland in the final of the No. 4 doubles flight, 6-2, 6-2.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Ile celebrates its first MHSAA girls tennis championship. (Middle) Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard's Colleen O'Brien returns a shot during the No. 1 singles championship match. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)

Adams' Fu Hoping to Write Championship Headline After Repeat Finalist Finishes

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

May 23, 2024

ROCHESTER HILLS — An editor for her school newspaper the last two years, Nicole Fu is one who loves to tell good stories and write good headlines. 

Greater Detroit<A junior at Adams, Fu enjoys getting to know people around the school and giving them a moment in the sun, so to speak.

“I love being able to talk with so many people and learn the stories behind their accomplishments,” Fu said.

It’s ironic, because come the end of next Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Tennis Finals, Fu hopes professional media outlets around the state will talk about her own story of accomplishment, possibly with headlines such as “Redemption Feels Sweet for Fu” or “Third Time is Charm for Adams Tennis Star.”

Both the last two years, Fu has advanced to the championship match at No. 1 singles in Division 1. 

But while quite an accomplishment to do so as a freshman and sophomore, she also left somewhat unsatisfied, losing in 2022 to Reese Miller of Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-1, 6-1) and last spring to Sari Woo of Ann Arbor Skyline (6-3, 6-4). 

“Being in the final both my freshman and sophomore years has shown me that I have what it takes to win a state championship even when it gets tough,” Fu said. “Last year especially has shown me that I’m not far from the title, and staying strong both mentally and physically is going to be crucial to hopefully winning a state title.”

No doubt, Fu should be one of the top contenders, if not the favorite.

She enters with an 18-0 record and has brilliantly handled opponents attempting to give her their best performances.

“Her ability to handle the pressure has improved a lot,” Adams head coach Greg Burks said. “She has matured as a top-level player and competes as well as any player I’ve ever had.”

Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match.Fu actually said she got her start in tennis a little later than most. After dabbling in soccer and swimming, Fu started playing tennis at age 10 when one of her mom’s co-workers gave her a foam ball and a kids racquet. 

“Then I started hitting against our living room wall, and one day my mom asked if I wanted to take an actual tennis lesson,” Fu said. 

From there, Fu started playing in tournaments, and the tennis bug bit her.

“I really loved competing in matches, so I didn’t stop and it ended up being very rewarding,” she said.

Fu also has an accomplished hitting partner in twin sister Katie, who lost in the championship match at No. 2 singles last year. 

“She’s always a great hitting partner, and it’s really nice to have someone who understands the sport and what it takes to balance that out with everything else,” Nicole Fu said. “She’s basically my second brain too, so having her around during the season is super fun and helpful for keeping me in check.”

Fu has a collegiate future in the sport, having committed in November to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

“Obviously the education is extraordinary, and attending a service academy builds your character both physically and mentally and sets you up to make an impact on the nation,” Fu said. 

When it comes to next week’s MHSAA Tournament, Fu obviously is aiming to make another impact at the championship level – but this time finish the quest she fell short of the last two years. 

“This year as a back-to-back finalist and a strong favorite has put a lot of pressure on me to win my matches,” she said. “So there’s definitely a lot of expectations for this season, and managing that was a little bit tough in the beginning of the season. But over time I’ve kind of learned to embrace it, and it’s given me more confidence in my matches knowing I’m the player people are aiming to beat.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams' Nicole Fu returns a volley during last season's No. 1 singles championship match at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)