LP Finals Preview: Champions Reign

May 30, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Fans attending any of this weekend's four MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals will notice plenty of familiar names on the bracket sheets.

Two of four reigning team champions are ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions, and three of four No. 1 singles champions from last season will play for repeats as well.

Below is a brief look at top contenders at all four tournaments. Play begins Friday morning and finishes Saturday. Click for more including brackets and seeds for all 32 flights.

DIVISION 1 at Midland Tennis Center

Top ranked: No. 1 Port Huron Northern, No. 2 Clarkston, No. 3 Grosse Pointe South.

Reigning No. 1 individual champion: Davina Nguyen, Utica. 

The top three finishers from 2012 are the top three ranked teams again this weekend. Grosse Pointe South will look to defend its championship win, earned by a point over co-runners-up Clarkston and Port Huron Northern. 

Port Huron Northern: The favorite is seeded at six flights and loaded with experience after last season’s near-miss. Allie Sweeney is the sixth seed at No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up at No. 2 last season, and Lizzie Brozovich is the third seed at No. 2 after finishing runner-up at No. 3; Rae Brozovich is the second seed at No. 3 singles after making the semifinals at No. 4. Three doubles pairs made at least the semifinals last season and two finished flight runners-up – Fran Basha and Alexis Wirtz are the second seed at No. 1 doubles after making their run as a fifth seed last season, and Jenna Brettschneider and Maddie Neaton are the second seed at No. 2 after finishing second a year ago. Amy Tseng and Maggie Bacheller are the top seed at No. 3 doubles after making last year’s semifinals. 

Clarkston: All four singles players and the No. 1 doubles pair is seeded, led by two-time reigning No. 2 singles champion Lexi Baylis coming in as the second seed this time at No. 1. Teammate Isabella Spindler is the top seed at No. 2 singles and Dana Olsen is the top seed at No. 3 after teaming up for the No. 1 doubles championship last season. Paige Olsen, the reigning No. 3 singles champ, teams with Alex Whall as the top seed at No. 1 doubles this weekend. 

Grosse Pointe South: Three of the team’s top four singles players are back from last year’s run; Carmella Goree is unseeded again at No. 1 but made the quarterfinals last season, while Brooke Willard is the fifth seed at No. 2 after also making the quarters. Maggie Sweeney is the third seed at No. 3 after winning No. 4 last season. Madie Flournoy is the top seed at No. 4. 

Saline’s Mary Hanna: She is the top seed at No. 1 singles again after coming in the same in 2012, when she made the semifinals before losing to Nguyen. Hanna owns a win over Baylis this season. 

Utica’s Davina Nguyen: After winning all four of her matches in two sets during last season’s No. 1 championship run despite entering as a fifth seed, Nguyen won’t surprise anyone this time – even as the third seed.  

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Anna Borowicz and Sarah Court: After winning No. 3 doubles last season, the Pioneers’ pair is the fourth seed at No. 1.

Other returning flight champions: Ann Arbor Pioneer's Evie VanDewege and Alyssa Roopas (No. 4 doubles, seeded second at No. 3 this season).

DIVISION 2 at Holly and Fenton 

Top ranked: No. 1 Birmingham Marian, No. 2 Birmingham Seaholm, No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern.

Reigning No. 1 singles champion: Abby Perkins, Mason. 

As in Division 1, the top three ranked teams also were the top three finishers a year ago. Seaholm edged Forest Hills Northern by two points and Marian by six, with Bloomfield Hills Andover – No. 4 this season – tied for fourth in 2012. 

Birmingham Marian: Seven flights are seeded among the top three at their respective positions, and the only unseeded player – No. 1 singles Elaine Apaza – was a semifinalist at No. 2 last season. Lauren Dietz is the second seed at No. 2, Breann Lunghamer is the top seed at No. 3, and Catherine Yaldoo is the top seed at No. 4. Bianca Emde and Tatum Schwartz played at the Finals with different doubles partners last season, but are the top seed this weekend at No. 3.

Birmingham Seaholm: The Maples are seeded at seven flights as well, with six seeds among the top three and three top-seeded doubles teams. And the only unseeded player – Lauren Frazier at No. 2 singles – won No. 4 in 2011. Jackie Meier and Rachel Wilson won No. 3 doubles last season and are partners on two top-seeded pairs – Wilson with Laine Boitos at No. 2 and Meier with Nancy Benda at No. 1. Lauren Benderoff and Sam Lareau are the top seed at No. 4 doubles, and Labina Petrovska should contend as the third seed at No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up at No. 2 last season. 

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: Four seeded doubles pairs and six seeds overall should have Forest Hills Northern in contention again. No. 1 doubles champion Victoria Minzlaff and No. 2 champs Shelby Moored and Lauren Gager – three of four champions at the top two doubles flights last season – are back with new partners. Minzlaff and Moored are the second seed at No. 1. Gager and Edie Jiang are the third seed at No. 2.

Mason’s Abby Perkins: She won the No. 1 singles championship last season as a fifth seed, so entering as a sixth seed might not mean much – but would make a great story if she repeats.

Bloomfield Hills Lahser’s Mollie Fox: She’s the top seed again at No. 1 after falling to Perkins in the semifinals last season. 

Richland Gull Lake’s Sara Remynse: The senior is the second seed at No. 1 after not playing high school tennis the last two seasons. She was the No. 1 singles runner-up in Division 3 as a freshman in 2010. 

Other returning flight champions: Okemos' Emily Struble (No. 2 singles, seeded first at No. 2 this season).

DIVISION 3 at Holland

Top ranked: No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, No. 2 Detroit Country Day, No. 3 Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

Reigning No. 1 singles champion: Alexandria Najarian, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.

Cranbrook-Kingswood is playing for its fifth-straight top-two finish and third straight MHSAA championship. Country Day won the title in 2010 and finished third last season, and Forest Hills Eastern is expected to make a bigger jump after tying for sixth last spring. Five of last season’s six seeded players at No. 1 singles are seeded at that flight again, and the sixth this time was the No. 3 singles runner-up last spring. 

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood: All four doubles pairs won flight championships last season, and five of those eight players are back in the doubles lineup, including reigning No. 3 pair Briana Latica and Holly Meers and Meg Phyle, half of last season’s No. 1 winner. The team owns the top seeds at all four singles flights: Joining Najarian are Anna Short at No. 2, Allison Motea at No. 3 and Sarah Lipworth at No. 4. Last season's No. 4 doubles champion is split among two new pairs; Lauren Lanzon remains part of the top seed at No. 4, and Christina Roualet is part of the second-seeded pair at No. 2.

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets are seeded at six flights, with two players back after winning championships in 2012. Madelyn Karoub is seeded second at No. 2 singles after winning the flight, and Jane Ziecik is teamed with Ellie Miller as the second seed at No. 1 doubles after winning No. 4 singles. All four Country Day singles flights are seeded among the top four. 

Ada Forest Hills Eastern: Three singles and three doubles flights are seeded, with reigning No. 3 singles champion Madeline Bissett the third seed this weekend at No. 2. Remington Gerst, while unseeded, is back at No. 1 singles, and Jada Bissett is the third seed at No. 3 after entering the fifth seed at No. 2 in 2012. 

Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Sydney Liggins: She’s the second seed at No. 1 singles after falling to Najarian in last season’s championship match, also as the second seed. 

Allegan’s Livia Christman: She made the No. 1 semifinals as the sixth seed last season, and is the third seed in that flight this weekend. 

DIVISION 4 at Kalamazoo College

Top ranked: No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, No. 2 Grosse Ile, No. 3 Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.

Reigning No. 1 singles runner-up: Meika Ashby, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central.

Sacred Heart is the reigning champion and finished runner-up in 2011, but Grosse Ile should make a strong push after finishing 14th in Division 3 last season. Gabriel Richard tied for eighth in Division 4 last season, and watch also for No. 4 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central – the reigning runner-up. 

Academy of the Sacred Heart: Outstanding doubles are the strength of a team powerful throughout. Three doubles pairs are top seeded and the fourth – reigning No. 1 championship pair Kelsey Nagle and Emily Nash – is seeded second. No. 2 top seeds Heidi Lemon and Sarah Spangler won at No. 3 last season, and Kendall Lehmann – paired with Hannah Gerard as the top seed at No. 3 – was part of the No. 4 champion a year ago with current No. 3 singles player Teresa Walewander. Tate Lehmann at No. 4 singles also is top-seeded. 

Grosse Ile: The Red Devils are seeded at seven flights, and six are seeded either second or third. The team’s top performers at last season’s Division 3 Final – No. 1 doubles pair Brianna Riley and Julia Formentin, who made the quarterfinals – are seeded second at No. 2 singles and third at No. 3, respectively. 

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard: The Irish are seeded at all four singles flights and unseeded in doubles. But those singles players are capable of pulling Gabriel Richard into contention. Colleen O’Brien is the second seed at No. 1 after winning No. 2 last season, and Anjali Sood is the top seed at No. 2 after making the quarterfinals at No. 1. Maddy Szuba is the second seed at No. 3 after making the No. 2 quarterfinals in 2012. 

Kalamazoo Hackett’s Meika Ashby: She’s looking to finish her high school career with a fourth championship match appearance and third championship – she won No. 2 as a freshman, No. 1 as a sophomore and finished runner-up at No. 1 last spring. She'll play No. 1 again this weekend.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central’s Kelsi Black: The fourth seed at No. 1 singles last season, she made the semifinals. This spring she’s seeded third at No. 1.

Other returning flight champions: Grandville Calvin Christian's Taylor Applehof (No. 3 singles, unseeded at No. 1 this season), Chrissy Flynn (No. 2 doubles, part of fifth-seeded No. 1 doubles this season).

PHOTO: Utica's Davina Nguyen, here playing for the 2012 Lower Peninsula Division 1 title at No. 1 singles, is one of three reigning MHSAA No. 1 singles champions set to play again this weekend. (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.”