LP Tennis Finals: Championship Returns

June 2, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart had its first outdoor practice this season near the end of March. When co-coaches Judy Hehs and Jean Koehler showed up to the courts, their players already were in the midst of their usual warm-up routine.

Sacred Heart brought back 10 players from last season’s Division 4 runner-up that finished only three points behind Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. And when those players got to Holland and the surrounding courts used because of Friday’s rain storms, they again knew what needed to be done.

The Gazelles, relying on four top-seeded doubles teams, finished with 29 points Saturday to claim their first MHSAA championship, by seven points over runner-up Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.

Sacred Heart pairs won individual championships at Nos. 1, 3 and 4, and the No. 2 pair finished runner-up. That No. 1 team of Kelsey Nagle and Emily Nash also played the top flight in 2011, and the No. 3 pair of Heidi Lemon and Sarah Spangler played together last season at No. 4.

“It’s really helpful when you can bring sophomores to a state tournament, and they’re hungry and eager to learn, and you come close,” Hehs said. “Then you bring them back as juniors, and they get it.”

The No. 4 doubles team of Kendall Lehmann and Teresa Walawender also won their flight for the Gazelles, while the team's singles players either scored to their seeds or surpassed them. Kelsey Hildebrand was seeded sixth at No. 2 singles but advanced to the semifinals, as did No. 3 player Tyler Papazian, who was seeded fifth.

No. 2 doubles Hannah Gerrard and Elia Wilson fell just shy of matching their top seed, but still finished runners-up at their flight.

“We left there (last season) in shock; how could we have been so close and not done it?” Hehs said. “But we had a group of kids, and they were totally committed to this. This was their goal.”

The most intriguing singles championship match came at No. 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills senior Kasey Gardiner won her third MHSAA individual championship – she also claimed titles in 2009 and 2010 – by downing Kalamazoo Hackett’s Meika Ashby. Ashby won the No. 1 singles title last season.

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Division 1 at Midland Tennis Center

The seeds didn’t stack up for Grosse Pointe South to make a run at the favorites this season. But the Blue Devils played above those numbers to claim their 13th championship in the 31-year history of the Girls Tennis Finals, edging runners-up Clarkston and Port Huron Northern by a point each.

Only four top seeds won their flights – including Grosse Pointe South’s No. 2 doubles Amelia Boccaccio and Carrie Lynch, who claimed a three-set win over Port Huron Northern that was among difference-makers. The Blue Devils also got a championship at No. 4 singles by Maggie Sweeney, who entered as a fourth seed.

No. 1 singles was claimed by a fifth seed – Davina Nguyen of Utica against Clarkston’s Katie Brozovich, who won No. 3 singles in 2011. Brozovich's teammate Lexi Baylis defended her championship at No. 2 with a straight-set win.

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Division 2 at Kalamazoo College

Birmingham Seaholm won only one individual flight. But the Maples claimed enough points to edge Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern by two – 27-25 – at the top of the final standings.

The championship was Seaholm's third, but first since 2004. It finished runner-up last season and also in 2005 and 2006. Forest Hills Northern had won or shared the last six Division 2 championships.

FHN made its push by winning two doubles flights and advancing to the championship match of the other two. But Seaholm also reached the finals in four flights, including Nos. 2-4 singles – and won the deciding match in the No. 3 doubles final when top-seeded Jackie Meier and Rachel Wilson defeated FHN's Stephanie Nguyen and Lindsey Schichtel in straight sets.

The tournament was not without surprises. The Huskies got doubles points from pairs that finished far better than they were seeded – Shelby Moored and Lauren Gager were a fourth seed and won at No. 2, and Schichtel and Nguyen were the sixth seed at No. 3.

No. 1 and No. 4 singles both were won by fifth seeds – Mason’s Abby Perkins in the top flight and Grand Rapids Northview’s Claire Stam in the fourth.

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Division 3 at Holly/Fenton

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood earned its 14th championship, and did so after the first day of play before finishing the effort Saturday with 34 points – nine more than runner-up East Grand Rapids.

No. 1 singles standout Alexandria Najarian defended her championship with a two-set win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Sydney Liggins. Cranbrook-Kingswood also swept doubles with wins from Megan Simmons and Meg Phyle at No. 1, Claire Huttenlocher and Maria Landi at No. 2, Briana Letica and Holly Meers at No. 3 and Lauren Lanzon and Christina Roualet at No. 4.

All of those winning flights were seeded one or two entering the tournament.

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Cranbrook Enjoys Slight Edge This Time in Rematch of Frequent Contenders

By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com

June 3, 2023

ANN ARBOR — There’s not a lot of difference between the tennis teams from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Detroit Country Day.

Certainly not on the scoreboard; the teams tied for the Regional title last month, and Cranbrook edged Country Day 33-31 on Saturday to repeat as Lower Peninsula Division 3 champion at the University of Michigan.

And there’s also little difference in the minds of Cranbrook coach Grant Asher and Country Day mentor Jessica Stencel.

“We deserved second today," Stencel said. “They were definitely the mentally-tougher team. And maybe if the tournament was held tomorrow, it might have been different. But it really came down to if we would have taken one different flight, then it would have been a tie. We just had too many loose spots we couldn’t figure out.”

Division 3 tennisAnd the Cranes made the most of those opportunities.

“We knew it was going to be really tough,” Asher said. “We were evenly matched, but the girls played the big points really well and handled the pressure of the state championship really well.”

Among the flight winners for Cranbrook were Sienna Ilitch and Olivia Zhang, who repeated as champions at Nos. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively.

“I think it had to be a little harder (to repeat),” said Ilitch, who was the top seed going into the tournament. “I had a tough match in the semifinals, and I had another tough match in the finals against (Melanie Bandara of) Country Day. She really stepped up and played hard. It was a good, competitive match.”

Ilitch and Zhang, both juniors, were in finals for the third consecutive year. For Ilitch, her victory Saturday helped ease the pain of her loss at the 2021 tournament.

“It might have been more exciting because my freshman year I lost in the final match of the day and we finished second,” she said. “This year, I ended up (clinching) the title for us.”

Division 3 tennis - WilliamstonFor one of Cranbrook’s seniors, Saturday’s final was all about nerves and keeping her teammates focused.

Inijie Gazayerli, one of Cranbrook’s co-captains, cheered on her team despite being sidelined by a recent case of mononucleosis.

“It’s surreal,” she said. “I mean, last season seems like yesterday, and I’m so proud of this team and what we've been able to accomplish.”

Grand Rapids Christian finished third with 23 points, led by Brynn Uchmann, who defeated Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Julia Gurne 6-1, 6-1 to take the No. 1 singles title.

Saturday’s Final marked the 12th year in a row either Cranbrook or Country Day hoisted the championship trophy.

In the end, it came down to the mental aspect.

“I’m usually able to keep calm, and I think that really helps me through really tough matches,” Zhang said.

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PHOTOS by High School Sports Scene