Northville wins 1st Title, Nguyen Her 3rd

May 30, 2015

By Scott Keyes
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND – Utica Davina Nguyen fought through injuries all season long.

Up until a few weeks she didn't even know if she would be back to play for her third Lower Peninsula Division 1 No. 1 singles championship.

Despite the adversity, Nguyen played her best tennis of the season this weekend, making history by winning her third consecutive MHSAA Finals championship at. No. 1 singles – and becoming just the sixth player to win the top flight at least three times.

Nguyen won in grand style by defeating rival Ava Thielman of Utica Eisenhower, 6-3, 6-3, at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.

While Nguyen continued to rewrite the record books in singles competition, Northville added a page of its own by winning its first-ever MHSAA girls tennis title.

"I had some nagging injuries this season that really slowed me down, but I knew I was going to be back this season. But it really was a matter of when it was going to happen," said Nguyen, who will play her college tennis at Michigan State University. "Winning three straight titles is an amazing feeling. The support from my friends and family has been tremendous."

Thielman had defeated Nguyen twice before this season. But carrying the pressure of the MHSAA Finals, the senior (Nguyen) prevailed over the sophomore (Thielman).

"When you get to this point in the season, there is a lot of pressure on you to get the job done, but I did it," Nguyen said. "It's an amazing feeling to win three state titles."

Northville won five flights to finish with 33 points. Midland Dow (28), Grosse Pointe South (22), Ann Arbor Pioneer (18) and Traverse City Central (17) rounded out the top five.

"We played in a lot of big tournaments this season against very tough competition from around the state to help prepare us for the tournament," Northville coach Linda Jones said.  "We expected our doubles to carry us through, but our No. 2 and No. 3 singles came through and beat Dow (in the finals), and those were key points there."

"It came down to those matches, and they put us over the top."

Shanoli Kumar (Northville) defeated Jessica Brown (Midland Dow) 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, while Joanne Gao (Northville) defeated Elaina Parrillo (Midland Dow) 4-6, 6 -3, 6-2, at No. 3.

But it was in doubles where Northville has dominated all season – and did again Saturday.

The Mustangs went undefeated in all four doubles flights all season until Saturday, when Midland Dow's No. 1 pair of Afua Ofori-Darko and Kamryn Matthews upset Anika Mukherji and Reeshma Kumar 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Northville earned championships at the three remaining flights – Paige Baal and Claudia Ma at No. 2, Jordan Hermiz and Amelia Albanelli at No. 3, and Serena Wang and Molly Bis at No. 4.

"It's staggering," said Jones of the doubles play all season.

Midland Dow coach Garrett Turner was extremely impressed with the play of Northville.

“They came out swinging and firing on all cylinders,” he said.

“We played really, really well. (Friday) we had four three-set matches we won. Today we had three three-set matches we won in the semifinals.”

The runner-up finish was Midland Dow's first since 2010 when it followed up Ann Arbor Pioneer.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Northville's coaches and athletes pose with the first MHSAA team championship trophy in the school’s girls tennis history. (Middle) Davina Nguyen of Utica receives her championship medal after winning her third title at No. 1 singles. (Click to see more from

Team of the Month: Negaunee Girls Tennis

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.”