Performance: East Grand Rapids' Sloane Teske

April 21, 2017

Sloane Teske
East Grand Rapids sophomore – Tennis

Teske capped her first season of high school tennis a year ago by making the No. 1 singles semifinals at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals. And that success should be just the start; Teske is 8-0 this season and won No. 1 singles Saturday at the prestigious Allegan Invitational, coming back to down Detroit Country Day’s Monique Karoub in three sets in the flight final to help the Pioneers to a shared team title with the Yellowjackets – and earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Teske fell to Karoub – last season’s Division 3 champion at No. 2 singles – 6-1 in Saturday’s first set before coming back to win the second 6-0. Teske trailed again in the third set before coming back one more time to win 7-5 and clinch the match victory. The elite pair has faced each other before in United States Tennis Association play, and Karoub had won their most recent match.

Frequently, top high school tennis players focus solely on that sport. But Teske is far more than a tennis star: She also plays on East Grand Rapids' golf team and carries a 4.2 grade-point average. She’s a few years from figuring out her future academically, but enjoys her history and mathematics classes most. A team leader already as an underclassman, she’s hoping to lead the Pioneers to their first MHSAA Finals title since 2009 after they finished runners-up to Bloomfield Hills Marian in 2016. East Grand Rapids currently is ranked No. 1 in Division 2.

Coach Mickey Mikesell said: “We’ve had Mr. Tennis go through here, other kids at the highest level. But one thing about Sloane – the biggest thing, is she’s a natural-born leader. She came in as a freshman, and in some ways took over the team. She played a lot of basketball growing up. Basketball, volleyball, those sports there’s a lot of yelling going on, and she’s like that – even as a freshman, she’s yelling at (her teammates) motivating them, cheering them on, and you rarely see that as a freshman. She has tremendous talent in her game; it’s fantastic, and it’s great having a player like that on a team to keep the team energized. Even when we do team dinners, like before Regionals (last year), she asked me, ‘Can I speak in front of the team?’ Rarely do I have kids do that at any age. … It’s just a good combination. She’s headstrong, she has lots of power, and the biggest thing with her is she’s so competitive, so feisty out there. That fire inside of her … she has a great chance to do something individually every year, but she wants us to win as a team, and that’s a good mix to have as a coach.”

Performance Point: “That day was a very tough day, specifically the conditions we were playing in – it was super windy outside,” Teske said of the Allegan tournament. “Multiple times the wind would be blowing from every direction. It was kinda funny some points, but also frustrating. You’d try to get the ball to go a certain direction, and most of the time it would go somewhere completely different. I was just trying to be very focused. I was aware of how close things were. … I knew it was going to be a tough match going against DCD. I kept the ball in play, tried to be super consistent, and when I saw the opportunity to go hit a winner and end the point, I did. My coaches were my biggest help; after the first set, they helped me to get my mind right and get ready for the next set. … They told me to just clear everything out, block everything out and get back my game and focus. After the match, I was still shocked – I couldn’t believe I came back and won that second set.”

Year older and wiser: “I’ve learned to just keep my cool and composure, just learned to take one match at a time … stay in the moment. It’s kinda tough. It’s hard not to worry about your next match, who you’re going to play, how you’re going to play. When I’m playing, I just block everything out, everyone out, and just focus on what’s in front of me.”

Head in the game: “The strongest part of my game, I just know how to think differently than my opponent. I work points to my favor – I will attack the backhand, and when they think I’m going to their backhand, I’ll go down the line to the forehand and they aren’t expecting that. It’s a fun way to play.”

Tee it up: “I just try to balance my schedule (with tennis and golf), especially during the summer. My parents help me out, trying to make sure I have everything. (Golf) is a break, sometimes for me, to take a break from tennis. And I come back (to tennis) stronger every time.”

It’s about team: “High school is a lot different (than USTA) … you always have your teammate’s back, you cheer for each other and help each other during matches. It’s really a fun thing – it’s different than going out there to be by yourself. … I love the feeling of winning, especially when I can do that with my team too.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
March 30: Romeo Weems, New Haven basketball Read
March 23: Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark, Pittsford basketball Read
March 16: Camden Murphy, Novi swimming & diving Read
March 9: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central wrestling Read
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Sloane Teske returns a volley during last season's Division 2 semifinal match against Mason's Olivia Hanover. (Middle) Teske serves while playing No. 1 singles for East Grand Rapids. (Top photo by, middle photo courtesy of the East Grand Rapids athletic department.)

Pioneer Piles Up Points From All Over Lineup to Claim 3rd-Straight Title

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 3, 2023

HOLLAND – Juliana Pullen made her grandpa proud at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Girls Tennis Division 1 Final. 

The Ann Arbor Pioneer senior won her first state championship at No. 3 singles with her grandpa and coach, Tom Pullen, looking on.

Her victory helped the Pioneers win their third-straight team title ahead of runner-up Troy at DeWitt Tennis Center.

Ann Arbor Pioneer finished with 32 points, while Troy had 25.

“I'm glad I was able to live up to the expectations because anything could've happened, so I’m just glad things worked out,” Juliana Pullen said. “There was a lot of pressure, especially with our history as a team and being the coach’s granddaughter. A lot of pressure, but I’m glad I was able to pull through.”

Pullen, the top seed and lone senior on the team, closed her season with a perfect record as she ousted Ann Arbor Skyline’s Maddie Slade in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0.

“That was very satisfying since she is my granddaughter,” Tom Pullen said. “It was nice to see her end her career with a state championship.”

Juliana Pullen, who will play at Kalamazoo College, had an impressive comeback in the semifinals after dropping the first set.

Ann Arbor Skyline’s Sari Woo returns a volley during her No. 1 singles match.“Everybody at this tournament are great players,” she said. “The girl I played in the semis was a fantastic player, and the same with the finals. Everyone was playing extremely well, and I’m happy to have pulled through and I’m super proud of my team.”

Tom Pullen said a talented and balanced lineup in both singles and doubles helped the Pioneers prevail.

“It takes effort from every member of the team, and this is what made it possible for us,” he said. “We got points from everybody, and Troy had a couple flights where they couldn't get as many points. We had a team that was strong from top to the bottom, and that’s what it takes to win a state championship.”

Pioneers’ top-seeded freshman Sophia Liang joined Pullen as a flight champion with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Clarkston’s Charlotte Partchenko at No. 4 singles.

Liang also finished the season undefeated.

“Being the No. 1 seed you have some pressure, but have to learn to relax and enjoy it,” she said. “At the end of the day it's all about the work and memories that matter the most.

“I just wanted to come out here and play my game and enjoy it. It feels even better to know that the whole team can come together and win, and it’s a nice feeling that we could keep this going.” 

Ann Arbor Pioneer also claimed a flight title at No. 4 doubles as junior Noa Gluskin and freshmen Jessica Primus, seeded third, rallied to defeat Novi (4-6, 6-4, 6-1).

“I’m so proud of our No. 4 doubles,” Juliana Pullen said. “One is a freshman and the other one was an alternate for two years, so this was their first year on varsity and they won.”

Troy, which finished third a year ago, dominated in doubles as three flights captured championships.

“They played some very high-level tennis today,” Troy’s assistant coach Susie Moceri said. “We asked, and they delivered.

“Our head coach, Brian Miska, is in the hospital with his wife and he could not be here to watch all the work he has put into this team, but in his absence they really delivered.”

Senior Grace Zhu and junior Nika Tananko captured a straight set (6-2, 6-2) win over Bloomfield Hills at No. 1 doubles, while seniors Varsha Penumalee and Vienna Thieu upset the top-seeded Ann Arbor Pioneer tandem 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. 

Troy’s Grace Zhu sends back a shot at No. 1 doubles.Juniors Hannah Lee and Michelle Baik outlasted Ann Arbor Pioneer’s top-seeded team, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to win at No. 3 doubles.

Ann Arbor Skyline’s Sari Woo won at No. 1 singles with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Rochester Adams’ Nicole Fu.

Woo, a junior, did not drop a set en route to her first championship. She was a finalist as a freshman as well.

“I’m pretty excited,” Woo said. “I was a little stressed out during my match, so I feel relieved right now. She played really well, but this means a lot and I’m grateful for everyone who stayed to watch me.”

Fu, a sophomore, upset two-time No. 2 singles champion Elise Van Wieren of Pioneer in the No. 1 semifinals. 

Bloomfield Hills’ Raegan Tomina made the most of her final high school tournament and won at No. 2 singles as a third seed. She defeated Rochester Adams’ Katie Fu, 7-5, 6-0. 

“It was just an amazing win for me because I’m a senior and this is literally my last competitive match ever,” Tomina said “It just means a lot because I’ve worked so hard.”  

Tomina dropped the first set in her semifinal against Jenison’s Marta Gomez, but rallied to win the final two sets and move on.

“I wasn’t even supposed to win my semifinal match, and after that I went into the finals just to have fun,” Tomina said. “I have nothing to lose, and I just played like that and I played with confidence and that’s what I think helped me.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer celebrates its LPD1 team championship Saturday at DeWitt Tennis Center. (Middle) Ann Arbor Skyline’s Sari Woo returns a volley during her No. 1 singles match. (Below) Troy’s Grace Zhu sends back a shot at No. 1 doubles. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)