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.)

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.”