Performance: TC Central's Autumn Roberts

May 4, 2018

Autumn Roberts
Traverse City Central senior – Tennis

Traverse City Central’s No. 1 singles player became the latest in a long line of Trojans to claim her 100th win, reaching the milestone with two more at last week’s Saginaw Heritage quad to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Roberts claimed her 99th career victory in a tie-breaker against Grand Blanc’s Ava Dunlap, then her 100th in straight sets over Davison’s Krystan Delay.

Roberts’ record this season is 10-6, and her career record now stands at 106-24. While Roberts became the 44th player in Traverse City Central girls tennis history to reach 100 victories, she’s the only one in program history to win an MHSAA Finals singles championship – she finished first at No. 4 singles in Lower Peninsula Division 1 as a freshman as her team finished fifth overall. Roberts moved up to No. 2 singles as a sophomore as the Trojans tied for 12th in Division 1, and last season she won a Regional title at No. 1 singles and made all-state as the Trojans tied for fifth in Division 2. Central is ranked No. 7 in Division 2 this week, and the Trojans have taken on some of the best across the Lower Peninsula – five of Roberts’ six defeats this spring have come against players from teams ranked in Division 1 or 2. She also owns wins over Kaitlyn Fox of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central – last season’s Division 2 runner-up at No. 2 singles – and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood’s Emma Sable, the Cranes’ top player when they finished third in Division 3 in 2017.

Roberts carries a 3.8 grade-point average and will attend Michigan State University. She’s a member of the National Business Honor Society and will major in finance on a track to become a chartered financial analyst. She also was a member of the Traverse City Central girls bowling team as a junior, something she did more for fun. Tennis is the serious pursuit – but as captain this spring she’s made fun a focus for this team as well as it’s continued to rank among the state’s elite.

Coach Shane Dilloway said: “Autumn's success starts with the years she has spent on the court. Leading up to high school, she dreamed of playing Trojan tennis, and her dedication to that dream turned into reality her freshman year when she earned a singles position in a highly experienced singles lineup. Since then, Autumn has climbed the singles ladder to play 1 singles her junior and senior years. She thrives on competition, adapts quickly to each match, has a versatile game and is extremely coachable. One of her strongest attributes is she doesn't put her emotions on display, aside from the joy she has for the sport. She experiences a range of emotions internally, from self-doubt to pure glee, but she keeps that hidden from her opponents. Above her inside-out forehand and touch volleys, her poker face may be her greatest weapon. She's an asset to the program and elevates everyone's game. Her ability and skills challenge her peers to rise to their best, and her respect for the game, her opponents, and the overall environment make Autumn a leader by example.”

Performance Point: “I had an idea of how many wins I had going into the tournament,” Roberts said. “I originally thought that I wasn’t going to get the 100th win that day because I started losing my first match; I needed two wins, so if I didn’t win the first match, I wasn’t going to get my 100th. But I actually came back in the second set and it went to a tie-breaker, and I ended up winning. And after that one, I kinda had a feeling – I had really positive energy and I was able to get my 100th later in the day. … I’ve played tennis all my life, and I was always looking forward to joining the century club because I knew a lot of people who hit their 100th their senior year, and I have a lot of friends who are in the club. It’s really cool, and it’s great to be part of that experience, and now I get a banner with all my other friends in the century club.”

Finding treasure: “Obviously the state title was pretty great freshman year. But honestly, my teammates were really making each season so great. Winning is fun and all, but I think just the memories of everyone on the team is what I’ll treasure most later in life. Looking back, it’s really just smiling and laughing with my friends – but the wins are fun too.”

Captain Roberts: “When I came in as a freshman, it was just me and another girl, and we were kinda on the outskirts at first because the team had known each other for so long. After I won the state title, it brought me in. And then throughout the years, as new people came in, I would round everyone up and I was able to get the captain position this year. I feel like I’ve really grown as a player and as a teammate, being able to bring everyone together as that leading figure. (Grown by) just really being comfortable on the court, and off the court, and just keeping a positive mindset and getting everyone else fired up to play. I know how it feels to be scared at first, but I think I’m doing a good job of incorporating everyone, making everyone feel comfortable. Everyone’s just having fun.”

Let’s make a run: “Everyone on the team is doing really well. We have some underclassmen handling the pressure really well. I think we’re going to improve over the season and come out pretty strong at states, hopefully. I think going into playing really good DI schools (as part of the tough regular-season schedule), it’s not being so hard on yourself and keeping that positive mindset. Because if you go in expecting a bad outcome or just trying to hit whatever, you’re going to mess up. If we just refocus, regroup, give ourselves some credit for being how good we actually are, then going into those big matches it will change the outcome. … I want each flight to gain some confidence, and playing against the top dogs I want to test them a little bit, give them a good match, not give up. If we’re down, I want to be able to come back and fight and just give it our all. We have some big tournaments coming up – one in Holly this weekend -- and just hitting as hard as we can and giving it our best, it will really help us.”

Making it count: “Since it’s my last year, I just want to leave without any regrets. I don’t want to look back and think, ‘Oh I should’ve done this,’ so I think in the moment not letting my head get away from me and staying focused on each point. Even if I lose, I just want to feel like I gave it my best shot.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 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 2017-18 honorees:
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City Central’s Autumn Roberts returns a volley during her team’s home quad. (Middle) Roberts follows through during an MHSAA Finals match at Hope College last season. (Photos courtesy of the Traverse City Central girls tennis program.)

Reigning UPD1 Champ Negaunee Setting Pace Again as Finals Approach

By John Vrancic
Special for

September 21, 2023

ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.

Upper PeninsulaNegaunee, which came into this season as reigning Division 1 champion, has taken the U.P. crown seven of the past nine years. Ishpeming Westwood took the title in 2021.

Negaunee is 11-0-1 after a win over Gwinn on Tuesday. The tie came last week against Escanaba.

"We knew we were going to have a target on our backs," said Miners coach Kyle Saari. "We told the girls they have to be ready for every meet. The target is pretty huge, and I think we were sluggish out of the gate. I don't think we finished particularly well at the net. I think our tradition helps us for sure, although it can be a double-edged sword. We want to keep striving to reach benchmarks and make sure we don't get lackadaisical."

Sophomore Liliana Saunders is 12-0 at No. 2 singles. She was the UPD1 No. 4 single champion as a freshman.

"I'm starting to play my game," Saunders said after her 6-0, 6-1 victory over Escanaba’s Molly VanDamme. "I think I'm controlling the ball pretty well, but I need to work on my net play and improve my serving a little.

“Overall, we have a real strong team. We're pretty close-knit and play a lot over the summer. I think our tradition gives us a lot of confidence going into matches."

Saunders' summer work included a trip in early August to Escanaba, where she earned the age 16-18 title in the 76th Annual Michigan-Wisconsin Open with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Escanaba senior Sophia Derkos.

"I think that really helped me," she said. "She's really a good player. My toughest match this season was against the Westwood girl (sophomore Samantha Ruby). The Gladstone girl (Addy Trombley) is also pretty good."

Derkos – last season’s UPD1 No. 1 singles champion – remained undefeated in five matches after taking a 6-0, 6-1 decision from Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson at No. 1 singles last week.

"She's a good player, and they're a good team," Derkos said after the match. "This is a big win. I've been waiting to play them and Westwood. Those are the two toughest teams. This is a big confidence boost."

Johnson, last season’s UPD1 runner-up at No. 2 singles, bounced back with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Munising's Bailey Corcoran on Thursday and also won Tuesday, and gave Derkos her due after the Escanaba match.

"Sophia knows what she wants to do," said Johnson. "She plays at a pretty fast pace, and I didn't get to the net as much as I'd like. She's very patient. You can tell she's an experienced player. I can learn from playing against her."

The Miners, as they did in singles, split their four matches with Escanaba in doubles.

Seniors Sage Juntti and Olivia Lumseth are the reigning UPD1 champs at No. 2 doubles, and Kallen Schultz was part of the No. 3 champion last season and is playing No. 1 this fall with Madison Frustaglio, who was part of the 2022 runner-up at their flight.

“We have a very good coach. He always challenges us, so we can get better,” Juntti said. “We do our usual stuff. If it's not good, he just makes us work on it until it is good."

Except for the Escanaba tie and a 5-3 triumph over Westwood, all of the Miners' victories have been shutouts (8-0).

"The biggest part of our success is the girls are supportive of each other," Saari said. "They're all quality kids."

Negaunee's success also has made Escanaba coach Chris Ogren take notice.

"Kyle has been there a long time," he said. "They have one of the most athletic teams, and they're very disciplined. You always have to be ready when you play them.

“We have some good teams up here. You always have to be mentally prepared."

Negaunee hosts Gwinn, Menominee and Marquette before also hosting the Mid-Peninsula Conference tournament Sept. 27.

The U.P. Division 1 Finals will take place Oct. 4 in Marquette.

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson serves during her match against Escanaba’s Sophia Derkos on Sept. 13. (Photo by Mitch Vosburg/Escanaba Daily Press.)