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.)

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.”