Perseverance Pays for East Grand Rapids

June 3, 2017

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – Refuse to lose would be the perfect theme for this year’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals as time after time players came from behind to claim victory.

East Grand Rapids players were involved in many of the comeback wins, and that proved critical in the Pioneers winning their first Finals championship since claiming the Division 3 title in 2009.

East Grand Rapids finished with 31 points to edge second place Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern by three, with Bloomfield Hills Marian placing third with 21 points.

East Grand Rapids knew it would take a total team effort to defeat its longtime local rival, as Northern has won nine MHSAA championships since 2002.

“We know that Northern is always good,” said East Grand Rapids coach Mickey Mikesell. “We’ve known them for a long time. I know their coach and kids very well.

“This title feels real good for my girls. Since we’ve moved up to Division 2 we’ve had some tough luck with injuries and other things, so to get one feels great.”

Strong play in singles fueled East’s drive to the title. East Grand Rapids singles players won three of the four flights including with a pair of come-from-behind wins.

At No. 1 singles, sophomore Sloane Teske battled back from dropping the first set to defeat Mason senior Olivia Hanover 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Teske knew the road to victory would be a difficult one, as she lost to Hanover in last year’s semifinals.

“I just shrugged off losing that first set and moved on,” Teske said. “(Hanover) played a great match, and she made me work real hard to beat here. I just stayed confident and wanted it more.”

Teske’s win also helped the Pioneers clinch the overall team title.

“I’m so proud of our team and what we’ve done this year,” Teske said. “Everyone worked real hard for this.”

At No. 2 singles, top-seeded East Grand Rapids junior Hannah Stuursma played to form with a 6-0, 6-0 win against Kaitlyn Fox of Forest Hills Central. For Stuursma, her comeback involved battling back from injury. Stuursma battled back from a pair of foot surgeries during her sophomore season to win her first title this spring

“Coming off a foot injury, I was not very confident last year,” Stuursma said. “I was scared of hurting my foot again. This year my confidence level was so much higher. I’m really excited and real proud of how I played. I was pretty nervous, but I kept my confidence up.”

Stuursma’s title was the first of the day for the Pioneers.

“I’m so proud of our team this year,” Stuursma said. “Everyone really stepped up. We won so many big matches here, and I’m so proud of our team.”
Coming from behind was also the story for East Grand Rapids junior Audrey Olson at No. 3 singles. After dropping the first set 2-6 to Sema Colak of Okemos, Olson won the second set 6-2. In the third, Olson found herself trailing four games to one before rallying one more time to claim a 6-4 win and the title.

“This feels real great,” Olson said. “I started out down 2-6, and then I was down 1-4 in the third set. I had great support from my coaches and my teammates, and that made the difference. They told me to dig down deep, and I did.”

At No. 4 singles, Forest Hills Northern senior Felicia Zhang turned in a solid performance to win her second consecutive Finals flight title. Zhang turned back Gigi Kalabat of Bloomfield Hills Marian 6-0, 6-2.

“It’s a real great feeling,” Zhang said. “I wanted to win it most for the team. To win another title my senior year is indescribable.”

Zhang was not the only member of her family to win a championship, as her younger sister, freshman Abby Zhang, was part of Northern’s No. 2 doubles team that claimed a title. Abby Zhang teamed with senior Salonee Marwaha to hold off the East Grand Rapids duo of Annie Meye and Alivia Vencelj 7-5, 6-3.

Being able to win with her younger sister made Felicia Zhang’s title even sweeter.

“She is a freshman, and this was our only chance to play with each other,” Felicia Zhang said. “It feels great.”

That feeling was shared by the younger Zhang. 

“It feels great to win a state title my first time here,” Abby Zhang said. “It was also great to help send Salonee out with a state title in her last high school match.”

The doubles title was the second straight for Marwaha, who was part of Northern’s winning No. 3 doubles team last year. Like last season, Marwaha was paired up with a freshman.

“We didn’t know at the beginning of the season that we would be paired together,” Marwaha said. “At the beginning of the season we started a little sluggish, but we meshed so well together that it didn’t take long for us to get going. Abby did a great job. As a senior, I just told her to keep calm and be patient. She did a great job of that.”

Northern won three of the four doubles flights, and no pair of players displayed a determination to win as strong as Northern’s No. 1 team of Maansi Dalmia and Claire Tatman. Just getting to the finals was an exercise in determination as Dalmia and Tatman outlasted Birmingham Seaholm’s Layla Bellissimo and Emily Hirsch in a semifinals match that lasted more than three hours. In a match that saw two tiebreakers, Dalmia and Tatman came away with a 6-7 (7), 7-5, 7-3 (3) victory.

The semifinal win sent Dalmia and Tatman into the finals, where they went up against top-seeded Yana Beeker and Kristin McLintock of Traverse City Central. The Northern duo had more than enough energy remaining, as they claimed a 6-4, 6-4 win.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Tatman said.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Dalmia added.

The title was a repeat for Tatman who teamed up with Marwaha to win No. 3 doubles last season.

“The semifinal match was super close,” Dalmia said. “It was over three hours and had two tie breakers. We knew we had to dig deep down to pull it off. We just took it one point at a time. I don’t feel that tired now, but I know later I will feel it.”

Refusing to lose was key to the semifinal and final wins for the duo.

“You just have to power through it,” Tatman said. “We practiced hard all season, and we knew in the end that we could do it if we kept powering through.”

Coming from behind was also the theme of the No. 3 doubles match. Nele Geiger and Sydney McLean of Forest Hills Northern rallied for a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win against Lily Trinch and Brooke Forte of Birmingham Seaholm.

The No. 4 doubles title also went three sets. East Grand Rapids’ Audrey DeVries and Kate Mackeigan outlasted the Bloomfield Hills Marian team of Ariano Kotsakis and Catherine Chinonis 6-0, 2-6, 6-4. DeVries and Mackeigan were runners-up at that flight last season.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids tennis players hoist their MHSAA championship trophy. (Middle) Forest Hills Northern No. 1 doubles players Claire Tatman and Maansi Dalmia pursue a volley Saturday. (Click to see more from

Preview: Favorites Own Impressive Streaks, but Challengers Await

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 1, 2023

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern is playing for a fourth-straight Lower Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals championship this weekend, with Ann Arbor Pioneer seeking a third straight in Division 1, Ann Arbor Greenhills going for the repeat in Division 4 and Detroit Country Day looking to rebound for a sixth Division 3 title over the last seven seasons.

But full brackets of contenders are seeking to stand in the way – including another reigning champion and No. 2-ranked teams either seeking their first Finals title or first in two decades.

All four divisions again will be played Friday and Saturday over multiple locations, with semifinals and finals to be played at the first sites listed below in each division.

Below is a glance at the highest-ranked teams in each division and additional No. 1 singles players expected to be in contention. Click for full brackets and more from

LP Division 1 at Hope College and Holland Christian High School

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2. Troy, 3. Bloomfield Hills.

Ann Arbor Pioneer: The Pioneers have won two straight LPD1 championships, claiming last year’s outright after sharing with Bloomfield Hills in 2021. Those two titles came with sweeps of singles flight titles, and that’s a possibility again with junior Elsie Van Wieren seeded second at No. 1 and junior Bridgette Kelly, senior Juliana Pullen and freshman Sophia Liang seeded first at Nos. 2-4, respectively. Van Wieren won No. 2 the last two seasons, and Kelly won No. 4 the last two years. All four doubles pairs are seeded fourth or higher as well, with top seeds at No. 2 with juniors Eleanor Vogel and Casey Roe and No. 3 with sophomores Elita You and Arella He. Vogel was part of the No. 3 runner-up last season.

Troy: The Colts are seeking their first team championship since 2003 and finished third a year ago with three doubles pairs earning runner-up finishes. This weekend senior Grace Zhu and junior Nika Tanako are seeded first at No. 1, and junior Marin Fox and freshman Nainika Jasti are seeded first at No. 4, with the Nos. 2 and 3 pairs also earning top-three seeds. Zhu was part of last season’s No. 1 runner-up, and Tanako was part of the No. 2 runner-up pair, while 2022 No. 4 runners-up Vienna Thieu and Michelle Baik are playing this time at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, with other partners. Two singles flights also are seeded, with senior Stephanie Ochoa fourth at No. 3 after playing doubles last season with Zhu.

Bloomfield Hills: After tying with Pioneer in 2021, Bloomfield Hills missed doing the same last season by one point. Three singles flights and one doubles pair are seeded this weekend, led by second-seeded junior Julia Yousif at No. 3 singles after she was runner-up at No. 4 last spring. Seniors Natalie Raab and Colleen Pettengill are seeded third at No. 1 doubles after Raab was part of the No. 2 champion and Pettengill part of the No. 4 winner a year ago. Freshman Prisha Lingam will debut as the fourth seed at No. 1 singles.

Sari Woo, Ann Arbor Skyline junior: She’s 15-1 this spring, with more than half of her wins by 6-0, 6-0 scores and the only loss a default. Woo finished No. 1 runner-up as a sixth-seeded freshman in 2021.

Nicole Fu, Rochester Adams sophomore: She’s the third seed at No. 1 singles for the second-straight season and after finishing runner-up a year ago.

LP Division 2 at Midland Tennis Center and Midland High School

Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 2. Birmingham Seaholm, 3. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: The Huskies’ championship streak reached three last spring as they edged Seaholm by four points, and they enter this weekend with all eight flights seeded third or higher. Freshman Harriet Ogilvie will play her first Finals as the top seed at No. 4 singles, while juniors Ryan Morey and Paige McKenzie earned the top seed at No. 1 doubles and senior Maria Jacobs and sophomore Morgan McKenzie are top-seeded at No. 3. The team’s other three singles flights all are seeded third after moving up one flight coming off runner-up finishes in 2022 – junior Nathalie Lanne now at No. 1, sophomore Andrea Wang now at No. 2 and senior Miriam Ogilvie now at No. 3 after finishing second at No. 4 a year ago. Morey was part of last year’s No. 2 doubles champion and Paige McKenzie part of the runner-up at No. 4 with Ava Hamilton, who is part of this weekend’s third-seeded pair at No. 2.

Birmingham Seaholm: The runner-up last season and in 2019 is seeking its first title since 2018 with seven seeded flights including top-seeded juniors Katie Slazinski and Jenna Ting at No. 2 doubles and top-seeded junior Stella North and freshman Lucy Jen at No. 4. Slazinski was part of last season’s No. 2 doubles runner-up and Ting was part of the No. 4 champion. Seniors Tatum Hirsch and Ellie Wyzykowski are teaming up for the third seed at No. 1 doubles after Hirsch was part of last year’s No. 3 champion and Wyzykowski partnered with Slazinski at No. 2, and senior Sydney Fong is part of the third seed at No. 3 after teaming with Ting for that No. 4 title in 2022. Senior Madeleine Leo has moved to No. 1 singles after finishing as part of the No. 1 doubles runner-up last season.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central: The Rangers are expected to jump after finishing seventh last season, and all eight flights are seeded fifth or higher. Leading are junior Lily Ohlman with a second seed at No. 1 singles, sophomore Maggie Moog and freshman Clare Knoester with the second seed at No. 4 doubles, and freshman Chloe Cox as the third seed at No. 4 singles. Ohlman made the No. 2 singles quarterfinals last season.

Helaina Pietrowsky, Grosse Pointe North senior: She’s the top seed at No. 1 singles in her third season playing that flight, and she’s 14-3 with two losses to Division 1 players and the third by default. She made the quarterfinals last season as a sixth seed.

Allison Wootton, Portage Northern senior: She’s also in her third season at the top flight and the No. 4 seed this time, entering this weekend 24-2.

LP Division 3 at University of Michigan and Dexter High School

Top-ranked: 1. Detroit Country Day, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Grand Rapids Christian.

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets moved up to the top spot in the rankings this week after tying Cranbrook for the Regional title. They finished fifth at the Final a year ago coming off five straight LPD3 championships, and will be back in the hunt with all four singles flights second-seeded and three top seeds and a third seed at doubles. Juniors Peja Liles and Marin Norlander are the top seed at No. 1 doubles – Liles was part of the champion at that flight last year and Norlander part of the runner-up at No. 2 – while senior Alyssa Rahmani and freshman Noor Mahmoud are the top seed at No. 3 and senior Josie Pachla and freshman Jiya Gill are the top seed at No. 4. Norlander’s partner last year, senior Aryasai Radhakrishnan, is part of the third seed at No. 2 and she and Norlander won No. 2 in 2021, while Rahmani was part of the champion at No. 3 in 2021. Sophomore Sophia Grzesiak is the second seed at No. 1 singles after also playing that flight as a freshman.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The reigning champion won last season with 37 points – 16 more than the field – and will try to withstand challenges this time with eight seeded flights including three tops seeds and two flights seeded second. Junior Sienna Ilitch is the top seed at No. 3 singles after winning that flight last season and finishing runner-up as a freshman, and junior Olivia Zhang is the top seed at No. 4 also as the reigning champion and runner-up in 2021. Junior Grace Zhang and sophomore Sophia Kouza are top-seeded at No. 2 doubles, Zhang coming off last season’s championship at No. 3 with sophomore Ava Clogg, the fifth seed this time at No. 1 singles. Juniors Daryn Krause and Kayli Lala – who teamed for the No. 4 doubles title last year – are seeded second this time at No. 1

Grand Rapids Christian: The Eagles are seeking their first championship and also looking to break back into the top two for the first time since a third-straight runner-up finish in 2017. They’ve been bolstered substantially by freshman Brynn Uchman, who enters as the top seed at No. 1 singles and 26-0 without reaching a third set this spring. Junior Natalie Poortenga is the top seed at No. 2 for the second-straight season and reached the semifinals a year ago. Five other flights are seeded as well.

Julia Gurne, Portland Notre Dame Prep junior: The third seed at No. 1 singles made the quarterfinals as the third seed last season and was the No. 1 runner-up as a freshman.

Aly Aldrich, Otsego junior: She’s up to the fourth seed at No. 1 singles this weekend after finishing runner-up a year ago as the sixth seed.

LP Division 4 at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 2. Traverse City St. Francis, 3. Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard.

Ann Arbor Greenhills: The Gryphons were champions for the first time since 2017 last season, distancing themselves from the field by nine points, and are in position to repeat with all eight flights seeded first or second and most experienced at the Finals level. Sophomore Maddie Morgan made the semifinals at No. 1 singles last season as a third seed and moves to the top line this weekend, while sophomore Shangyang Xia is the top seed at No. 2 after winning that flight a year ago. Freshman Danica Rakic-Dennis is the top seed at No. 3, and senior Manassa Golapalli is the second seed at No. 4 after finishing runner-up at that flight in 2022. Reigning No. 3 singles champion Sophie Chen has moved to No. 1 doubles as a sophomore and is paired with freshman Lauren Ye as the top seed. Sophomore Sophia Kleer and junior Parini Rao are second-seeded at No. 2 doubles after both were part of runner-up pairs a year ago at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Second-seeded No. 3 pair Meera Tewari and Meera Pandey, both sophomores, are a combo of a reigning No. 4 doubles champ and Rio’s partner at No. 3 last season, respectively, and freshmen Arya Prabhakar and Aoife Tang are debuting at the Finals as the second seed at No. 4.

Traverse City St. Francis: The Gladiators tied for 11th last season but have finished runner-up four times over the last eight years. They’ll make their run this time with four seeded flights including senior Audrey Lee on the top line at No. 4 singles. Only three of 12 starters are seniors, so St. Francis should remain in the hunt moving forward as well.

Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard: The Irish went from unranked to No. 3 in the final poll, and should jump after tying for 13th last season. FGR has only one senior among its starters, but all four singles players are seeded including three in second slots – freshman Jenny Florea at No. 1, senior Vivian Heegan at No. 2 and freshman Kenna Trost at No. 3. Heegan made the quarterfinals last season at No. 1 while unseeded.

Maggie Page, Jackson Lumen Christi senior: She’s returning as the third seed at No. 1 singles after winning a match at that flight last season while unseeded and going 21-1 this season with her only loss to Florea.

Ayva Johnstone, Elk Rapids junior: She’s also back at the top singles flight, this time as the fourth seed after entering as the fifth seed a year ago.

Jadyn Koenes, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian senior: She’s the fifth seed at No. 1 singles after reaching the quarterfinals last season as a sixth seed.

PHOTO Otsego’s Aly Aldrich returns a volley during a match day this spring. (Photo by Gary Shook.)