MASON – It is pretty rare for the No. 4 doubles tennis match to draw a large crowd – but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday at Mason High at the close of the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals.
And now the underclassman duo of Kamryn Dumas and Megan Blake of Holland West Ottawa have an entirely new band of “sisters” and fans in the Pioneers of Ann Arbor.
Dumas and Blake battled down to the bitter end and closely defeated the team of Grace Bickersteth/Ellie Alberts of Bloomfield Hills, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, to win their first individual state championship.
More definitively, their win allowed Pioneer to hang on and tie Bloomfield Hills overall, 30-30 in team points to settle the Finals team race with co-champions. Birmingham Seaholm earned 20 points to place third.
“I think it’s so fun that even though we’re on different teams we can still come together and cheer for each other,” Blake said about the Pioneer team swarming the No. 4 doubles court afterwards.
If Bloomfield Hills had won that last match, the Black Hawks would have earned the team championship outright.
“Our attitude was good today,” Blake added. “We just worked together, we came together between points to talk with each other and pull each other up.”
Dumas said representing their school and city – heck, their region too – was important.
“It’s kind of crazy out here,” she said about the fans’ reaction. “I think people don’t respect the west side (of the state) for tennis. The east side is like the dominant for sure, so it was nice to prove ourselves in that way – to have everyone believe in us, and that really strengthened us in the matches.”
Crowning team co-champions certainly seemed like the right ending to a season that wasn’t even certain to happen, after COVID-19 cancelled all 2020 spring sports. Both Pioneer and Bloomfield Hills have top-notch squads that also tied, 4-4, during the regular season in a head-to-head dual.
Pioneer totally dominated the singles flights this weekend, and Bloomfield Hills was powerful in doubles. Pioneer swept the singles championships with significant wins by Reese Miller (No. 1), Elsie Van Wieren (No. 2), Mia Goldstein (No. 3) and Bridgette Kelly (No. 4). All four came in as number one seeds, and all four went undefeated against Division 1 competition the entire season.
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years and I’ve had some of the finest players in the state, boys and girls. And I’ve never had a singles lineup like this, and who went through the season undefeated, and undefeated in such ways that you can’t imagine – so few games lost in the season,” said Pioneer coach Tom Pullen. “Some of them lost fewer than 10 games the entire season. It’s just really astounding.”
Between those four players, during the final matches only Saturday, their game scores totaled 48-8. Those wins gave the Pioneers an advantage of 30 team points to 27 over Bloomfield Hills, which soon after won the Nos. 1-3 doubles matches for the team championship tie.
“We had to battle today, and I couldn’t be happier (with the co-champs result),” said Bloomfield Hills coach Chris Dobson. “This was an epic performance by the girls. I think we were considered No. 2 all through the season, respectfully, to Pioneer. We had a decisive tie with them before (during the regular season) and frankly we felt co-No. 1 all through the season, so we feel this is a more appropriate (final result) and not as surprising as many others might feel.
“A championship is a championship; there’s no asterisk by it. Pioneer has a powerhouse lineup at singles like I’ve never seen. So, for what we had to do and how we had to battle, to share it with a phenomenal team, there certainly is no shame in that whatsoever.”
Hannah Tomina and Noa Goldstein won No. 1 doubles as the second seed at their flight, while Raegan Tomina and Carly Bernard at No. 2, and Eryn Stern and Natalie Raab at No. 3, entered as top seeds on the way to winning those championships. And Bickersteth and Alberts brought the team four points by reaching the No. 4 championship match, just as key with every point contributing to the eventual shared team title.
Mia Goldstein, a junior, is the Pioneers’ captain and looking forward to the future since none of the starting singles players graduate this year.
“I’m super proud of the girls this weekend,” she said as all the doubles matches were still underway. “I know we came in with pretty high expectations, being the No. 1 seeds all the way around. And I know my girls are all fighters, so I knew that even if we were having an off day, we could compete our hearts out.
“I think it’s pretty crazy that we swept singles. I don’t know if it’s ever happened before, but I’m just really proud of everyone and the team spirit we had today.”
Miller, a sophomore, expressed one regret that was out of her control last spring. She didn’t get to play on the team with her older sister, Karina, who graduated in 2020 and now plays tennis at Michigan.
“Having watched my sister play all through high school, I felt pretty confident knowing what to do out here,” she said. “I was pretty confident in everyone coming in, since we’re the No. 1 seeds, we were all undefeated except two losses I had to a really great player (Detroit Country Day’s Julia Fliegner) in another Division (3). That confidence helped all of us, and we all felt that ‘we got this, we know we can do it.’ But I knew we’d still have some tough matches. Everyone (at states) is good.
“My finals opponent (Zoe Angell, Midland Dow) is really good, and our matches this season have been much closer than the final scores indicated. But I was excited. I’ve never played in states before because of last year getting canceled.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills celebrates one of its flight championships Saturday at Mason High School. (Middle) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Reese Miller returns a volley during her No. 1 singles championship win. (Below) Bloomfield Hills’ Hannah Tomina returns a volley during her and Noa Goldstein’s No. 1 doubles title-deciding match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.
Negaunee, 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 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.)