Powers Continue Run with Shared D2 Title

May 31, 2014

By Mark DeHaan
Special to Second Half

HOLLAND – Been there, done that.

For the past 11 years, one of three teams has won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 girls tennis championship: Birmingham Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills Marian, or Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. And, on Saturday, those teams again finished 1-2-3.

Actually, it was 1-1-3.

For the second time in those 11 seasons, team co-champions were crowned as Forest Hills Northern and Seaholm tied with 31 points. Marian finished third with 24 points while East Grand Rapids was fourth with 22.

Early in the day, Seaholm led as junior Claire Markley earned the first individual title of the day at No. 3 singles, defeating Catherine Wingrove of Okemos 6-2, 6-2.

It was Markley's third appearance in a Finals title match, and her first win.

“This year I was really excited to make it to the finals and win,” Markley said. “I just played my hardest, and I am really excited to play so well.”

Seaholm won its second flight title at No.4 doubles. Freshmen Sophie Dixon and Lisa Johnson beat Katie Champion and Marta Colisimo from Marian 7-5, 6-0. It was the third time this season that the two teams had met.

“We've played them two other times this season, so playing them again we were familiar with their style of play,” Johnston said. “We just stayed focused to win it.”

In a two-point hole, the Huskies began to rally and get back into the thick of the championship race.

A win at No. 2 doubles for Forest Hills Northern seniors Hailey Jones and Stephanie Nguyen by a score of 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 gave the Huskies their first flight title of the day.

Forest Hills Northern then secured another win at No.2 singles from junior Madeline Bisset, who won an important matchup against Seaholm’s Lauren Frazier 7-5, 6-1.

“I just knew that our team really needed that point, especially again Seaholm,” said Bisset. “I went for every single ball, and just fought through the heat.”

Marian took its lone flight title of the day at No.4 singles as Sophia Belardo won 6-3, 6-1 over Sydney Whitfield of Forest Hills Northern.

Sophomores Emily Mcdermott and Meagen Flynn then won at No.3 doubles for Seaholm. The Maples defeated their opponents from East Grand Rapids 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

“All season long the assistant coaches and I have really been trying to emphasize that there's a pedigree that goes with playing at Seaholm, and we see results in a match-by-match basis that the girls buy into, and do so legitimately,” Seaholm coach Scott Ransome said. “We place plenty of emphasis on playing up to our seeds, but certainly playing up to the expectations that we have; this is Seaholm tennis that we play, and it's quality tennis.”

The Huskies continued to rally late. With only two matches left on the court, Forest Hills Northern remained down a point.

At No. 1 doubles, the third-seeded Pioneers of East Grand Rapids took the first set 6-4. Down 5-2 in set two, the Huskies mounted a comeback. The No. 1 doubles team of senior Victoria Minzlaff and junior Jessie Stevens responded by winning five straight games to take the second set 7-5, then won the third 6-4 to take the match.

“I remember looking at my partner and saying, 'Vic, will you fight with me?', and after that, we just worked so hard to make it to three sets,” Stevens said.

Every year, the Huskies write the word 'FIGHT' on their forearms for the MHSAA tournament as a reminder. Forest Hills Northern did exactly that, and it nearly led them to a sole claim of the championship.

At No. 1 singles, Forest Hills Northern junior Claire Aleck earned a three-set 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 semifinal win to earn a berth in the final against back-to-back No. 2 singles champion Emily Struble of Okemos, who moved up to No.1 singles for her junior season.

In the No. 1 singles final, the last match left on court, Aleck won the second set 6-2 after losing the first 6-1. But the Forest Hills Northern junior ran out of gas, and Struble, who came in seeded fifth in the No. 1 singles flight, completed her third individual title run with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 victory.

“Coming in as the five seed, I knew that I would have to upset higher seeds in order to win. But I knew that the people that were ahead of me, I could at least compete with,” Struble said. “My last match, I knew she would be a little bit worn out from her last match, so I wanted to keep her on the run as much as possible.”

Said Aleck: “Emily's a great opponent and she deserves it. I'm not disappointed with the way I played, I went out there, gave it my all and fought hard.”

“Claire Aleck is probably one of the hardest workers I've ever had,” said Forest Hills Northern coach David Sukup. “She just works hard every day, every minute, all the time. She had a hard three-set match in the semis, and we didn't think she'd have as much energy back. But she fought all the way into the third set.”

Likewise, Okemos coach Lisa Semerly praised her junior for her toughness.

“(Emily) did fantastic. She remained composed throughout her matches, and we knew that the five seed was a little understated,” Semerly said. “She's just a strong competitor.”

The team co-championship marked the ninth MHSAA title for Forest Hills Northern in the last 12 years, while Seaholm has won three championships during that span.

Click for full results.  

PHOTOS: The Forest Hills Northern No. 1 doubles pair of senior Victoria Minzlaff (left) and junior Jessie Stevens battled back to win their flight championship Saturday. (Middle) Birmingham Seaholm's Caity Buechner sends back a shot during a No. 2 doubles semifinal. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)

Adams' Fu Hoping to Write Championship Headline After Repeat Finalist Finishes

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

May 23, 2024

ROCHESTER HILLS — An editor for her school newspaper the last two years, Nicole Fu is one who loves to tell good stories and write good headlines. 

Greater DetroitA junior at Adams, Fu enjoys getting to know people around the school and giving them a moment in the sun, so to speak.

“I love being able to talk with so many people and learn the stories behind their accomplishments,” Fu said.

It’s ironic, because come the end of next Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Tennis Finals, Fu hopes professional media outlets around the state will talk about her own story of accomplishment, possibly with headlines such as “Redemption Feels Sweet for Fu” or “Third Time is Charm for Adams Tennis Star.”

Both the last two years, Fu has advanced to the championship match at No. 1 singles in Division 1. 

But while quite an accomplishment to do so as a freshman and sophomore, she also left somewhat unsatisfied, losing in 2022 to Reese Miller of Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-1, 6-1) and last spring to Sari Woo of Ann Arbor Skyline (6-3, 6-4). 

“Being in the final both my freshman and sophomore years has shown me that I have what it takes to win a state championship even when it gets tough,” Fu said. “Last year especially has shown me that I’m not far from the title, and staying strong both mentally and physically is going to be crucial to hopefully winning a state title.”

No doubt, Fu should be one of the top contenders, if not the favorite.

She enters with an 18-0 record and has brilliantly handled opponents attempting to give her their best performances.

“Her ability to handle the pressure has improved a lot,” Adams head coach Greg Burks said. “She has matured as a top-level player and competes as well as any player I’ve ever had.”

Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match.Fu actually said she got her start in tennis a little later than most. After dabbling in soccer and swimming, Fu started playing tennis at age 10 when one of her mom’s co-workers gave her a foam ball and a kids racquet. 

“Then I started hitting against our living room wall, and one day my mom asked if I wanted to take an actual tennis lesson,” Fu said. 

From there, Fu started playing in tournaments, and the tennis bug bit her.

“I really loved competing in matches, so I didn’t stop and it ended up being very rewarding,” she said.

Fu also has an accomplished hitting partner in twin sister Katie, who lost in the championship match at No. 2 singles last year. 

“She’s always a great hitting partner, and it’s really nice to have someone who understands the sport and what it takes to balance that out with everything else,” Nicole Fu said. “She’s basically my second brain too, so having her around during the season is super fun and helpful for keeping me in check.”

Fu has a collegiate future in the sport, having committed in November to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

“Obviously the education is extraordinary, and attending a service academy builds your character both physically and mentally and sets you up to make an impact on the nation,” Fu said. 

When it comes to next week’s MHSAA Tournament, Fu obviously is aiming to make another impact at the championship level – but this time finish the quest she fell short of the last two years. 

“This year as a back-to-back finalist and a strong favorite has put a lot of pressure on me to win my matches,” she said. “So there’s definitely a lot of expectations for this season, and managing that was a little bit tough in the beginning of the season. But over time I’ve kind of learned to embrace it, and it’s given me more confidence in my matches knowing I’m the player people are aiming to beat.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams' Nicole Fu returns a volley during last season's No. 1 singles championship match at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)