Preview: Powers Set to Shine Again

May 30, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Saturday’s girls tennis forecast calls for traditional powers to dominate another Lower Peninsula Finals.

But keep an eye out for at least a pair of hopefuls aiming for their first championships in this sport.

Bloomfield Hills in Division 1 and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in Division 4 are among contenders with the best chances of joining the list of teams that have earned titles over nearly a half century.  

Following are all four sites and start times for both Friday and Saturday’s rounds:

  • Division 1 – Greater Midland Tennis Center (8:30 a.m. 5/31, 9 a.m. 6/1)
  • Division 2 – Hope College/Holland Christian HS (5/31 Singles at Hope at 8 a.m., doubles at Holland Christian at 8:30; 6/1 all finals at Hope at 8 a.m.)
  • Division 3 – Novi High School (5/31 Novi HS 8 a.m., Novi MS 8:30 a.m.; 6/1 Novi HS 8 a.m.)
  • Division 4 – Kalamazoo College (8 a.m. both days)

Below is a brief look at top contenders at each tournament; click for more including brackets and seeds for all 32 flights across the four divisions.

LP Division 1 at Greater Midland Tennis Center

Top-ranked: 1. Grosse Pointe South, 2. Bloomfield Hills, 3. Northville.

After sharing with Midland Dow in 2017, Northville won the title alone last spring to make it three championships over four seasons. This week, the Mustangs jumped up two spots in the final rankings to join the two contenders who have been at the top since the last week in April. Grosse Pointe South is seeking its first title since 2014 and third this decade, while Bloomfield Hills is seeking its first ever. They finished fourth and third, respectively, in 2018.

Grosse Pointe South: All eight Blue Devils flights are seeded at least fourth, with No. 4 singles Moira Hix and No. 1 doubles Kate Beardslee and Maddie Hurley top-seeded. Laurel Sullivan, second-seeded at No. 2, was the No. 2 runner-up in 2017 and made the quarterfinals at No. 1 a year ago. Beardslee advanced to the No. 4 singles semifinals last season. Grosse Pointe South won all eight flights at its Regional, which also included No. 6 Troy.

Bloomfield Hills: The Black Hawks fell just four points shy of that first championship last season and return two individual champions, No. 1 singles Tia Mukherjee and No. 4 Jenna Silverman, who has moved up to No. 3. Seven of eight flights are seeded, with Emily Ross and Carly Bernard at No. 3 doubles and Susan Baenen and Emma Gray at No. 4 owning top seeds. The one unseeded flight, No. 2 doubles, includes Kaela Bernard, who was part of the runner-up pair at No. 2 last season. Mukherjee is seeded only fourth, but also finished No. 1 singles runner-up in 2017.

Northville: The Mustangs’ win last year came with two flight champions and four runners-up, and a number of those players return. After finishing second at No. 2 singles, Tori Mady has moved up to No. 1, and last year’s No. 3 runner-up Renee Torres also jumped up a flight. Both also won singles flights in 2017. Connie Gao and Sneha Ganan won No. 4 doubles last season, but Ganan is now a seeded player at No. 4 singles and Gao and Michelle Tong are seeded at No. 3 doubles – where Tong and Madison DeYoung were runners-up last season. Sophie Zhuang was part of last season’s No. 1 doubles champion and is part of the fourth-seeded pair this weekend with Maya Mulchandani. The team’s lone top seed is at No. 2 doubles, where DeYoung and Andrea Nam hold down the top spot, Nam coming off a run to the semifinals at that flight a year ago.

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Kari Miller: The standout junior defeated Mukherjee two seasons ago to win No. 1 singles as a freshman, and after a year away from high school tennis is back as the top seed at the top flight.

Plymouth’s Jessica Braun: The second seed at No. 1 singles has made the quarterfinals twice and semifinals last season at this flight, and gave Miller a run in the first set of their Regional championship match. 

Midland Dow’s Meghan Killmaster and Victoria Leiti: Last season’s champion at No. 2 doubles is teaming up as the fifth seed at No. 1.

LP Division 2 at Hope College/Holland Christian

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

Aside from East Grand Rapids jumping to the top in 2017, either Forest Hills Northern, Seaholm or Marian has won the LPD2 title 15 of the last 16 seasons – with two of them even sharing the title twice. Reigning champ Seaholm won basically a dual with last year’s runner-up Marian at this year’s Regional, while Forest Hills Northern is hoping to make the move from fourth in 2018.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: All eight flights are seeded fourth or higher, with Isabella Paul at No. 3 singles and Alexis Pena at No. 4 topping their flights. Abigail Zhang and Lilia Henkel were No. 2 doubles runners-up a year ago and are seeded third at that flight; Zhang was half of the No. 2 doubles champion in 2017 as well. The Huskies won seven of eight flights and placed second in the eighth at a Regional that included No. 4 East Grand Rapids and No. 7 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.

Birmingham Seaholm: The Maples cleared the field by seven points last season with five flight championships including a sweep of doubles, and they’re in position to repeat at least the latter. Three pairs are top seeds: Madison Daminato and Emily Hirsch at No. 1, Brooke Forte and Lilly Trinch at No. 2 and Ashley Buechner and Remi Maynard at No. 4, with Hirsch a reigning champion at No. 1, Forte and Trinch the reigning champions at No. 2, Buechner a champ last year at No. 3 and Charlie Kuchman and Sofia Manzo the 2018 champions at No. 4 moving up to earn the second seed at No. 3 this time. Reigning No. 4 singles champ Greta Albertie is the second seed at that flight, and last year’s No. 2 runner-up Sofia Gryzenia has moved to No. 1.

Bloomfield Hills Marian: Last season’s runner-up made a run despite no flight winners but four runners-up including three in doubles, and they also are loaded again with a top seed and three second seeds filling that half of the lineup. Ragad Almsaddi and Gigi Kalabat are the top seed at No. 3 – Kalabat was part of last year’s No. 1 runner-up. This year’s second-seeded No. 1 includes Marlo Hudson – last year’s No. 3 singles runner-up – and 2018 No. 2 singles semifinalist Mia Schwartz. Ariana Kotsakis and Claire Stechow are both back after finishing second at No. 3 doubles last season, Kotsakis again at that flight and Stechow at No. 1 singles. Reigning No. 4 doubles runner-up Emma Albertie and Kathryn Torok both are helping fill out the singles lineup, Albertie a fifth seed at No. 3 and Torok the fourth at No. 4.

East Grand Rapids’ Sloane Teske: To no surprise, the reigning two-time champion at No. 1 singles is the top seed again at the top flight in her final high school tournament.

Holly’s Taylor Barrett: Now a senior and the second seed at No. 1, she made the semifinals as the third seed a year ago and took that match to three sets.

East Grand Rapids’ Halley Elliott: Last season’s champion at No. 3 singles as a second seed is moving up to No. 2 as a junior.

LP Division 3 at Novi

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

Country Day is looking to run its championship streak to four after Cranbrook Kingswood won the five previous titles before that. They finished first and second, respectively, a year ago, Country Day just short of a perfect score with 38 points. Allegan was fifth last season and is seeking to add its first Finals title to four runner-up finishes, the most recent coming in 2013.

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets won all but Nos. 1 and 2 doubles at last season’s Finals, and they’re seeded first in four flights this time. Monique Karoub – a two-time champion at No. 2 singles and the No. 1 champion in 2017 – is seeded first at No. 1. Elle Hartje is the top seed at No. 2 singles with championships at No. 3 singles last year and No. 1 doubles her first two. No. 3 singles top seed Alexis Nardicchio won No. 4 singles the last two years. The top seed at No. 1 doubles is made up of Tara Rahmani and Nina Khaghany; Rahmani was a No. 2 doubles champ in 2017 and Khaghany won No. 3 singles that season and was part of the No. 1 doubles runner-up in 2018. Anushri Radhakrishnan and Maria Sicilia won No. 4 doubles last season, and Radhakrishnan returns to No. 4 as part of the third seed while Sicilia is part of the third seed at No. 3.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes are expected to match up with Country Day quite a bit Saturday with five second seeds and Charlotte Brown the top seed at No. 4 singles. Abby Foltyn is part of the second-seeded No. 1 doubles pair after winning No. 2 last season, and Simrin Nagaraju is part of the second seed at No. 2 after finishing runner-up at No. 4 doubles with Mia Inakage, part of the second seed at No. 3 doubles this time. Freshman Nina Govila is the second seed at No. 1 singles.

Allegan: The Tigers are seeded at every flight, with Delaney Heckman and Maddy Layton at No. 3 doubles and Krista Kocur and Maddie Wagner at No. 4 holding down top seeds. Heckman and Layton were the runners-up at No. 3 last season. Emma Philippus and Nicole Galloway were the runners-up at No. 2 and have moved up to the fourth seed at No. 1.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Claire Danko: The fifth seed at No. 1 singles finished runner-up a year ago as a sophomore after entering as the third seed.

LP Division 4 at Kalamazoo College

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, 2. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, 3. Grosse Ile.

Academy of the Sacred Heart has won five of the last seven Division 4 championships and finished seven points ahead of runner-up Traverse City St. Francis a year ago. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central came in fifth, just two points out of third, and is seeking its first title after coming closest as runner-up in 2012. Grosse Ile won in 2014 and was second in 2013, and tied for 10th in Division 3 last season.

Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart: The Gazelles swept doubles last season and are seeded first at all four of those flights to go with four third seeds in singles. The No. 1 pair is made up of returning Annie Keating and Reagan Beatty, last season’s champion at No. 3 singles. Nolwenn Crosnier was part of the winner last season at No. 2 and is joined this time by Marisa Nafso, while No. 3 top seeds Kate Myers and Serena Seneker won titles with different partners at Nos. 4 and 3 last season, respectively. Hannah Kakos was Myers’ partner last season and is teaming up with Catherine Blumberg for the No. 4 favorite pair.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central: The Kestrels are seeded at seven flights, with the lone unseeded player Willow Biggs returning to No. 1 singles. Taylor Kennedy is the top seed at No. 3 and Hannah Hodgson is the top seed at No. 4 after both finished runners-up at the same flights last year.

Grosse Ile: The Red Devils have posted four straight top-10 finishes in Division 3 since that Division 4 title. They are seeded at six flights with a pair of top-two seeds in singles – top-seeded Jessica Schutt at No. 2 and second-seeded Jenna Sheets at No. 4. Schutt made the quarterfinals at No. 2 last season in Division 3.  

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Melanie Zampardo: The top seed at No. 1 singles was the fourth seed and made the semifinals as a sophomore last season and entered as the sixth seed as a freshman.

Clarkston Everest Collegiate’s Moorea McNalley: One of the state’s freshman standouts this spring, she enters her first Finals as the second seed at No. 1 singles.

PHOTO: Bloomfield Hills' Tia Mukherjee returns a volley during last season's run to the LP Division 1 title at No. 1 singles. (Click for more from

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.”