Preview: Reunited Co-Champs, Title Streak Possibilities Headline Tennis Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 1, 2022

Many of the strongest contenders are familiar heading into this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals.

But intriguing storylines could make all four tournaments especially memorable for the teams playing to finish on top.

Ann Arbor Pioneer and Bloomfield Hills tied for the Division 1 title a year ago, and are expected to match up to decide this weekend’s championship. In Division 2, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern is favored to play for a third-straight championship, but with an old rival returning to the field. Finals winning streaks in Divisions 3 and 4 face perhaps their stiffest obstacles this time around as well-seeded Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Ann Arbor Greenhills look to start their own championship runs.

All four divisions again will be played over multiple locations. Division 1 will be played Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, with the final rounds at K-College – and that tournament will begin Thursday and conclude Friday.

The other three divisions will follow the more traditional Friday/Saturday format. Division 2 will be played at Hope College and Holland Christian, finishing up at Hope. Division 3 will play at Midland Tennis Center and Midland High, with final rounds at MTC, and Division 4 will play early rounds at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Ann Arbor Greenhills high schools before concluding at U-M.

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 the MHSAA Website.

LP Division 1 at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University

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

Ann Arbor Pioneer: Last season’s championship was the program’s first since 2010, and the singles lineup that swept all four flight titles is back intact – junior Reese Miller (23-0) at No. 1, sophomore Elsie Van Wieren at No. 2, senior Mia Goldstein at No. 3 and sophomore Bridgette Kelly at No. 4 are all top seeds. All four doubles flights are seeded fourth or higher, led by second-seeded senior Ashley Capelli and junior Juliana Pullen at No. 1 and sophomore Mia Berens and freshman Natalie Guo at No. 2. Capelli and Pullen made the No. 1 doubles semifinals last season, while Berens was part of a semifinalist pairing at No. 2.

Bloomfield Hills: Last season’s title was the program’s first and came on the strength of three doubles flight championships and two singles runner-up finishes. The Black Hawks are seeded first at No. 1 doubles with seniors Danielle Herb and Carly Bernard, No. 2 with senior Noa Goldstein and junior Natalie Raab, and No. 3 with seniors Eryn Stern and Grace Bickersteth; and they are seeded second at No. 4 with junior Colleen Pettengill and senior Ellie Alberts. Goldstein (No. 1), Bernard (No. 2), Stern and Raab (No. 3) were part of champion pairs in 2021, with Bickersteth and Alberts the runner-up at No. 4. Bloomfield Hills also has three singles flights seeded third or higher; Julia Yousif was last season’s No. 4 runner-up and is seeded second at that flight, and Grace Shaya was runner-up at No. 3 last spring and is seeded second returning to her flight as well. Raegan Tomina, who won No. 2 doubles with Bernard last year, is the third seed at No. 2 singles this time.

Troy: The Colts are seeking their first Finals team championship since 2003 after tying for fourth last year. All four doubles flights are seeded, led by junior Vienna Thieu and sophomore Michelle Baik topping the No. 4 bracket and junior Varsha Penumalee and senior Prisha Akasapu the second seed at No. 3. Juniors Grace Zhu and Stephanie Ochoa are the third seed at No. 1 doubles after finishing runner-up at No. 2 last season, and sophomore Nika Tanako and senior Sophie Chong were the runners-up at No. 3 in 2021 and are seeded third at No. 2 this weekend. Two singles flights are seeded as well.

Sienna Osborne, Lake Orion sophomore: She enters as the fourth seed at No. 1 singles after going 1-1 as an unseeded entry a year ago. She’s 17-3 this spring, with her defeats to Pioneer’s Miller once and Nicole Fu (see below) twice.

Jenna Redmile, Salem sophomore: She’s the second seed at No. 1 singles after also entering last season’s bracket unseeded and reaching the quarterfinals. She’s 21-1 with her lone loss to Miller.

Nicole Fu, Rochester Adams freshman: The third seed at No. 1 as only a freshman is 17-3 with losses to Miller, Osborne and fifth-seeded Kavitha Gowda of Troy Athens.

LP Division 2 at Hope College and Holland Christian

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

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: The Huskies have won two straight championships (last season and in 2019, with 2020 canceled due to COVID-19) and claimed last year’s title by a commanding 14 points while winning seven flights. Abigial Siminski (25-1) is the reigning champion at No. 1 singles and was runner-up in 2019, and she’s seeded second at that flight this weekend. All eight FHN flights are seeded, and six as second or first seeds. Senior Isabella Paul and sophomore Ryan Morey are the top-seeded No. 2 doubles pair, with seniors Tanishka Shenoy and Maya Echtinaw top seeds at No. 3 and junior Ava Hamilton and sophomore Paige McKenzie the top seeds at No. 4.  Senior Sophie Richards and Rhea Marwaha are only third seeds at No. 1 doubles, but also the reigning champions at that flight. Morey was part of the 2021 champion at No. 2, and Shenoy and Echtinaw also are returning champions at their flight. Sophomore Nathalie Lanne is the second seed at No. 2 singles (after finishing runner-up at No. 4 last season), and freshman Andrea Wang is the top seed at No. 3.

Birmingham Seaholm: The Maples are back in Division 2 after finishing third in Division 1 a year ago, and they’re seeking to finish first again for the first time since 2018. All eight flights are seeded third or higher, led by top-seeded senior Lauren Whitall at No. 4 singles and junior Madeleine Leo and senior Nina Graham on the top line at No. 1 doubles. Senior Jane Wineman and junior Tatum Hirsch at No. 3 doubles, junior Sydney Fong and sophomore Jenna Tin at No. 4 and sophomore Courtney Marcum at No. 2 singles all are second seeds. Senior Sophie MacKinnon (13-4) is the third seed at No. 1 singles.

Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils also are back in Division 2 after a run through Division 1, where they tied for fourth last spring. Seven flights are seeded as they seek to add to their most recent championship in 2019 in Division 1, where they’ve won three team titles over the last nine seasons. Sophomore Maeve Hix and junior Megan Kommeier lead with a second seed at No. 2 doubles. Senior Moira Hix (21-6) is the fourth seed at No. 1 singles.

Emma Chrome, Mason senior: Playing in her first Finals since reaching the quarterfinals at No. 2 doubles as a freshman, Chrome is the fifth seed at No. 1 singles and undefeated at 20-0.

Lizzie Novak, Mattawan senior: She’s also undefeated at 12-0 after recovering from an early-season injury, and she’s the top seed at No. 1 singles with an April 21 win over Siminski. Novak was the No. 2 singles champion as a freshman in 2019 and played a USTA schedule instead last spring.

LP Division 3 at Midland Tennis Center and Midland High School

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. East Grand Rapids, 3. Bloomfield Hills Marian.  

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: There is a lot of notable recent history at this event for the Cranes. After winning five straight championships from 2011-15, they saw Detroit Country Day win the next five – while finishing runners-up the last three Finals (with no season in 2020). Seven of eight flights are top seeds with the eighth a second seed this weekend. Freshman Yenna Park (16-0) is the top seed at No. 1 singles, with reigning champion Charlotte Brown back as the top seed at No. 2. Sophomores Sienna Ilitch and Olivia Zhang are the top seeds at Nos. 3 and 4 singles, respectively, after finishing as runners-up at those flights in 2021. Freshman Chloe Qin is teaming with senior Gaby Levine as the top seed at No. 1 doubles, with freshman Ava Clogg and sophomore Grace Zhang top-seeded at No. 3 and sophomores Daryn Krause and Kayli Lala top-seeded at No. 4. Krause and Lala were the No. 3 runners-up a year ago, and Zhang was part of the runner-up at No. 4 in 2021. Junior Morgan Dresner-Hagaman and freshman Chiarra Martella are second-seeded at No. 2.

East Grand Rapids: The Pioneers moved back into Division 3 after finishing fourth in Division 2 last season, and they most recently were champions in 2017 in Division 2. Seven flights are seeded, with five first or second seeds. Seniors Meg Simon and Ella Webb lead as the top-seeded pair at No. 2 doubles, with junior Ava Godlewski and sophomore Dana Goedken the second seeds at No. 3 and senior Kelly Couvrier and freshman Kate Simon second seeds at No. 4. Sophomore Sam Connor is the second seed at No. 3 singles, and freshman Sophia DeGuzman is the second seed at No. 4. Seniors Julia and Jennifer Ernst are third seeds at No. 1 doubles, but were second seeds at that flight in Division 2 last year as they reached the semifinals. Senior Allie Tol (19-4) might be the strongest five seed in any bracket this weekend, with her losses to FHN’s Siminski (twice), Park and Marian senior Gaby Gryzenia (see below).

Bloomfield Hills Marian: The Mustangs edged Country Day by a point to finish Regional runner-up to Cranbrook two weeks ago, and Marian was runner-up in Division 2 last season before moving back into Division 3 this year. The Mustangs’ most recent championship came in Division 2 in 2016, and they also were runners-up in 2018. All eight flights are seeded, with three seeded third or second. Gryzenia (13-4) leads the way as that second seed, at No. 1 singles, after reaching the quarterfinals at that flight in Division 2 last spring.

Sophia Grzesiak, Detroit Country Day freshman: She tops the lineup at No. 1 singles for the reigning five-time team champion, and enters her first Finals as the fourth seed in her flight. While only 7-8 this spring, she’s split matches with Gryzenia over the last month and taken losses from Park and Pioneer’s Miller.

Julia Gurne, Pontiac Notre Dame sophomore: The reigning No. 1 singles runner-up enters this time as the third seed with an 11-7 record but 10 wins over her last 12 matches.

LP Division 4 at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Ann Arbor Greenhills

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 2. Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, 3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

Ann Arbor Greenhills: The Gryphons are seeking their first Finals championship since 2017 and finished ninth last season. But the lineup has been boosted by six freshmen including the top three singles players – third-seeded Maddie Morgan (18-4) at No. 1 and top seeds Shangyang Xia at No. 2 and Sophie Chen at No. 3. Seniors Rukmini Nallamothu and Georgia Branch are top seeds at No. 1 doubles after they filled the top two singles flights last season, and senior Sabeen Malick and freshman Meera Tewari have the top line at No. 4. Sophomore Manassa Gollapalli is the second seed at No. 4 singles, with senior Lana Koualti and freshman Sophia Kleer second-seeded at No. 2 doubles and sophomore Parini Rao and freshman Meera Pandey second-seeded at No. 3.

Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart: The Gazelles own a three-season Finals winning streak and have claimed seven of the last nine Division 4 championships. Doubles are a traditional strength, and this year’s team is up to that high standard. Senior Marisa Nafso and sophomore Kayla Nafso are the second seed at No. 1 but also the reigning champion at that flight. Junior Jade Horcoff and senior Angelina Kakos are the top seed at No. 2, with Kakos part of last season’s No. 3 doubles champion. Sophomores Lulu George and Maggie Pulte are the top seeds at No. 3 after finishing runner-up last season at No. 2, and junior Katie Kelly and sophomore Jordan Rivenburgh are the second seeds at No. 4. Senior Isabelle Burg (9-8) is the fourth seed at No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up at No. 2 a year ago, and seven of her eight defeats are against top-four seeded players in the Division 3 and 4 brackets.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central: The Cougars are seeking their first top-two finish at a Finals in this sport, and most recently tied for sixth in Division 3 a year ago. They are seeded in six of eight flights, with three doubles pairs seeded fourth and junior Hannah Lourido the top seed at No. 4 singles.

Moorea McNalley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate senior: She looking to add to her No. 1 singles championships in 2019 and last season, and is seeded second this weekend with her only loss 6-1, 6-2, to top seed Maddy Zampardo (see below). She has two wins over Morgan and also defeated Notre Dame Prep’s Gurne.

Maddy Zampardo, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior: Playing in her first Finals, Zampardo is undefeated at 7-0 and the top seed at No. 1 singles with two wins over Burg, the win noted above over McNalley and another that stands out against Grosse Pointe South’s Hix.

PHOTO Ann Arbor Pioneer's Reese Miller returns a volley during her championship match at last season's LP Division 1 Finals. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Senior-Dominated Iron Mountain Soars to UPD2 Finals Repeat

By Steve Brownlee
Special for

September 30, 2022

ISHPEMING — There was both a single reason and a singles reason why Iron Mountain won the championship at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Girls Tennis Finals played at Westwood High School on Thursday.

The difference is subtle — just a single letter “s” — but rings true both ways.

It was easy to see what the Mountaineers’ secret was — sweep the titles at every singles flight while adding one more in doubles just to be on the safe side.

IM finished with 19 points, while Ishpeming outdueled West Iron County in several late finals to eke out second place by one point, 14 to 13.

Gwinn posted five points to take fourth, while Munising had four, Norway one and Ironwood did not score.

Mountaineers coach Marcus Celello credited senior leadership for the team’s repeat championship.

“We have eight seniors on our team, including all four of our regular singles players and both our No. 1 doubles players, along with one each on Nos. 3 and 4 doubles,” the IM coach said.

He noted that all those singles flights were winners with the team’s championship in doubles also coming with the pair of seniors at No. 1.

“We won this last year and returned our core, so I knew we would at least be very competitive this year,” Celello said. “We won or tied every dual meet this season.”

He said that included a 4-4 tie against eventual U.P. Division 1 champion Negaunee to give the Miners the only blemish on their dual-meet record this fall.

“But sometimes when you haven’t faced adversity, it can be scary,” the coach continued. “You don’t always know how you’re going to react.”

The Iron Mountain and Ishpeming No. 2 doubles pairs face off during a semifinal. No. 2 singles player Aziza Burgoon — of course, a senior — completed an undefeated season by winning a marathon final over WIC’s Seanna Stine,  7-5, 7-5.

IM also got singles titles from No. 3 Natalia Brown and No. 4 Rediet Husing, along with a doubles championship from No. 1 Elle Lofholm and Anja Kleiman.

But the biggest cheers and shrieks came after IM finished its singles sweep when No. 1 Callie Bianco pulled off a 6-4, 6-4 win over Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel.

Schiefel led 4-2 in the second set looking to force a deciding third before Bianco won the final four games.

“I just was trying to stay focused, work the ball and follow through,” Bianco said. “And maybe the most important thing was to be patient, not panic.

“I’m known for being an impatient player. When I’m on, I like to be aggressive, but I know that when I’m not on, I have to focus on being patient.”

Asked if she was “on” Thursday, she was emphatic with her “Yes I was!”

One coach trying to be patient but excited for next season is Ishpeming’s Kaitlin Rich, who watched her junior-laden team set the groundwork for a big season next fall.

“We’ve already made a big improvement from last year,” she said. “I’m proud of how hard our girls have worked to make that improvement.

“Half of our players are dual-sport athletes, which means they’re playing another sport this fall, too, so they really have to balance their workload.”

The Hematites carted off one championship, one of the last finishing finals matches at No. 3 doubles when Kaitlyn VanDeuren and Paige Palomaki had to win a third-set tiebreaker to defeat WIC’s Bailey Hoffart and Aubrey Richardson 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1).

That result decided the runner-up position team-wise as a Wykons’ win would’ve reversed their point totals and places in the standings.

“We had five finalists, at Nos. 3 and 4 singles and Nos. 1, 2 and 3 doubles,” Rich said. “We return nine of our juniors next year, so I’m really looking forward to next year. I think we should be ready to make a run at the U.P.’s (title) next year.

“Kaitlyn and Paige, those two by far are the most improved players from last year,” the Ishpeming coach added.

Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel returns a volley at No. 1 singles. WIC veteran coach Joe Serbentas was philosophical after his players won a pair of doubles titles, at No. 2 with sisters Autumn Smith and Kaitlyn Smith and at No. 4 with Destiny Lemery and Olivia Lamay.

“We’ve played well at the U.P.’s the last five or six years, but we also seemed to come up that point short,” he said. “Iron Mountain is so senior-loaded, you just knew that they were the big favorites today.

“We had a 5-7-1 record in dual meets, but we play a lot of the best teams in the U.P., so I still think that’s pretty good.”

Gwinn made a run at a U.P. flight championship for the first time in a number of years with Schiefel at No. 1 singles, much to her coach’s delight.

“She has such a passion for the sport, and she’s such an avid athlete,” Modeltowners coach Darcia Mattson said. “She runs track and is a phenomenal basketball player. She trains at AdvantEdge (athletic training facility in Marquette).

“She used to play tennis against her brother, Jared Rolland.

“And she’s not a big girl at all, but her heart is twice as big as she is.”

PHOTOS (Top) The Iron Mountain and Ishpeming No. 2 doubles pairs face off during a semifinal. (Middle) Anja Kleiman gets a racket on the ball during her and partner Elle Lofholm’s match at No. 1 doubles. (Below) Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel returns a volley at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Steve Brownlee.)