By John Walker
Special for Second Half
MIDLAND — Bloomfield Hills junior Tia Mukherjee got redemption, while the Northville girls tennis team eked out another title Saturday at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.
Mukherjee dominated for a 6-0, 6-0 win over Northville senior Shanoli Kumar in the championship match at No. 1 singles. Mukherjee lost 6-0, 6-0 last year in the finals to Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Kari Miller, and said that was motivation.
“It feels great after last year,” Mukherjee said. “That was tough. I didn’t want that to happen again. I was more prepared.
“I improved my fitness and my forehand. I did a lot of off-court conditioning. I didn’t have enough energy going into the finals last year.”
Bloomfield Hills coach Chris Dobson agreed.
“Her fitness level is better,” he said. “Plus another year of maturity, poise and confidence. It makes a difference. She was highly motivated coming in.”
“At the end of the day, Tia was amazing,” Northville coach Linda Jones said.
“I thought she is the best player in the state,” Dobson said, “and she proved it. She played her best match and earned it.”
Northville had to earn its title, too, edging Midland Dow 32-30. Bloomfield Hills was third with 28 points.
The Mustangs shared last year’s title with Dow. Dow won the 2016 title. Northville won in 2015. The two were at it again in 2018.
Northville entered Saturday with 24 points and eight players in the semifinals for the first time in school history. Dow had 23 points with seven players, as did Bloomfield Hills.
Northville won key semifinals matches against Dow at No. 2 and No. 3 singles and advanced six to the finals. Dow advanced five, while Bloomfield Hills advanced three and dropped from contention.
In the finals, Northville and Dow faced off at Nos. 1, 3 and 4 doubles. Dow got the first victory, at No. 3 doubles, and briefly tied the score with a win at No. 2 doubles. But Northville prevailed in the other head-to-head matches, clinching the crown with the win at No. 4 doubles.
“It’s so sweet,” Northville’s Jones said. “This year we lost three important seniors and were seeded No. 2 all season behind Dow. We came in as underdogs. The girls just played over their levels. It’s the most satisfying (title). Three-time state champs is not too bad.”
“Absolutely there’s disappointment,” Dow coach Garrett Turner said, “which is a good thing, I guess. It means we’re doing the right things. We win one of those matches and the nerves are shifted to them. It’s hard to be upset with a second-place finish. We had our chances.”
At No. 2 singles, Ann Arbor Huron junior Miriam Gandam, the No. 1 seed, defeated Northville sophomore Tori Mady, the No. 2 seed, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1. Mady, the 2017 champ at No. 4 singles, got a key semifinals win over Dow’s Zoe Angell, 7-6 (3), 6-1.
At No. 3 singles, Ann Arbor Skyline senior Caroline Cartwright, the No. 2 seed, defeated Northville junior Renee Torres, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 6-2. Torres, the returning champ at No. 3 singles, upset Dow’s Sarah Ismail, the No. 1 seed and returning champ at No. 2 singles, in a key semifinal match, 6-3, 6-4.
At. No. 4 singles, Jenna Silverman, the No. 1 seed, rallied past Dow senior Hadley Camp, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) in a 2-hour, 57-minute match. Silverman also rallied for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win in the semifinals over Northville’s Maya Mulchanandani. Camp was the Finals runner-up for the third straight year.
At No. 1 doubles, Northville senior Serena Wang and junior Sophie Zhuang, the No. 1 seed, defeated Dow seniors Tatum Matthews and Kelly Livingston, the No. 2 seed, 6-1, 6-4.
At No. 2 doubles, Dow junior Meghan Killmaster and sophomore Victoria Leiti, the No. 3 seed, defeated Bloomfield Hills senior Alandria Bellamy and sophomore Kaela Bernard, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-2.
At No. 3 doubles, Dow seniors Giacomina Fabiano and Christina Vanderkelen, the No. 3 seed, defeated Northville junior Madison DeYoung and freshman Michelle Tong, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-3.
At No. 4 doubles, Northville junior Connie Gao and freshman Sneha Ganan, the No. 2 seed, defeated Dow juniors Amelie Kraef and Reema Patel, the No. 1 seed, 6-4, 7-6 (1). Kraef and Patel came into Saturday without losing a set all season but had to rally for a 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 win in the semifinals.
PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills' Tia Mukherjee prepares to return a shot during her No. 1 singles match Saturday. (Middle) Northville poses with its latest MHSAA Finals trophy. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Tennis has become a Miller family tradition in Ann Arbor, and Reese Miller has built on it tremendously the past two seasons. The Pioneer senior-to-be capped this spring with her second-straight Lower Peninsula Division 1 No. 1 singles title as her team earned a second-straight Finals championship. She finished 27-0 this spring and has lost only two matches during her high school career (with her freshman season canceled due to COVID-19).
Miller took over the team’s top flight after the graduation of her sister Kari, who also was a two-time LPD1 No. 1 singles champion. Their aunt Annie Miller played professionally and reached a No. 40 world ranking in 1998. Kari Miller is starring at University of Michigan – having reached the NCAA Division I Singles Championships both of her first two seasons – and Reese has verbally committed to join her and sign with the Wolverines.
"Being able to compete at high levels as a female athlete is incredible, and the progress that we’ve made over these years and just with the start of Title IX and everything is amazing. I wouldn’t have any of the opportunities that I’ve had so far in my life, and being able to compete at such high levels would have never have happened."
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
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