Sacred Heart, Moyer Cap Familiar Climb

June 2, 2018

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

NOVI – This might have been the third time in her four-year high school career that Kalamazoo Hackett senior Natalie Moyer was in this spot.

But that doesn’t mean nerves still weren’t a factor when she advanced to the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA Division 4 Finals on Saturday.

“At first I was a little nervous and was playing like I was nervous,” Moyer said. “I just kind of calmed down and played with confidence. Just played my game.”

Moyer definitely did that against Taylor Smith of Jackson Lumen Christi, surviving the first set with a 6-4 win before rolling to a 6-0 win in the second to claim her second Finals championship.

As a sophomore, Moyer won the title at No. 2 singles, but it was another match that was most on her mind Saturday.

Last season, Moyer lost in the championship match at No. 1 singles to Smith by scores of 6-2, 6-2, something that fueled Moyer all offseason and throughout an unbeaten regular season that saw her enter this weekend as the No. 1 seed at the flight (Smith was No. 2).

“I was really motivated to get the state title this year,” said Moyer, who will play in college at Xavier University. “That’s what I wanted all season.”

While Moyer ruled the day individually, the team portion of the tournament belonged to a traditional power.

It felt weird for Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart to not win the crown last season after winning it all four of the previous five years. But Sacred Heart easily returned to the top perch in the state.

The Gazelles scored 32 points, seven ahead of Traverse City St. Francis and 12 ahead of Jackson Lumen Christi, the top-ranked team heading into the tournament.

Sacred Heart entered the postseason ranked No. 2, but coach Judy Hehs said that didn’t provide her team any extra motivation.

“We don’t talk about the rankings,” Hehs said. “We play a really tough schedule, and we don’t understand what it means to play Division 4 schools. They know the Catholic League and they know the independent schools. When we get here, 50 percent of the teams, they don’t know. We don’t talk about rankings.”

Sacred Heart saw Reagan Beatty win the flight title at No. 3 singles with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Taylor Kennedy of Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, and the Gazelles dominated the doubles portion of the competition winning all four flights.

Sara Gerard and Annie Keating at No. 1 doubles, Nolwenn Crosnier and Kelleigh Keating at No. 2, Kathryn Monahan and Serena Seneker at No. 3 and the team of Hannah Kakos and Kate Myers and No. 4 doubles all brought home flight championships.

“Every flight on this team this year did what they had to do,” Hehs said. “Everyone contributed.”

Maggie Ketels of Hackett won the title at No. 2 singles with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Oriana Gulvesan of Ann Arbor Greenhills, and Paige Davies of St. Francis won the No. 4 singles title with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Hannah Hodgson of Monroe St. Mary.

In search of its first MHSAA Finals team title in this sport, St. Francis finished as the runner-up for the third time in four years – but this year had a more uplifting feel to it than the others.

“We feel really good about it,” Gladiators coach Paul Bandrowski said. “We were 16th last year, and we lost a lot of seniors. We came back and jumped from 16th all the way back to second. We have a lot of young players.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Kalamazoo Hackett's Natalie Moyer fires a shot during her No. 1 singles Quarterfinal. (Middle) Academy of the Sacred Heart's Reagan Beatty volleys during a No. 3 singles match for the eventual team champion. (Click to see 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.”