KALAMAZOO — By the end of play Friday, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart had already repeated as the Lower Peninsula Division 4 team champion, but don't ask any of the girls how that felt.
The coaches did not mention it until Saturday at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium.
“We didn’t find out until just now,” No. 1 doubles champ Annie Keating said after her Saturday final. “We assumed, but no one really knew. We just went out and played our best.”
Sacred Heart, with the top seeds in every doubles flight, swept those four. But the match of the tournament was the No. 1 singles final.
Freshman Moorea McNalley, the second seed from Clarkston Everest Collegiate, rallied to defeat top-seeded Melanie Zampardo, a Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).
The barnburner was the last match on the court, with the crowd inside the Markin Racquet Center sending deafening cheers after each point, especially during the third set.
“We played during the regular season, and she beat me both times,” McNalley said. “Today, I just tried to get everything back and not get mad.
“Last time, I was getting upset at myself, so I was trying not to do that this time and just keep playing.”
Playing in her first MHSAA tournament, “I had no clue if it was going to be good or bad,” she said. “It was good, definitely.
“Since it’s my last match of the season, I was giving it my all.”
With the doubles semifinals played on Friday because of the projected rain the next day, Sacred Heart’s four semis points clinched the title. They ended with 31 points, eight more than runner-up Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
“We knew (Friday) we couldn’t catch Sacred Heart but the kids have been motivated all year, so there was no problem getting them motivated to play,” St. Mary coach Wayne Asher said.
“Grosse Ile was right there with us, and there were a couple other schools not too far away also.”
Grosse Ile, which moved from Division 3 this year, finished third with 21 points, North Muskegon (17) was fourth and Everest (16) fifth.
Sacred Heart’s sixth title in eight seasons is bittersweet for coach Judy Hehs, who is leaving the school at the end of the year.
Hehs has coached the girls since the 1996-97 season.
“In their hearts they decided in March they were going to win a state championship,” Hehs said. “We had several kids make sacrifices about where they played, with whom they played, in order to get here.
“They, as a team, made that decision to work to that goal.”
Each doubles team had at least one past Finals champ in the pairing to mentor the younger players, Hehs said.
Keating, a junior, said losing their coach gave she and her teammates motivation.
“She’s the best coach we’ve ever had,” she said. “We really wanted to win this one for her. That was our motivation.”
Keating and sophomore Reagan Beatty defeated North Muskegon seniors Belles Hardman and Lily Montgomery, the second seeds, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
Beatty won the title at No. 3 singles last year but wanted to play doubles with Keating, her cousin.
“The biggest adjustment was mostly working with a partner and it was nice having my cousin, which was amazing,” Beatty said.
“But I also think it was difficult because you have a little bit of pressure, saying I don’t want to let my partner down. But it also has its upsides because you have a partner if you’re not doing well.”
Playing with her cousin has advantages.
“We can communicate with each other without having to talk,” Beatty said. “We just look at each other, and we know.”
At. No. 2 doubles, senior Nolwenn Crosnier and freshman Marisa Nafso defeated second seeds, senior Katy Zink and freshman Katherine Kemp of Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, 6-2, 6-1.
It was the second No. 2 doubles title for Crosnier.
“It feels good, but it’s also nerve-wracking because there are high expectations,” she said. “We really wanted the title.”
Nafso was happy for the mentoring.
“I have a lot of nerves so she calms me down a lot,” Nafso said of her partner. “When we’re on the court, we really like to laugh and smile and be friends with our opponents.
“We’ve been spending every single day together trying to prepare for states.”
The friendliness extended to the final.
“I was surprised at No. 2 doubles,” Hehs said. “They spent more time at the net at the end of the match, where we wanted to congratulate them.
“They were enjoying the company of their opponents, discovering where they were going to college and stuff like that.”
Junior Kate Myers and senior Serena Seneker won the title at No. 3 doubles, and senior Catherine Blumberg and junior Hannah Kakos won at No. 4.
At No. 2 singles, Grosse Ile junior Jessica Schutt, the top seed, defeated Shrine’s unseeded senior, Ann Gladstone, 6-1, 6-1.
Gladstone stunned No. 2 seed, Sarah Schmidt of Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 6-4, 6-3, then dispatched No. 6-seeded Claire McCall of North Muskegon, 6-3, 7-6(6)
“I played (Gladstone) at Regional, and then hearing about her big upset I was like she must have improved a lot in the last couple weeks,” Schutt said. “I was really nervous.
“I was just hitting it deep, keeping at it, not letting her in.”
Gladstone said she ended her senior season “just playing my heart out.
“It’s my last year, and I just wanted to give it my all and just battle. My coach said, ‘Imagine, believe, achieve’ and I just used that.”
The senior said she had a mental adjustment after Regionals.
“I was a very timid player and I would just try to get the ball back, and now I was more on the offensive and just hit my shots,” she said.
At No. 3 singles, St. Mary senior Taylor Kennedy, the top seed, defeated second seed Madelyn Vitu, a junior from Everest Collegiate, 6-1, 6-3.
After losing in the final at No. 3 last year, “I learned to stay steady and always be consistent and don’t try to hit a hard shot and always just stay steady because that’s how you win points,” Kennedy said.
“I learned not to get in my own head. Last year, I would always get mad at myself and get down, but this year I learned just to get the ball in and do my thing and play my game.”
At No. 4 singles, second seed Jenna Sheets, a Grosse Ile senior, defeated St. Mary junior Hannah Hodgson, the top seed, 7-5, 6-1.
Despite being tucked back on Court 4 at the Markin Center, the farthest from the bleachers, Sheets said she had no problem hearing the crowd.
“I think I have a pretty good mental game, but (the crowd) just helps you think about what the reward is if you get through it,” she said.
It was especially rewarding for the senior Saturday.
“In past years, I never made it past the quarterfinals,” she said.
“My mental game has improved. I’m a very relaxed player and never get mad at myself, so I think that’s definitely my strongest thing.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Isabelle Burg lines up to return a volley during a Friday match at No. 2 singles. (Middle) Clarkston Everest Collegiate’s Moorea McNalley prepares to serve on the way to winning the No. 1 singles title this weekend. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.”
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.
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.)