Seaholm tennis title a true team effort

June 8, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Birmingham Seaholm’s MHSAA Division 2 championship Saturday was the “terminus in the odyssey of our souls,” as coach Scott Ransome described it at the team’s banquet earlier this week.

In other words, it was quite a trip – punctuated by the team’s first title since 2004. And put in those words, it was a classic.

Seaholm placed seven flights into semifinals, and despite only one individual champion scored 27 points – two more than runner-up Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, which had won or shared the last six Division 2 titles. Seaholm finished second to FHN in 2011.

“I don't think, player for player, we were as strong as we were three years ago (when the Maples finished fourth). I thought three years ago we had the make-up, the players with the skill set (to win)," Ransome said. "But these players, whatever they lacked in skill set, they certainly made up for in desire. They were hungry.”

The Maples receive this week’s Second Half team High 5 for how they won almost as much as winning itself. Sophomore Jackie Meier and freshman Rachel Wilson teamed to win the No. 3 doubles championship – playing to their top seed in that flight. But six other flights also played at or above their seeds.

It was a gratifying end to a two-month stretch that saw the Maples start with high expectations after finishing seven points behind FHN at the 2011 Final. They dominated in early competition, but then were dealt a sad blow when junior Nancy Benda – a second seed at No. 1 singles last season – was lost for seven weeks with a stress fracture.

Ransome and assistant coach Paul Young took an approach of emphasizing interchangeable parts – “We said, ‘Let's not fixate on Nancy. She’s an integral part of the program, but she in herself is not the entire program,’” Ransome told his team – and after playing a few matches defaulting at No. 1 singles, moved everyone up a flight and finished 13-1 without her in the lineup.

Meanwhile, Ransome and Young prepared their healthy players to be strong at the end. The Maples regularly do ladder drills and other agility work for 45 minutes at the start of practice before taking their first hits of the day. And the team’s No. 5 and 6 doubles teams continued to push those ahead of them to help them get stronger.

“It was almost like when Nancy returned, those girls were able to catch a breathe,” Ransome said. “They were able to get some rejuvenation in going back to their rightful positions.”

Seaholm tied with eventual MHSAA Division 1 runner-up Clarkston for the Oakland Activities Association Red championship, then finished runner-up to Bloomfield Hills Marian at the Regional. But with the benefits of season-long preparation for a final run, plus improved skills Ransome and Young saw across the lineup, the Maples had one more effort left – a championship effort, it turned out.

Sophomore Labina Petrovska advanced to the final match at No. 2 singles, as did sophomore Lauren Frazier at No. 3 and freshman Claire Markley at No. 4. Petrovska and Markley were second seeds, and Frazier was a third.

Senior Katie Root and junior Lauren Benderoff made the semifinals at No. 4 doubles as a fifth seed. And Benda won a match at No. 1 singles despite coming in unseeded.

“It was gratifying more than anything else. That’s the only way I can describe it,” Ransome said. “For what we had, for us to have enough balance in the lineup. And it really did take some help (from opponents winning other matches). We played to our seeds, and that’s what this was really all about.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Jackie Meier (center) and Rachel Wilson (right) won Birmingham Seaholm's lone individual championship, at No. 3 doubles, at Saturday's Division 2 Final. (Middle) No. 1 singles player Nancy Benda hoists the Maples' team championship trophy. (Bottom) Sophomore Lauren Frazier was one of three Seaholm singles players to advance to the final of their flights, she at No. 3 singles. (Photos courtesy of Anne Benda.)

Adams' Fu Hoping to Write Championship Headline After Repeat Finalist Finishes

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

May 23, 2024

ROCHESTER HILLS — An editor for her school newspaper the last two years, Nicole Fu is one who loves to tell good stories and write good headlines. 

Greater DetroitA junior at Adams, Fu enjoys getting to know people around the school and giving them a moment in the sun, so to speak.

“I love being able to talk with so many people and learn the stories behind their accomplishments,” Fu said.

It’s ironic, because come the end of next Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Tennis Finals, Fu hopes professional media outlets around the state will talk about her own story of accomplishment, possibly with headlines such as “Redemption Feels Sweet for Fu” or “Third Time is Charm for Adams Tennis Star.”

Both the last two years, Fu has advanced to the championship match at No. 1 singles in Division 1. 

But while quite an accomplishment to do so as a freshman and sophomore, she also left somewhat unsatisfied, losing in 2022 to Reese Miller of Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-1, 6-1) and last spring to Sari Woo of Ann Arbor Skyline (6-3, 6-4). 

“Being in the final both my freshman and sophomore years has shown me that I have what it takes to win a state championship even when it gets tough,” Fu said. “Last year especially has shown me that I’m not far from the title, and staying strong both mentally and physically is going to be crucial to hopefully winning a state title.”

No doubt, Fu should be one of the top contenders, if not the favorite.

She enters with an 18-0 record and has brilliantly handled opponents attempting to give her their best performances.

“Her ability to handle the pressure has improved a lot,” Adams head coach Greg Burks said. “She has matured as a top-level player and competes as well as any player I’ve ever had.”

Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match.Fu actually said she got her start in tennis a little later than most. After dabbling in soccer and swimming, Fu started playing tennis at age 10 when one of her mom’s co-workers gave her a foam ball and a kids racquet. 

“Then I started hitting against our living room wall, and one day my mom asked if I wanted to take an actual tennis lesson,” Fu said. 

From there, Fu started playing in tournaments, and the tennis bug bit her.

“I really loved competing in matches, so I didn’t stop and it ended up being very rewarding,” she said.

Fu also has an accomplished hitting partner in twin sister Katie, who lost in the championship match at No. 2 singles last year. 

“She’s always a great hitting partner, and it’s really nice to have someone who understands the sport and what it takes to balance that out with everything else,” Nicole Fu said. “She’s basically my second brain too, so having her around during the season is super fun and helpful for keeping me in check.”

Fu has a collegiate future in the sport, having committed in November to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

“Obviously the education is extraordinary, and attending a service academy builds your character both physically and mentally and sets you up to make an impact on the nation,” Fu said. 

When it comes to next week’s MHSAA Tournament, Fu obviously is aiming to make another impact at the championship level – but this time finish the quest she fell short of the last two years. 

“This year as a back-to-back finalist and a strong favorite has put a lot of pressure on me to win my matches,” she said. “So there’s definitely a lot of expectations for this season, and managing that was a little bit tough in the beginning of the season. But over time I’ve kind of learned to embrace it, and it’s given me more confidence in my matches knowing I’m the player people are aiming to beat.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams' Nicole Fu returns a volley during last season's No. 1 singles championship match at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)