Westwood Adds Division 1 Title to Long Championship History

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

September 30, 2021

KINGSFORD — Ishpeming Westwood enjoyed a big day at the Upper Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals on Wednesday, earning their first Division 1 title with 20 points.

They were followed by 2020 champion Negaunee with 15, Escanaba 12, Gladstone four, Marquette and Menominee two apiece and Kingsford.

This marked the 13th title in 18 years for the Patriots, who competed in Division 2 until last year.

“This was a fantastic finish for us,” said Westwood coach Sarah Massie. “We felt we had a chance, but we knew there would be a lot of battling. Playing against the bigger schools is more challenging and unpredictable.

“We preached to the girls when you get to the U.P. Finals, you’re playing for your team. We had a lot of seniors and freshmen this year. We had a nice mix. We had a lot of freshmen come out this year, which was nice to see.”

Westwood seniors Natalie Prophet and Natalie Blanck defeated Escanaba’s Abby Hill and Gracie Wickham 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles.

“Keeping a level head and knowing that we knew how to play tennis were the keys for us today,” said Prophet, who won at No. 4 doubles as a sophomore in 2019. “Tennis is such a mental game. In the first set, we were confident in our shots. We hit good shots and didn’t make many errors. They weren’t hitting their shots in the first set, then they settled down and started to find their groove.

“It feels great to win as a team, especially after all the work we put in which got us to this point.”

Blanck had similar thoughts on the championship match.

“Coach told us to be patient,” she said. “In the first set, we were pretty confident. Although, we never lost our confidence when they started to come back.”

Negaunee tennisFreshman Lexi Olson and Alyssa Prophet came through for the Patriots in No. 2 doubles as they rallied past Escanaba senior Erica Moore and junior Delaney McIntrye 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) for their title.

Moore and McIntyre led 5-2 in the third set after Moore’s overhand shot landed just inches in front of the back line.

“We knew it was going to be hard,” Prophet said. “We also knew we had to keep fighting. We beat them in the first set and knew we could beat them again. Coach told us it wasn’t over and not to give up until it was over. It’s going to feel great to return as defending champions.”

The Patriots surged ahead 6-5 before Moore-McIntyre got the next point to force a tie-breaker.

“Coach told us to get our heads back in the match,” said Olson. “Once we got within 5-4, we felt we had the momentum. We were a little nervous going into the tie-breaker but came through. That was very special.”

Senior Hannah Mattila and freshman Hannah Niemi added a first for Westwood at No. 3 doubles in a 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 comeback against Negaunee’s Madison Frustaglio and Olivia Luseth.

Westwood’s Alyssa Couveau won at No. 4 singles, topping Negaunee’s Jordan Enright 6-1, 6-2.

Negaunee senior Lillian Nelson defeated Westwood senior Jillian Koski 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles.

“My groundstrokes worked well today,” said Nelson. “My main goal was to stay consistent. I knew I had to stay strong mentally. The hardest thing about this sport is to keep from getting into your own head. This is the first time I won singles. I really had to work hard to get here.”

Negaunee’s Daylen Drew defeated Westwood’s Lindsay Williams 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles and freshmen Audry Johnson and Kellen Schultz posted a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over Westwood senior Lexi Moffat and freshman Izzie Marta in No. 4 doubles.

Senior Lizzy Sliva provided Escanaba with its lone title at No. 3 singles in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Westwood’s Mallory Leece.

“I stayed focused on what I was doing,” said Sliva. “The second set got close, but I pulled through.

“It feels great to end on a high note. Everybody worked real hard. We have a lot of good girls playing. They gave it their all.”

Click for full results

PHOTOS: (Top) Westwood's Natalie Williams winds up to return a volley during the No. 2 singles championship match Wednesday. (Middle) Negaunee's Lilly Nelson prepares to return a shot during the No. 1 singles finale. (Photos by Matthew McCarthy.) 

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)