By: Butch Harmon
Girls tennis state preview
By BUTCH HARMON
After weeks of hitting the ball inside, area tennis teams have finally been able to get outside in some decent weather. A number of area teams have high expectations this season, and the area is full of talented athletes. Outstanding individual players, like defending Division 2 state champion Abby Perkins of Mason, and Draga Sabotic and Emily Struble of Okemos, are among the finest players in the state.
Teams to watch statewide: Clarkston, Port Huron Northern, Grosse Pointe South, Ann Arbor Huron
The Division 1 state meet should be a free-for-all this year, as Clarkston, Port Huron Northern, Grosse Pointe South, and Ann Arbor Huron are deep and talented teams that have been battling it out in early-season tournaments this spring. Grosse Pointe South won last year’s title, while Clarkston and Port Huron Northern tied for second.
Top local teams: Midland Dow, Grand Ledge, Grand Blanc
Look for Midland Dow and Grand Blanc to battle it out for supremacy in the Saginaw Valley this spring. Dow is led by Kamryn Matthews at No. 1 singles, while Elaina Parillo is at No. 2 singles. Senior Sabrina Dass leads the way for a talented Grand Blanc squad at No. 1 singles.
Grand Ledge has a solid group of players returning, although they will miss Hailey Barrett, who was a cornerstone of the team the last few seasons at No. 1 singles. Look for Lauren Sharp, who had a winning record at No. 2 singles last season, to step in at No. 1 singles. Overall, the Comets return three of their top four singles players from last year.
Top players in the state: Lexi Baylis, Clarkston; Isabel Zheng, Ann Arbor Huron
Top local players: Sabrina Dass, Grand Blanc; Kamryn Matthews, Midland Dow; Lauren Sharp, Grand Ledge
Teams to watch statewide: Birmingham Seaholm, Forest Hills Northern, East Grand Rapids, Bloomfield Hills Andover
Defending state champion Birmingham Seaholm returns plenty of talent this season and will be tough to dislodge from the top spot. Forest Hills Northern has won 10 regional titles in a row and finished just two points behind Seaholm at last year’s state finals. Not only do the Huskies have a talented team with a host of returnees, but they also have a young squad that is poised to take a state title or two during the next two seasons. In Southwest Michigan, Portage Northern has a talented young squad with a pair of sophomores at 1 and 2 singles who won regional championships.
Top local teams: Okemos, East Lansing, Mason, Fenton
Okemos placed sixth in the state last season, and with the bulk of that team returning, the Chieftains have their sights set on an even loftier finish this season. Few teams in the area can match the one-two punch of Draga Sabotic and Emily Struble. Last year the duo both completed perfect seasons, with Sabotic winning the state title at 2 singles and Struble claiming the state crown at 3 singles.
Mason won the CAAC Gold last season, and the Bulldogs are primed for another big season. Mason returns junior Abby Perkins, who captured the Division 2 state title at No. 1 singles last season. Also back is senior Emily Hall, who earned all-state honors at No. 2 singles. Freshman Samantha Perkins, younger sister of Abby, will make her presence felt this season.
Top players in the state: Clare Aleck, Forest Hills Northern; Kerry Hu, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Carly Pratt, Portage Northern; Sara Remynse, Gull Lake
Top local players: Madison Ballard, Fenton; Emily Hall, Mason; Abby Perkins, Mason; Draga Sabotic, Okemos; Emily Strube, Okemos
Teams to watch statewide: Cranbrook Kingswood, Detroit Country Day, Allegan, Forest Hills Eastern
Cranbrook Kingswood is going for the three-peat this season. It won the past two Division 3 state titles after finishing runner-up the two years before that. Cranbrook enters the season ranked No. 1 in the state, and in junior Alexandria Najarian they may have the best high school singles player in the state as well. Detroit Country Day is the last team other than Cranbrook to have won a state title in Division 3, and the Yellowjackets have plenty of talent returning, led by junior Madelyn Karoub. The battle for the No. 1 singles title will be one to watch as Division 3 has a number of outstanding singles players, including Sydney Liggins of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Remington Gerst of Forest Hills Eastern, and Lenka Pousova of Spring Lake.
Top local teams: Haslett, DeWitt
Haslett won the CAAC Red division last season. The Vikings return plenty of talent this season and are led by senior standout Emmy Virkus, who was a conference and regional champion last year. Junior Shea Donahue returns at No. 2 singles after winning 20 matches a year ago.
DeWitt won the CAAC Red last season but sustained heavy graduation losses. That said, the Panthers are a team that typically reloads instead of rebuilds.
Top players in the state: Livia Christman, Allegan; Remington Gerst, Forest Hills Eastern; Madelyn Karoub, Detroit Country Day; Sydney Liggins, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; Alexandria Najarian, Cranbrook Kingswood
Top local players: Shea Donahue, Haslett; Emily Virkus, Haslett
Teams to watch statewide: Academy of the Sacred Heart, Greenhills School, St. Mary Catholic Central
Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills captured the Division 4 state title last June, and with the bulk of that team returning, it will be the team to beat again this season. Seniors Jessica Davis at No. 1 singles and Kelsey Hildebrand at No. 2 singles lead a squad that is equally strong in singles and in doubles. Greenhills School in Ann Arbor finished second a year ago and welcomes back Rae Schuller to head the singles players but has some holes to fill in the rest of the lineup.
Top local teams: Williamston, Lansing Catholic, Portland, Alma
The CAAC White made a strong showing at last year’s Division 4 state meet, and the league is gearing up for another strong season. Williamston finished fourth in the state last season, and with all of its doubles teams back, including No. 1 doubles team Caitlyn Chick and Delaney Nikolai, the Hornets will again score major points in tournaments. Senior Caroline Rising returns to head up what should be a solid group of singles players for Williamston.
Lansing Catholic placed fifth at the state meet a year ago. The Cougars have a strong group of returnees, led by sophomore Calla Ramont, who won the state title at No. 3 singles last year. Senior Mia Flynn is also back. She reached the quarterfinals at No. 2 singles at the state meet.
Portland placed eighth at the state meet last season. Senior Emily Quinn is back at No. 1 singles, while Katie Blake is back at No. 2 singles. Blake reached the finals at No. 2 singles at the state meet last season.
Alma looks to contend in the Tri-Valley Conference this season. While the Panthers were hit hard by graduation, they do return several talented players, including seniors Melissa Rivera and Julia Wentz.
Top players in the state: Jessica Davis, Academy of the Sacred Heart; Rae Schuller, Greenhills School
Top local players: Katie Blake, Portland; Caitlyn Chick, Williamston; Madison Mertz, Frannkenmuth; Delaney Nikolai, Williamston; Calla Ramont, Lansing Catholic