BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Alexandria Najarian owes no one a thing.
The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood senior has every right to be a little selfish. She’s on the verge of becoming just the fourth girls tennis player to win four-consecutive No. 1 singles state championships.
She’s the best player in the state, one of the best in the country. She knows it. Her opponents know it.
Yet it’s not all about her.
Her Cranbrook teammates are looking for a fourth-straight state championship as well … a team state championship.
And that seems to be every bit as important to Najarian as the 2014 season kicks off.
“It means a lot to me to have the opportunity to go for four (state titles) and to continue this streak,” said Najarian, who is unbeaten during her high school career. “People always say (high school) is so much easier than national tournaments, but it’s different. You have a team out there and you’re cheering for them as well as yourself. So it’s different to focus on yourself and everyone who’s a part of your team, and you want them to be as successful as you are. I’m really excited for the opportunity to go for four, for my team and myself.”
Najarian – a perfect 52-0 through her first three seasons at Cranbrook – is looking to join a select list of four-time No. 1 champions which includes Liggett’s Dawn Martin (1985-88), Country Day’s Kendra Howard (1990-93) and another Crane, Shannon Mathews, who won four straight state titles from 2004-08.
“I think (four in a row) is a testament to the type of player she is,” Cranbrook co-head coach Steve Herdoiza said. “She’s so strong mentally. She’s so competitive, even in practice, she just wants to win. You’ve got to have that intangible to win at this level, but also going to the next level in college and possibly even into the pros. I like her chances because of that intangible.”
Herdoiza and fellow co-head coach Jeff Etterbeek hope a little bit of that competitive edge rubs off on her teammates this spring. The Cranes return half of their starting lineup. Two weeks of spring break and poor weather conditions have made it tough for the coaches to finalize their lineup.
But with Najarian and sophomore Anna Short – who won the No. 2 singles state championship a year ago – leading the way, things are a little bit easier. Sophomores Emily Harvey and Amanda Twu will open the season at 3-4 singles. Harvey won a state title at No. 4 doubles last year. Twu transferred in from Spring Lake, where she played No. 3 singles for the Lakers.
Junior Meg Phyle is back at No. 1 doubles, where she’s reached the title match each of the past two years – having won it in 2012. Her partner has yet to be determined, though seniors Holly Meers and Lauren Lanzon seem to be at the top of the list. Meers won a doubles title at No. 3 last year, while Lanzon teamed with Harvey for that No. 4 doubles title.
Etterbeek said junior Jazz Teste, sophomore Sauma Du and freshmen Sloane Wysocki, Ava Harb and Mackenzie Beckett will also be in the doubles mix.
On paper, the Cranes once again may be the team to beat in Division 3, though Country Day and Allegan – which finished runner-up to Cranbrook last year – will certainly be aiming to knock off the three-time defending champs.
“We are just going to take it one step at a time and see how the competition lays out,” Najarian said. “Especially with how Country Day is playing. They are our biggest rivals and always are. It’ll be a tough one, but I think it’ll be a really good season.”
Herdoiza said the chance to win a fourth straight state championship is big for the Cranes, a goal they are embracing as the season gets underway.
“It’s just rare,” he said. “I think when you have that opportunity, you seize it, you go after it and you put everything you’ve got into it.”
Jason Schmitt covers girls tennis for The Oakland Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read his "In The Zone" blog here and follow our high school tennis coverage on Twitter @JasonESchmitt.