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GIRLS TENNIS: Clarkston in the hunt for D-1 state title

Clarkston, Ann Arbor Pioneer battling it out

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MIDLAND - All any coach can ask for is a chance to be playing for a state championship on Saturday.

So Clarkston coach Becky Freeman has nothing to complain about after Friday's play at the Division 1 state tennis finals in Midland.

Her Wolves are alive in seven of eight flights and trail just Ann Arbor Pioneer heading into today's semifinal round at the Midland Community Tennis Center.

"We were hoping to play to our seedings," said Freeman, whose team was ranked No. 1 heading into the finals. "Getting seven of our eight flights through ... I think that is exceeding (our expectations). But Pioneer also exceeded. They did a great job as well and they're one point ahead of us. So we've got to play up to that. We've got to play to beat them."

Pioneer, ranked No. 3 heading into the tournament, has 22 team points and also sent seven players on to Day 2. Clarkston (21 points) and Pioneer match up in two of the semifinals - at No. 2 singles and No. 3 doubles.

Freshman Lexi Baylis, the top seed at No. 2 singles, will take on No. 4 Jennifer Liu in an important head-to-head matchup. Baylis won both of her matches in convincing style on Friday.

So too did her three singles teammates. Gabriella Spindler, the No. 2 seed at first singles, dropped just two games in her wins over Grand Blanc and Livonia Franklin. She'll face L'Anse Creuse North's Alix Thurman, the No. 3 seed, in today's semifinal round.

On the other half of her draw, Rochester's Kelsey Dieters, the top seed, will take on Midland Dow's Daniella Patton for the right to play for a state championship. Dieters, a senior, won a state title as a sophomore, but lost in the semifinal round a year ago. She's unbeaten this season.

Junior Katie Brozovich and senior Kristina Lucas were nearly flawless at Nos. 3 and 4 singles for the Wolves. They dropped a combined three games in their four matches and look to earn some much-needed points for their teams when play picks back up Saturday morning.

The top-seeded Brozovich will take on her cousin, Port Huron Northern's Lizzie Brozovich, in one semifinal at No. 3 singles. Katie says she's excited about the opportunity to take on her younger cousin. "I think it's pretty cool because we practice together and we've made each other better, that we get the opportunity to play each other," she said. "I'm used to playing her, so it's not as big of a deal anymore. We're used to it by now. So I'm just going to have to raise my intensity and forget who I'm playing, and just play the ball."

Lucas, the No. 2 seed, with take on third-seeded Rae Brozovich, Lizzie's older sister, in her semifinal match. Lucas, who will be playing for Grand Valley State next year, won a state title at No. 3 singles last season.

As well as the singles lineup played for the Wolves on Friday, the success of the doubles may have been key in giving Clarkston a chance at a state championship today.

Dana and Paige Olsen (at No. 1), Olivia Dunn and Allie Wilson (at No. 3) and Annie Gencay and Monique Zentner (at No. 4) all won their opening two matches and remain in contention heading into Saturday.

Gencay and Zentner needed three sets to defeat Troy Athens' Manasa Gummalla and Pooja Chaku in their first match, before beating their Hudsonville foes in two, tough sets in the quarterfinals.

Freeman said the pair, which has been getting better each match this season, exceeded her expectations. And assistant coach Mary Jo Colonna added that she feels this is a team that could do even more on Saturday.

"If they come and are ready to fight, then they will (win it all)," Colonna said.

Midland Dow is third heading into Day 2, with 16 points, followed by Port Huron Northern (14) and Northville and Saline (13 each). Troy is currently ninth overall, with 10 points, followed closely by Novi and Rochester, which have eight points each.

Joining Dieters in today's semifinals are her teammates, Stephanie Handley and Stephanie VonBehren, who will take on Ann Arbor Pioneer in the semifinals at No. 4 doubles. Also reaching the semifinal round were Novi's Meng Meng Jie and Amy Zhou, who will face Gencay and Zentner in the other semifinal at fourth doubles.

Over in Division 2, No. 1 ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern leads the way after Day 1, but is being closely pursued by a trio of Oakland County teams. The Huskies sent all eight flights through to Saturday's semifinals, scoring 24 team points.

Birmingham Seaholm (22), Birmingham Marian (20) and Bloomfield Hills Andover (18) remain in the hunt. It's no coincidence that those three teams are ranked Nos. 2-3-4 in the state, in that order.

Seaholm has six flights remaining in the semifinal round, led by sophomore No. 1 singles player Nancy Benda, who will take on Lowell's Kelly Trapp in one semifinal. The Maples' top doubles team of Elizabeth Gunckle and Labina Petrovska square off against Marian's Catherine Christian and Kristin Lunghamer in Saturday's semifinals.

Marian, the defending co-champions, also have six flights alive, including Kelly Lunghamer, Elaine Apaza and Lauren Dietz at 2-3-4 singles.

Andover's Kristen Law, the No. 2 seed at second singles, is one of five flights still alive for the Barons.

In Division 3, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Birmingham Detroit Country Day lead the way, just a point separating the two. Cranbrook has 28 team points, with just the championship matches in doubles and the semifinal and championship matches at singles, yet to be played.

The two schools will face off in three of the four doubles finals, while the Cranes' Alexandria Najarian and the Yellowjackets' Andrea Rivera will face off in a semifinal match at No. 1 singles.

And in Division 4, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart is tied with Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian after Day 1 of the state tournament. Both schools have 19 points and lead Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central by three.

All four of the Gazelles' doubles teams are still alive, while just Kelsey Hildebrand (No. 2 singles) remains alive in the singles' draw.

Jason Schmitt covers girls' tennis for The Oakland Press. Email him at jason.schmitt@oakpress.com, follow him on Twitter @MIPrepZone and read his "In the Zone" blog at MIPrepZone.com.

Last Updated: 6/4/2011 8:34:03 AM EST

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