Rochester senior Kelsey Dieters is a member of the 2011 all-Oakland County Tennis team. That's no surprise, considering she won her second state championship this spring and won the Miss Tennis award. (The Oakland Press file photo/JOSE JUAREZ)
Oakland County once again filled with top-notch tennis talent
By JASON SCHMITT Of The Oakland Press
Birmingham Detroit Country Day sophomore Jane Ziecik (above) teamed up with senior Devin Nagle to form a potent duo at No. 1 doubles for the Yellowjackets. (The Oakland Press file photo/JOSE JUAREZ)
Having won a No. 1 doubles title back in 2008 as a freshman, Natasha Dabrowski (above) teamed up with fellow senior Sammy Bowers to win another this spring for Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. (The Oakland Press file photo/JOSE JUAREZ)
Clarkston junior Gabriella Spindler finished 23-3 this season playing No. 1 singles for the Wolves. She led her team to the Division 1 state championship. (The Oakland Press file photo/JOSE JUAREZ)
A year ago, the amount of tennis talent in Oakland County was impressive, with local teams accounting for half of the state championships, and a slew of others finishing among the top-10 in their respective divisions.
Think things couldn’t get any better? Think again.
This year, the amount of talent in the county was downright ridiculous, again with two teams claiming state championships — Clarkston in Division 1 and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in Division 3 — and a handful of others knocking on the door.
There were 14 individual flight champions from the county — out of 32 possible championships. In Division 1, Oakland County girls swept the state singles championships, as Rochester’s Kelsey Dieters took home her second No. 1 championship, while Clarkston’s Lexi Baylis, Katie Brozovich and Kristina Lucas swept Nos. 2-3-4.
And over in Division 3, Cranbrook and Birmingham Detroit Country Day, who finished 1-2 overall, swept all four doubles championships.
Of the 14 county teams which qualified for the finals, 10 finished in the top-10 of their divisions. And, as one would expect, the individual postseason honors followed suit, as 30 different flights earned all-state honors by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches’ Association.
Mixing and matching all that talent into one all-county team is no easy task. But we tried. And we now present the 2011 All-County Girls Tennis team:
— Lexi Baylis (Fr.), Clarkston — Baylis was one of a handful of talented freshmen to make a splash onto the county tennis scene this season. And she made quite a splash, finishing a perfect 27-0, capturing the No. 2 state singles championship and helping the Wolves win their first-ever team state title at the Division 1 Finals in Midland.
“It’s hard to compare her to anyone, but I’d have to say she reminds me a little of (teammate) Gabriella Spindler,” Clarkston coach Becky Freeman said. “They both played behind a great player their freshman year and did a great job. Lexi has a lot of fire in her. She didn’t back down from any challenge she faced this season.”
— Nancy Benda (Soph.), Birmingham Seaholm — Benda helped the Maples finish runner-up in both their league as well as at the Division 2 Finals. She finished with a 13-8 record, having faced a top-notch schedule which included many of the county’s best players. She was a first-team OAA Red selection.
“She showed a lot of maturity this season,” said her coach, Scott Ransome. “I think it’s a natural leadership, she leads by example and she’s fun to watch out there on the court.”
— Katie Brozovich (Jr.), Clarkston — She set some lofty goals early on — to win every match this season. And she achieved those goals for the Wolves, leading by example and finishing 27-0 en route to a state championship at No. 3 singles.
“She’s very cerebral,” Freeman said. “All her emotion, it’s inside her. She’s got a calm presence about her. Katie is on the court, with a racket in her hand, more than anyone on the team. And it shows.”
— Kelsey Dieters (Sr.), Rochester — Two words for tennis fans: Miss Tennis. It’s an award that rewards the state’s best player, not just for her accomplishments in her senior season, but for her entire career.
And Dieters won it.
Dieters captured two state titles and was a four-time semifinalist, finishing with a career mark of 107-5. She’ll play at Ohio State in the fall.
— Mollie Fox (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser — In her first year with the Knights, Fox finished with an 18-6 overall record, with four of those losses coming to girls on this first team. She won three tournaments this season, including a Division 2 regional championship.
“Mollie came in very talented, obviously,” said her coach, Tim Lotz. “She’s not your ordinary freshman. I think that was evident with how mature she was out there on the court. She was one of the hardest workers out there, a real leader.”
— Alexandria Najarian (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — Just as one great player leaves the county (Dieters), another one enters. Najarian did not lose a regular season match and rolled through the state tournament, capturing the Division 3 No. 1 singles title. She finished 22-0 this season.
“She’s a nationally-ranked player and she made the transition (to high school tennis) as well as any player I’ve ever coached,” Cranbrook coach Keith Cullen said. “She just has this attitude that she was going to beat anybody she played. She wasn’t going to be denied.”
— Andrea Rivera (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — She stepped to the forefront for the Yellowjackets this season, and performed beyond the expectations of many. Rivera was a state quarterfinalist and finished with an impressive 17-7 record.
— Gabriella Spindler (Jr.), Clarkston — Few would question the fact that Clarkston’s singles lineup was the best in the state. So it’s something to say you’re the best of that bunch. Spindler finished 23-3 playing No. 1 for the Wolves, falling in the state semifinals. Her losses came to Dieters (twice) and state runner-up Alix Thurman of L’Anse Creuse.
“Her work ethic is insane,” Freeman said. “She’s kind of like a little mother for the team. She’s a great leader, almost like having another coach around. And she didn’t mind that role. She relished it.”
Doubles— Sammy Bowers (Sr.) and Natasha Dabrowski (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — The two had No. 1 doubles experience entering the season, just not with each other. The pairing of the two was perfection for coach Keith Cullen in 2011, as the two were unbeaten together and won the No. 1 doubles championship in Division 3.
“Natasha really stepped up for the team by playing doubles,” Cullen said. “When she went to doubles, our whole team got better. And Sammy had to play with three different players this year, and she won with everyone.”
— Catherine Christian (Jr.) and Kristin Lunghamer (Sr.), Birmingham Marian — This pair lost to just three other doubles teams in the state this year, twice to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and once each to Grosse Pointe South and Birmingham Seaholm. They avenged the loss to the Maples and finished runner-up at the Division 2 finals, ending the season 26-4.
“Both those girls worked so hard in the offseason, but also in-season,” Marian coach Lincoln Wirgau said. “When you play No. 1 doubles, it’s all about the extra effort and the little things, that’s what makes the difference in the matches. They had a look in their eyes and refused to lose.”
— Devin Nagle (Sr.) and Jane Ziecik (Soph.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — Ziecik was a state champion at No. 4 singles as a freshman. Nagle reached the state final a year ago with former partner Kendall Baisden before the pair defaulted in the championship match. The two formed a potent No. 1 doubles team for the Yellowjackets this season, finishing as state semifinalists and 19-6 overall.
— Dana Olsen (Fr.) and Paige Olsen (Fr.), Clarkston — The Wolves’ singles lineup gets a lot of the attention, but these sisters were Clarkston’s secret weapon. The Olsens finished the season 23-3, reaching the Division 1 semifinals before losing to eventual champion Midland Dow.
“When they got here, I knew I had my best team at No. 1 (doubles), but did I think they’d sweep the (OAA Red)? No, I didn’t,” Freeman said. “It’s the twin thing. I think they knew what each other was thinking. They get each other. And it worked.”
Coach of the Year
— Becky Freeman, Clarkston — She’ll be the first to tell you she’s “just the manager” of a very talented Clarkston team, which captured the first state tennis championship in school history this spring.
But don’t let that fool you. Freeman, along with assistant Mary Jo Colonna, sculpted the Wolves into a championship team this year, helping them get over the hump that has stopped them short of their ultimate goal for years.
“It’s still kind of surreal,” Freeman said of the championship. “We preached teamwork all year. A point is a point, is a point. It was thrilling to watch them all grow. I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Clarkston won the OAA Red and finished undefeated on the season.
FIRST TEAM SINGLES
Lexi Baylis (Fr.), Clarkston
Nancy Benda (So.), Birmingham Seaholm
Katie Brozovich (Jr.), Clarkston
Kelsey Dieters (Sr.), Rochester
Mollie Fox (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser
Alexandria Najarian (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Andrea Rivera (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Gabriella Spindler (Jr.), Clarkston
Catherine Christian (Jr.) and Kristin Lunghamer (Sr.), Birmingham Marian
Natasha Dabrowski (Sr.) and Sammy Bowers (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Dana Olsen (Fr.) and Paige Olsen (Fr.), Clarkston
Jane Ziecik (So.) and Devin Nagle (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Kerry Hu (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser
Margaux Hyman (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Amabel Karoub (Jr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Kristen Law (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Andover
Kelly Lunghamer (Jr.), Birmingham Marian
Yahsha Moore (Sr.), West Bloomfield
Bailey Paradiso (Jr.), Birmingham Marian
Abby Wang (Jr.), Novi
Danielle Balsis (Sr.) and Riva Jaddou (Sr.), North Farmington
Ellyce Ferguson (Jr.) and Sam Klein (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser
Elizabeth Gunckle (Sr.) and Labina Petrovska (Fr.), Birmingham Seaholm
Rachael Hubers (Sr.) and Alissa Rowens (Soph), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Singles: Elaine Apaza, Birmingham Marian; Jessica Davis, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Kelly Forman, Troy; Lauren Frazier, Birmingham Seaholm; Madelyn Karoub, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Kristina Lucas, Clarkston; Shannen Renehan, Holly; Lisa Savagian, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep; Kendra Sweet, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Morgan Taylor, West Bloomfield; Akanksha Vaishnav, North Farmington; Erin Weingarten, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Shannon Wen, Troy Athens.
Doubles: Nadia Alhadi and Sara Shea, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Hailey Brownstein and Paige Atkinson, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Kalie Collins and Tonya Malyarenko, Troy; Chelsea Dahline and Mia Jefferson, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Megan Dooley and Katie Root, Birmingham Seaholm; Hannah Forte and Elia Wilson, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Hannah Gerard and Mary Liesveld, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Annie Grier and Sammy Miller, Birmingham Seaholm; Claire Huttenlocher and Maria Landi, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Kelsey Nagle and Emily Nash, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Meggie Riegel and Jenna Snyder, Novi.
Click here for a look at the 2011 preseason team and individual rankingsClick here for a look at the 2011 season preview, featuring Kelsey DietersClick here for a look at the 2010 all-county tennis teamClick here for all our tennis stories for the 2011 season