Cranbrook's Alexandria Najarian returns to the Cranes after winning the No. 1 singles title in Division 3 last year. She's the best player in Oakland County heading into the 2012 season. (The Oakland Press file photo)
TOP 10 OAKLAND COUNTY TEAMS1. Clarkston — Coming off the first state championship in school history, coach Becky Freeman once again finds her team filled with talent from top to bottom. Senior Gabriella Spindler chose not to play this spring, but the Wolves' shouldn't miss a beat as senior Katie Brozovich and sophomore Lexi Baylis will anchor the singles lineup.
Brozovich - 27-0 and a state champion at No. 3 singles a year ago - will play No. 1 this season, while Baylis - 27-0 and the No. 2 state singles champion last year - will play No. 2 again. Senior Abbey Hubregsen moves up from doubles last year and will play No. 3.
Sophomore sisters Dana and Paige Olsen also return at No. 1 doubles. They were semifinalists (23-3) last year. Olivia Dunn and Amy Wozniak, Allie Wilson and Katie Hubregsen, Monique Zentner and MacKenzie Bedor, and Alyssa D'Andrea and Miranda Marshall complete what should be a team that will be favored in the OAA Red and at the Division 1 state finals.
2. Birmingham Marian — A lot of familiar faces return to the Mustangs in 2012. Senior Bailey Paradiso returns to play No. 1 singles, while junior Elaine Apaza slides up spot to No. 2. She won a state title a year ago. Senior Catherine Christian moves from No. 1 doubles to No. 3 singles, while last year's No. 2 singles, senior Kelly Lunghamer, will move to No. 1 doubles where she'll play with junior Olivia Underwood.
Lauren Dietz (No. 4 singles), Tatum Schwartz and Bridget O'Hara, Molly Mackenzie and Bianca Emde and Macy and Mallory Hudson make Marian one of, if not the, team to beat in Division 2 this season.
3. Cranbrook — The Cranes lost four of their top six doubles players, but return their top three singles players, including the best player in the county, sophomore Alexandria Najarian. Junior Kendra Sweet also returns for Cranbrook. Senior Megan Simmons and freshman Meg Phyle anchor what should be another solid doubles lineup for coach Keith Cullen's squad.
4. Birmingham Seaholm — The team returns nine starters from a year ago, but will have to overcome an early-season injury to No. 1, junior Nancy Benda, who may miss the entire season. Sophomore Labina Petrovska will move into the No. 1 position for coach Scott Ransome. Lauren Frazier and Katie Root will be at 2-3 singles.
Seniors Annie Grier and Arielle Williams will anchor a deep doubles lineup for the Maples, which finished runner-up at the Division 2 state finals last year. Meghan Dooley and Allyson Foreman, Jackie Meier and Rachel Wilson, and Lauren Benderoff provide great depth at doubles.
5. Country Day — The Yellowjackets lost its top two players from last year’s Division 3 state runner-up squad. But new coach Emily McAbier returns senior Amabel Karoub and sophomore Madelyn Karoub, who won state titles at Nos. 3-4 a year ago. And junior Jane Ziecik, who won the No. 4 singles title two years ago, will return to the singles lineup after playing No. 1 doubles last year. Freshman Marina Selenica will also be in the singles lineup.
Senior Chelsea Dahline and freshman Sarah Carroll will play No. 1 doubles for the team, while Sarah Shea and Ellie Miller will be at No. 2.
6 Farmington Hills Mercy — New coach Joe Stafford's team will be looking to get back to the state finals after a year away. Freshman Winnie Karoub joins an already tough singles lineup which also includes senior Margaux Kabodian, junior Jessie Guindi and freshman Gia Toler. Junior Morgan Helwig and sophomore Christy Snyder have earned the nod at No. 1 doubles for the Marlins, while juniors Anna Hinrichs and Margaret Reaume, senior Laura Williams and sophomore Julie Flanagan, and juniors Marisa Jonna and Caroline Peterson round out the lineup.
The team has tied Country Day and beaten Troy to open the season.
7. Bloomfield Hills Andover — The Barons return their entire singles lineup from last year, led by sophomores Kerry Hu and Kristen Law at 1-2. They also have half of their No. 1 doubles team back, Sonia Trigui, and the No. 2 team of Paige Atkinson and Hailey Brownstein, who finished runner-up at last year’s Division 2 state finals.
8. Bloomfield Hills Lahser — Oakland County is always loaded in Division 2, and Lahser coach Tim Lotz and his Knights will have their hands full once again this year. Lahser returns half of its starting lineup, including No. 1 singles player, sophomore Mollie Fox, and half of its No. 1 doubles team, Ellyce Ferguson, who will be paired up with Daina Hill. The Knights should be bolstered by a pair of foreign-exchange students, who should provide depth to the lineup.
The team was seventh at the Division 2 finals a year ago.
9. Novi — Always nice to return your No. 1 singles player. And Novi does that as senior Abby Wang returns to the top spot in 2012. She was 19-6 and All-State last year. Incoming freshmen Erin Day (No. 2) and Dhivry Sridar (No. 3 or 4) bring youth to coach Jim Hanson's lineup.
Senior Emily Sheeran and sophomore Amy Zhou, along with seniors Emily Kwederis and Ori Nagasaki will lead the team in doubles. Senior Caitlin O'Brien, junior Rebecca Chen and sophomore Asawari Kanitkar, who played Nos. 2-3-4 singles at last year's state finals, also return and will battle for positions in the singles and doubles lineups.
10. Academy of the Sacred Heart — Sacred Heart has as many returning starters as any team in the county - 10. That bodes well for a team that finished runner-up at the Division 4 state finals last year. Jessica Davis and Kelsey Hildebrand anchor the singles, with junior Tyler Papazian and sophomore Brenna MacArthur also returning.
Juniors Kelsey Nagle and Emily Nash return to their spot atop the doubles lineup. Juniors Elia Wilson and Hannah Gerard, junior Heidi Lemon and sophomore Sarah Spangler and sophomore Kendall Lehmann and freshman Teresa Walawender will play doubles for the Gazelles.
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH: North Farmington, Troy, Holly
TOP 10 SINGLES PLAYERS
1. Alexandria Najarian (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — A highly-ranked USTA player, Najarian capped off a perfect (22-0) season last year which culminated in a Division 3 championship for the Cranes.
2. Katie Brozovich (Sr.), Clarkston — Brozovich has lost just three varsity matches and won a state championshiop at 3-singles last year. She’ll play No. 1 for the Woves in 2012.
3. Lexi Baylis (Soph.), Clarkston — She and Brozovich are like 1 and 1A for the Wolves this season. Baylis was flawless at No. 2 last year and will be heavily favored to repeat at the Division 1 finals this season.
4. Alexandra D’Ascenzo (Jr.), West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy — Ranked among the top-five in the USTA’s Southeast Michigan 18 singles rankings, D’Ascenzo should make a big splash in Division 4.
5. Halle Hyman (Fr.), Rochester Adams — Enters high school as a highly-regarded USTA talent. Hyman has an early-season win over Seaholm’s Nancy Benda.
6. Mollie Fox (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser — Fox was 18-6 last year and a state quarterfinalist in Division 2. She’ll face the best the county has to offer this year in the OAA Red.
7. Amabel Karoub (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — A state champion at No. 3 singles a year ago, Karoub takes a big step up to No. 1 for the Yellowjackets in this, her senior season.
8. Winnie Karoub (Fr.), Farmington Hills Mercy — Her USTA resume speaks for itself. Karoub opened the season with a win at the Grosse Pointe South Quad and is a perfect 4-0 so far.
9. Kerry Hu (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Andover — She made a big splash for the Barons a year ago. With a year under her belt — including earning a No. 4 seed at the state finals — she’s primed to compete with the best on this list.
10. Abby Wang (Sr.), Novi — Despite an influx of young players in the Wildcats' lineup, Wang returns at the top. She sported a 19-6 record last year and earned All-State honors.
TOP FIVE DOUBLES
1. Dana Olsen (Soph.) and Paige Olsen (Soph.), Clarkston — Hard to bet against these twins, who finished 23-3 last year — unbeaten in OAA Red play — and reached the Division 1 state semifinals.
2. Kelly Lunghamer (Sr.) and Olivia Underwood (Jr.), Birmingham Marian — Lunghamer moves from No. 2 singles to the Mustangs’ top doubles spot and joins Underwood, who played No. 2 doubles a year ago.
3. Tonya Malyarenko (Sr.) and Kalie Collins (Jr.), Troy — The Colts are always strong at 1-doubles, and this year is no different. This pair has already beaten a very tough Seaholm team.
4. Annie Grier (Sr.) and Arielle Williams (Sr.), Birmingham Seaholm — It’s a mix of Nos. 3s from a year ago, Williams last year’s No. 3 singles, and Grier, one half of last year’s No. 3 doubles.
5. Megan Simmons (Sr.) and Meg Phyle (Fr.), Cranbrook — Never bet against Cranbrook's best doubles team. Simmons was a finalist at No. 3 doubles last year and Phyle is a highly-ranked USTA incoming freshman.
Jason Schmitt covers high school tennis for The Oakland Press. Email him at email@example.com, read his "In The Zone" blog here and follow our high school tennis coverage on Twitter @MIPrepZone.