Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood's Megan Simmons (left) and Meg Phyle saved their best tennis for the end of the season, as they won the Division 3 state championship at No. 1 doubles for the Cranes. (The Oakland Press file photo)
Bloomfield Hills Lahser's Mollie Fox lost just two matches this season and set the stage for what should be a great junior season for the Knights. (The Oakland Press file photo)
Three team state championships. Eleven top-10 team finishes. Fifteen individual flight champions.
Oakland County tennis lived up to its usual expectations in 2012. Just one point separated Clarkston from a second-straight state championship, denying the county of a sweep of all four divisions.
Still, no one can deny it was a special season on the hard courts. Birmingham Seaholm overcame an early-season injury to its best player, Nancy Benda, to capture the Division 2 state championship, upending six-time defending champion Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern and fending off county rivals Birmingham Marian, Bloomfield Hills Andover and Farmington Hills Mercy in Kalamazoo.
Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart won the program's first-ever state title, dominating the field in Division 4, while neighboring Pontiac Notre Dame Prep had its best finish ever (seventh).
And over in Division 3, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood proved to be king once again, winning five flight championships en route to nearly lapping the field for its second-straight state title.
Great teams are made up of great players, and now it's time to recognize the best of the best. Here's the 2012 all-county first team:
Lexi Baylis (Soph.), Clarkston — She just wrapped up her second straight season of perfection, finishing 24-0 and capturing the state championship at No. 2 singles for the Wolves. She did not lose a set the entire season and, in fact, lost just 27 games in 24 matches. She won the Ann Arbor Pioneer Quad and the Holly Red, White & Blue Invitational. With Baylis, it was like coach Becky Freeman had two No. 1s.
"Lexi is amazing,” Freeman said. “She is so dedicated and so strong. She’s a great leader on the court, and off the court. She’s a true leader in everything she does. I can't wait to see what she does the next two years at No. 1."
Katie Brozovich (Sr.), Clarkston — Brozovich waited patiently for her chance at No. 1 singles for Clarkston. When she got that chance, she took full advantage of it. The senior capped off a stellar career in which she lost just three matches. This season she was 26-1, dropping her only match in the state finals — to Utica's Davina Nguyen. She'll be playing her college tennis at Bowling Green.
"Anybody playing No. 1 anywhere is tough, but playing No. 1 at Clarkston is really tough," Freeman said. "She played the toughest girl on every team. She was never shaken. She did a great job. It’s not easy to play No. 1 for this team because other teams come gunning for us. She made me proud."
Mollie Fox (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser — There wasn't much that separated Fox from perfection this year. The sophomore finished 28-2 with titles at the Forest Hills Northern, Dexter and Lahser invitationals. She also captured a regional championship for the second straight year.
The No. 1 seed at the state tournament, she fell in the semifinals to the eventual state champion, Abby Perkins of Mason. Fox was voted team MVP for the second straight year and was an OAA scholar athlete, with her 4.0 GPA.
"Pretty good stuff this year from Mollie," her coach Tim Lotz said. "She was the most important person on the team, both on and off the court. To me, I really believe she was the most talented player in the state. She was a different player this year, she overpowered girls. She was unbelievable."
Kerry Hu (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Andover — Late in the season, it looked as if Hu would get an incomplete after suffering a nasty ankle injury at the OAA Red Tournament. But she worked hard to get back in time for the state tournament.
And it was there that she played some of her best tennis of the season, reaching the title match at No. 1 singles. A first-team all-state selection, Hu finished 10-5 on the season, with her losses coming to Cranbrook's Alexandria Najarian, Lahser's Mollie Fox (twice), Clarkston's Katie Brozovich and Mason's Abby Perkins in the Division 2 championship match.
"One thing that I always give Kerry Credit for is she really brings the heart," Andover coach Josh Molino said. "I know I'm always going to get her best effort. She worked really hard to come back from that ankle injury. She always displays 110 percent effort and heart when she goes out there."
Halle Hyman (Fr.), Rochester Adams — When your only losses are to Clarkston's Katie Brozovich (twice) and Grand Ledge's Haley Barrett — Miss Tennis — you know you've had a great year. Hyman won the OAA White championship at No. 1 singles and finished the season with a 26-3 record.
"Halle is an excellent player but I think what gives her an edge above even some of the best players out there is she is so driven and gives each point everything she has," Adams coach Greg Burks said. "She has that ability to take her game up a level when she needs it."
Amabel Karoub (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — Playing the kind of schedule Country Day does, Karoub saw all of the best talent in the state. She finished with a solid 13-9 record, winning the Sacred Heart Invitational, finishing runner-up at Allegan and at regionals, while taking third place at the Okemos Invite. She was a state quarterfinalist and was first-team all-state.
"Amabel brought experience to the team as a fourth-year varsity player, as the captain," Country Day coach Emily McAbier said. "She's an extremely hard worker and always pushed herself and teammates to continually improve."
Alexandria Najarian (Soph.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — Though just a sophomore, Najarian is widely considered the best high school tennis player in the state. She's coming off her second-straight unbeaten (12-0), state championship-winning season, despite missing a good portion of the year due to an illness. Najarian wasn't even 100 percent at the end of the season, but still rolled to the Division 3 state title.
"I think Alex was the best player in the state," coach Keith Cullen said. "With her, we were the very best team in the state, defeating Clarkston, Seaholm and Country Day."
Abby Wang (Sr.), Novi — A great player on a very good team. That's all the makings of a successful tennis player. And that's what Wang was. The senior finished the season 18-4, with her losses coming to state champions Davina Nguyen of Utica and Kasey Gardiner of Ann Arbor Greenhills — in three sets — along with the top two seeds at the Division 1 state tournament — Mary Hanna of Saline and Katie Brozovich of Clarkston.
Wang was a three-time all-state selection and finished with a career record of 76-19.
"Abby uses her quickness to play an all-court game with powerful ground strokes featuring a good serve and volley," Novi coach Jim Hanson said. "She has improved each year in our program and is one of the best ever to play for the Wildcats."
Kelly Lunghamer (Sr.) and Olivia Underwood (Jr.), Birmingham Marian — This duo lost just five matches all season (27-5), with three of the losses coming to other doubles teams on this all-county team — Clarkston (twice) and Mercy. Their other two losses came to the state champions from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern.
Other than that, they were perfect, winning Catholic League and regional titles before finishing runner-up to Northern at the Division 2 state finals.
"Kelly and Olivia came to work every day," Marian coach Lincoln Wirgau said. "They helped out other doubles teams and challenged each other every day. Kelly and Olivia took it to heart when we stressed in practice our 'improve every day' motto."
Meg Phyle (Fr.) and Megan Simmons (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — They're contrasting players in a lot of different ways, but they bonded extremely well this year. The senior/freshman combination got better and better as the season went on and it culminated in a state championship for the No. 1 doubles team.
"Megan is a great net player and Meg is a great ground stroker," Cullen said. "Both these girls are great athletes and they got along beautifully. No one played better than this team at the end of the year."
Olivia Dunn (Sr.) and Dana Olsen (Soph.), Clarkston — This wasn’t supposed to be the No. 1 doubles team vying for a state championship this year. Olsen and her sister, Paige, were originally pegged to do the job. But in the end, Dunn and Olsen proved to be a perfect fit, as they went on to win the Division 1 state title.
The pair finished 23-2 overall, winning a regional championship as well.
"I didn’t always know if Olivia knew how good she was," Freeman said. "Once she got this push up to No. 1, she went under Dana’s wing and she just picked things up and they just jelled. And that was it."
Jessie Guindi (Jr.) and Margaux Kabodian (Sr.), Farmington Hills Mercy — They each started the year at singles, but quickly made the switch to No. 1 doubles, where they flourished. Guindi and Kabodian were 23-3 together, winning the Grand Blanc Quad, the Okemos Invite and the Holly Red, White & Blue Invite. They also won a regional championship and were semifinalists at the Division 2 state finals.
Kabodian will play at Albion next year, while Guindi will return to captain a very talented Marlins roster that will look to improve on this year's fourth-place state finish.
"Margaux and Jessie were a tremendous No. 1 doubles team for us this year," Mercy coach Joe Stafford said. "They play with a lot of heart, spirit and passion each and every match. They were the heart and soul of our lineup."
CO-COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Ransome, Birmingham Seaholm — His team started off as a favorite to unseat Forest Hills Northern from atop Division 2. Then he lost his No. 1 singles player. He adjusted his lineup and got the most out of everyone when it mattered most, at the state finals. The Maples won their first state title since 2004, and Ransome and assistant Paul Young played a big role in that.
CO-COACH OF THE YEAR
Judy Hehs and Jean Koehler, Academy of the Sacred Heart — Hehs helped build a top-10 program at a school known more for lacrosse. And since Koehler arrived in 2008, the pair have elevated the Gazelles into a premiere team in Division 4. Sacred Heart captured its first-ever team state tennis title this season, bettering last year’s runner-up finish.
2012 All-County tennis teams
FIRST TEAM SINGLES
Lexi Baylis (So.), Clarkston
Katie Brozovich (Sr.), Clarkston
Mollie Fox (So.), Bloomfield Hills Lahser
Kerry Hu (So.), Bloomfield Hills Andover
Halle Hyman (Fr.), Rochester Adams
Amabel Karoub (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Alexandria Najarian (So.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Abby Wang (Sr.), Novi
FIRST TEAM DOUBLES
Kelly Lunghamer (Sr.) and Olivia Underwood (Jr.), Birmingham Marian
Megan Simmons (Sr.) and Meg Phyle (Fr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Olivia Dunn (Sr.) and Dana Olsen (So.), Clarkston
Jessie Guindi (Jr.) and Margaux Kabodian (Sr.), Farmington Hills Mercy
SECOND TEAM SINGLES
Elaine Apaza (Jr.), Birmingham Marian
Madelyn Karoub (So.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Winnie Karoub (Fr.), Farmington Hills Mercy
Kristen Law (So.), Bloomfield Hills Andover
Paige Olsen (So.), Clarkston
Bailey Paradiso (Sr.), Birmingham Marian
Labina Petrovska (So.), Birmingham Seaholm
Marina Selenica (Fr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
SECOND TEAM DOUBLES
Kelsey Nagle (Jr.) and Emily Nash (Jr.), BH Academy of the Sacred Heart
Chelsea Dahline (Sr.) and Sarah Carroll (Fr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Annie Grier (Sr.) and Arielle Williams (Sr.), Birmingham Seaholm
Kalie Collins (Jr.) and Tonya Malyarenko (Sr.), Troy
HONORABLE MENTION SINGLES
Nancy Benda, Birmingham Seaholm; Catherine Christian, Birmingham Marian; Alexandra D’Ascenzo, West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy; Jessica Davis, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Lauren Dietz, Birmingham Marian; Heidi Fluck, Ortonville Brandon; Lauren Frazier, Birmingham Seaholm; Amanda Guo, Troy; Kelsey Hildebrand, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Lauren Hughes, Southfield; Jorah Huntington, Royal Oak; Claire Markley, Birmingham Seaholm; Stephanie Podolsky, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Fallon Richie, Auburn Hills Avondale; Bri Rodriguez, Holly; Lisa Savagian, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep; Marla Seaver, Rochester Adams; Kendra Sweet, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Akanksha Vaishnav, North Farmington; Erin Weingarten, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Jane Ziecik, Birmingham Detroit Country Day
HONORABLE MENTION DOUBLES
Macy Hudson and Mallory Hudson, Birmingham Marian; Simay Mamassian and Claire Nader, Birmingham Groves; Meghan Dooley and Allyson Foreman, Birmingham Seaholm; Jackie Meier and Rachel Wilson, Birmingham Seaholm; Paige Atkinson and Hailey Brownstein, Bloomfield Hills Andover; Hannah Gerard and Elia Wilson, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Heidi Lemon and Sarah Spangler, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Kendall Lehmann and Teresa Walawender, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart; Claire Huttenlocher and Maria Landi, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Briana Letica and Holly Meers, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Lauren Lanzon and Christina Roualet, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood; Ellyce Ferguson-Jacqueline Shandler, Bloomfield Hills Lahser; Anna Hinrichs and Christy Snyder, Farmington Hills Mercy; Sarah Tobin and Marian Vicini, North Farmington; Emily Sheeran and Amy Zhou, Novi; Danielle Mullis and Hannah Preuss, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep; Sanjana Kulkarni and Elizabeth Yang, Troy Athens; Jill Freedman and Meghana Subramanian, West Bloomfield
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.