The scariest thing about glancing up and down this year’s boys all-county tennis team is that it’s a young team. Many of the area’s best players will be back next year.
And that could be bad news for the rest of the state.
Birmingham Detroit Country Day breezed to a Division 3 state championship. The Yellowjackets return more than half their lineup next year. Birmingham Brother Rice and Novi finished tied for second at the Division 1 finals. Both teams were deep and will be major players again next season. Troy will have nine starters returning. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood loses just four. So the prospects for next year are very promising.
But this team is about this year. And the players on the 2012 teams had a tremendously successful season. Here’s a look at the best Oakland County had to offer:
Michael Dube’ (Jr.), Novi Detroit Catholic Central — The name has been a fixture on our all-county teams for years. A state champion at No. 2 two years ago, followed up by a semifinal appearance at No. 1 last year, Dube’ again had a tremendous season in 2012.
The junior finished 23-6, taking home the Catholic League championship for the second-straight season. He beat Troy’s Brett Forman — Mr. Tennis — twice and was a member of the Division 1 all-state (first team) for the second-straight year.
Max Fliegner (Jr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — It’s hard to find a knock on the first-year Yellowjacket. Fliegner is an A-student, an accomplished musician and, oh yeah, a state tennis champion. The junior made an immediate impact in his first year in high school tennis, finishing 21-1 and winning regional and state championships in Division 3.
Fliegner won the Elliott Pearce Invitational, as well as the Midland Dow Quad this season.
“Max is the prototypical blue-chip student athlete,” his coach, Josh Molino, said. “He works just as hard in the classroom as on the court.”
Brett Forman (Sr.), Troy — A shoe-in winner if there was a Comeback Player of the Year award, Forman won something much, much bigger. He was named Mr. Tennis in the state of Michigan. Two years after winning it all as a sophomore in 2010, Forman battled back from a severe back injury to finish 19-5 this season. He won OAA Red and regional championships and made a run to the state semifinals in a stacked Division 1 draw.
Justin Hyman (So.), Rochester Adams — He’s one of those players many felt would be a force someday. But Hyman surprised many with how quickly he ascended in 2012. The sophomore seemed to get better as the season went on, finishing as a semifinalist at the OAA Red Tournament, then winning a regional championship.
He raised a lot of eyebrows at the state tournament, where he nearly pulled off an upset of No. 3 seeded Tim Wang of Novi.
Alex Kim (Jr.), Lakeland — Playing out of the KLAA North doesn’t give Kim that much exposure. But all he does is win. He finished first at the Lakeland, Howell and Brighton invitationals, and was runner-up to the state runner-up, Tyler Gardiner, at the Northville Quad.
Kim finished 23-3, with two losses coming to Gardiner and one to Novi’s Tim Wang, and earned first-team all-state honors in Division 1.
Sven Kranz (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — After falling one match short of a state championship the past two seasons, Kranz left nothing to chance this year. The senior won the No. 2 singles state title in Division 3, dropping just six games in his four wins in Holland.
Kranz finished a perfect 17-0 this season and won both Elliott Pearce Invitational and regional championships and was a first-team all-state selection.
“Sven is a prime example of how a senior captain will put team accomplishments in front of individual goals,” Molino said.
Tim Wang (So.), Novi — A year ago he was the lone freshman to earn first-team all-state honors. This season, he stepped up his play and cemented his place among the state’s elite. Wang finished 28-5 and beat seven other first-team all-staters. His only losses were to current or former state champions (Northville’s Tyler Gardiner, Troy’s Brett Forman and Country Day’s Max Fliegner). He won five tournaments on his way to earning all-state first-team honors himself.
“Tim utilized his strong forehand, serve, foot speed and competitive desire to beat some of the best players in the state,” Novi coach Jim Hanson said. “His ability to change speeds, control the net and play big points in close matches paid dividends for us.”
Richard Zhang (Jr.), Troy Athens — The best player on a much-improved Troy Athens team, Zhang put himself in the discussion of the best players in the state this season. The junior finished 23-5, winning at the Grand Blanc tournament and taking home the OAA White championship. He was runner-up at the Athens Relays, the Ann Arbor Pioneer tournament and at the regional. He earned first-team all-state honors in Division 1.
“Richard is the hardest working player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching at Athens,” Red Hawks coach Andrew Shipp said. “He improved significantly from last year. He was an inspiration to the team this year.”
Blake Hildebrand (Jr.)-Gavin McNulty (Sr.), Birmingham Brother Rice — The two didn’t start the season together, but they certainly finished it. And with success.
Hildebrand and McNulty finished 17-3 together, winning Catholic League and regional championships before reaching the Division 1 state semifinals. For their efforts, they earned first-team all-state honors for the Warriors.
“Blake and Gavin are a big and strong team. Gavin has the big serve and Blake cleans up at the net,” Rice coach Kurt Zaske said. “They faced a lot of tough 1-doubles teams and they really came together as a team on and off the court.”
Patrick Adams (Sr.)-Alex Gruskin (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day — The best doubles team in the county beat everyone else on this list. The pair finished a near-perfect 21-1 — losing only to Midland Dow — and took home regional and state championships in Division 3. They were first-team all-state, having won Elliott Pearce Invitiational and regional titles along the way.
“These guys showed all season long how experience, dedication and leadership makes a great combination at the No. 1 doubles position,” Molino said.
Alex David (Sr.)-Taylor Ghesquiere (Jr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood — It’s easy to be a bit overlooked when you play in the same division as Country Day. But opponents learned real quick not to overlook this pair on the court. David and Ghesquiere finished 12-7 on the season and were regional runners-up. Their losses came to Country Day (x3), St. Joseph, Brother Rice and Novi. The pair reached the state semifinals.
“This was a team that beat everyone they were supposed to beat, but we played a very tough schedule,” Cranbrook coach Jeff Etterbeek said.
“Alex and Taylor are great all-around athletes, multisport athletes. They’re great competitors, they were very fun to watch. They had a great season”
Jason Carless (Sr.)-Andrew Ying (Jr.), Novi — There werent’ too many teams in the state Carless and Ying did not beat. In fact, there was just one — Country Day. The Wildcats’ top pair beat everyone else this year en route to a runner-up finish at the Division 1 Finals.
They were 29-2, winning five invitationals and taking home KLAA and regional championships.
“Jason and Andrew used their penetrating ground strokes to become a very good and consistent doubles team for us,” Hanson said. “Their ability to play defense, return service and hit mid-range overheads produced a lot of wins this year.”
Coach of the Year
There’s little doubt Detroit Country Day had as much talent as any team in the state. But when is too much talent a bad thing?
Fortunately for the Yellowjackets, that didn’t figure into the mix, as head coach Josh Molino carefully orchestrated them into a highly-successful, state championship team in 2012.
“If you don’t have everyone on the same page, no one is going to accomplish any of their individual, or team, goals at the end of the season,” Molino said. “We had a great bunch of guys who bought into that and we had a special season.”
Indeed they did. Molino’s squad finished a perfect 13-0 this season, with big wins over the state’s best teams, including state champions Ann Arbor Huron, Midland Dow and Ann Arbor Greenhills, as well as powerhouses Novi, Brother Rice, Troy, Cranbrook, St. Joseph, East Grand Rapids and Liggett.
All-County team - 2012
Michael Dube' (Jr.), Novi Detroit Catholic Central
Max Fliegner (Jr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Brett Forman (Sr.), Troy
Justin Hyman (So.), Rochester Adams
Alex Kim (So.), Lakeland
Sven Kranz (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Tim Wang (So.), Novi
Richard Zhang (Jr.), Troy Athens
Blake Hildebrand (Jr.)-Gavin McNulty (Sr.), Birmingham Brother Rice
Patrick Adams (Sr.)-Alex Gruskin (Sr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Alex David (Sr.)-Taylor Ghesquiere (Jr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood
Jason Carless (Sr.)-Andrew Ying (Jr.), Novi
Jack Hamaty (Sr.), Birmingham Brother Rice
Koushik Kondapi (Fr.), Novi
Matthew McCormick (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood
Griffin Mertz (So.), North Farmington
Spencer Navarre (Sr.), Ortonville-Brandon
Rishi Patel (Jr.), Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Gunnar Peery (Sr.), Birmingham Brother Rice
Kevin Rothstein (So.), West Bloomfield
Jason Mondry (Sr.)-Ben McDermott (Jr.), Birmingham Seaholm
Dylan Deitch (Jr.)-Cuthbert Sun (Sr.), Bloomfield Hills Andover
Chris Stanbury (Sr.)-Jake Kruk (Sr.), Stoney Creek
Saumil Shah (Sr.)-Pramod-Mulabagula (Jr.), Troy
Singles: Zaven Dadian, Birmingham Seaholm; Matt Dahl, Clarkston; Calvin Greer, Birmingham Groves; Ryan Kaczor, Lake Orion; Andre Liu, Novi; Pavan Rao, Novi; Marc Sable, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood; Jeff Sophiea, Holly; Michael Trupiano, Novi Detroit Catholic Central
Doubles: George Hamaty and Connor Parks, Birmingham Brother Rice; Joey Hildebrand and Johnny Cameron, Birmingham Brother Rice; David Weatherford and Brendan Dillon, Birmingham Brother Rice; Max Lee and Lorenz Gahn, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Blake Burstein and Rishab Nayak, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Matt Stebbins and D.J. Bailey, Birmingham Detroit Country Day; Zach Tayler and Griffin Neel, Birmingham Seaholm; Parker Rowse and Craig Richards, Holly; Andrew Murtland and Rob Chapekis, North Farmington; Nishant Kakar and Michael Chang, Novi
Jason Schmitt covers high school 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 @MIPrepZone.