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Northville captures first Division 1 girls tennis title

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Midland — The best team in the state during the regular season was also the best team at the state meet to end the season.

Northville used its depth in doubles and a couple key victories in singles to solidify its first girls' tennis Division 1 state championship in school history Saturday at Midland Communnity Tennis Center.

Northville won five flights to finish with 32 points. Midland Dow (28), Grosse Pointe South (22), Ann Arbor Pioneer (18) and Traverse City Central (17) rounded out the top five.

"We played Dow and South during the season to get them prepared for these kind of matches," Northville coach Linda Jones said. "We expected our doubles to carry us through, but our No. 2 and No. 3 singles came through and beat Dow (in the finals) and those were key points there.

"It came down to those matches and they put us over the top."

Shanoli Kumar (Northville) defeated Jessica Brown (Midland Dow) 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, while Joanne Gao (Northville) defeated Elaina Parrillo (Midland Dow) 4-6, 6 -3, 6-2.

But it was in doubles where Northville has dominated all season – and did again Saturday.

The Mustangs went undefeated in all four doubles flights all season up until Saturday at No. 1, where Midland Dow's Afua Ofori-darko and Kamryn Matthews upset Anika Mukherji and Reeshma Kumar 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Otherwise, Northville earned state championships at the three remaining flights – Paige Baal and Claudia Ma at No. 2, Jordan Hermiz and Amelia Albanelli at No. 3, and Serena Wang and Molly Bis at No. 4.

"It's staggering," said Jones of the doubles' play all season.

Said Baal: "The doubles play together during the off-season so we're pretty familiar with each other. We knew we'd be pretty successful. There's always pressure when you come in as the No. 1 seed but we handled it pretty well."

The match of the day was at No. 1 singles, where Davina Nguyen (Utica) made history.

Nguyen (Utica) won her third state championship at No. 1 singles – the second player to ever win three titles - defeating crosstown rival Ava Thielman (Utica Eisenhower) 6-3, 6-3.

Thielman had defeated Nguyen twice before this season. But in the pressure of the state finals, the senior (Nguyen) was better equipped than the sophomore (Thielman).

"There is a lot of pressure, even with my three (championships), my hands are still shaking," said Nguyen, who will play at Michigan State next season. "It's very nerve wracking.

"You can't be coached through this, with all these people watching you and big points, you have to be able to focus and it's difficult.

"I felt like I could handle the pressure better with the experience. She has years to come."

Trailing 4-3 in the second set, Thielman was one point away from tying Nguyen before Nguyen staged a dramatic comeback.

"It would have been a pivotal point," said Thielman of winning that game. "She played real well to get that back. Give credit to her.

"I knew she was the defending state champion, even though I had already beaten her. I know she's a great competitor.

"I missed opportunities, that's what it basically came down to."

An emotional Nguyen said having lost twice to Thielman earlier in the season was a motivating factor.

"That threw me off," Nguyen said. "I knew that those matter but this is a big deal and this is where I needed to bring my game."

Division 2

Birmingham Seaholm edged second-place Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 29-28 to take first place. Bloomfield Hills Marian was third with 23 points. Emily Struble of Okemos defeated Claire Aleck of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 6-3, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles title.

Division 3

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood won the Division 3 title with 32 points ahead of Grand Rapids Christian (28), Detroit Country Day (27), Holland Christian (17) and Grosse Ile (16). Williamston's Sara Saavettila won the No. 1 singles title, downing Detroit Country Day's Sash Hartje, 6-0, 6-0.

Division 4

Bloomfield Hills Academy of Sacred Heart won the Division 4 state title in Holland with 34 points. Traverse City St. Francis (27), Ludington (18), Portland (16) and Kalamazoo Christian (14) rounded out the top five. Amanda Bandrowski of Traverse City St Francis defeated Jeanne Nash, Bloomfield Hills Academy of Sacred Heart, 6-4, 6-4, for the No. 1 singles title.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com