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Jason Schmitt is the editor of, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Oakland County tennis could claim four state titles in 2012

About two weeks ago, as I started gathering information for my 2012 Girls Tennis Preview, it seemed as if it was almost a foregone conclusion that Oakland County tennis teams would be heavily favored to bring home state championships in all four divisions.
Clarkston, the defending champs in Division 1, had a whole lot of firepower returning including much of what was by far the best singles lineup in the state last year, regardless of division. Seaholm and Marian - who finished 2-3 at last year's finals - were ready to take advantage of six-time defending Division 2 champion Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, which graduated 10 starters from last year's squad.
Over in Division 3, Cranbrook and Country Day once again were the teams to beat. No one else will really come close to the Cranes and Yellowjackets this year. And in Division 4, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart returns 10 starters from last year's state runner-up squad. The Gazelles are ranked No. 1 and should battle it out with Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central for a chance to win the first state championship in school history.
But upon making phone calls and learning a bit more about just how good all of these teams were going to be this year, I began to realize that, though it could happen, it won't be easy for an Oakland County sweep in 2012.
Clarkston was the overwhelming favorite - and is ranked No. 1 in the state right now. But with Gabriella Spindler, a state semifinalist at No. 1 singles last year, deciding not to play this season, it really brings the Wolves back to the pack. I feel confident in senior No. 1 Katie Brozovich scoring some big points at this year's finals. And sophomore Lexi Baylis is a sure thing to repeat as state champion at No. 2. The No. 1 doubles team of Dana and Paige Olsen will also score well for coach Becky Freeman.
But what it will come down to is whether or not the team's depth (Nos. 3-4 singles and 3-4 doubles) will score enough for a Clarkston repeat. Port Huron Northern returns all four of its singles players, one half of its No. 1 doubles and both members of its No. 2 doubles team, a team that beat Clarkston at the finals last year.
And never count out Grosse Pointe South and Ann Arbor Pioneer, which always has depth and will score well at the lower flights.
Another team that suffered a huge blow was Birmingham Seaholm. The Maples lost junior No. 1 Nancy Benda to a stress fracture and will bump up their 2-3-4 singles. That weakens the team at each of those flights. Because of that, I'd have to say Birmingham Marian is the odds-on-favorite to capture the state title. I still think Marian, Seaholm and Andover will finish 1-2-3. I also like Farmington Hills Mercy to finish in the top-five.
In Division 3, like I said, Cranbrook and Country Day will finish 1-2, probably in that order. The season is young, but both schools return a good portion of last year's teams, which ran away from East Grand Rapids to finish first and second (Cranbrook won).
And in Division 4, I do see it coming down to Sacred Heart and St. Mary Catholic Central. Seeding and matchups will once again play a big role in who wins that title. But on paper, I'd give Sacred Heart the nod.

Odds to win a state title in 2012 - set my yours truly
Division 1
Clarkston 3 to 1
Division 2
Birmingham Marian 3 to 1
Birmingham Seaholm 5 to 1
Bloomfield Hills Andover 6 to 1
Farmington Hills Mercy 10 to 1
Division 3
Cranbrook Kingswood 2 to 1
Country Day 3 to 1
Division 4
Academy of the Sacred Heart 3 to 1

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