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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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A look at the D2 and D3 tennis draws

There are four divisions to consider for this weekend's state finals. And I have chosen to head over to Kalamazoo to take in Division 2. It's almost a certainty that an Oakland County team is going to win the state title, taking it away from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern for the first time since 2004.

Division 2
The seeds are in, and I've got to tell you, it could be a very, very close Division 2 tournament. According to my calculations (predictions), which I will post here on  my blog Thursday, the top three teams will all reside here in Oakland County - all within five miles of each other. And I have two more county teams finishing among the top seven.
The way I see it, Birmingham Marian may win as many as three flight championships, with another two reaching the finals. Birmingham Seaholm's depth will give it a chance to win it all, as I see all but one flight reaching the semifinals - and beyond. And Andover has put itself in good position to top everyone. I see the Barons scoring multiple points at every flight.
But along with all that local talent comes the odds that many will be facing off for the right to play for a state championship. Many of the top players and doubles teams have positioned themselves for a deep run in the tournament. But some, because of injuries, were at the mercy of the draw.
I was particularly disappointed to see that two of the county's better players - Seaholm's Nancy Benda and Andover's Kerry Hu - will most likely square off in the second round Friday at No. 1 singles. Both have suffered ankle injuries this season - Benda's forced her to miss a good portion of the year, causing her to be thrown into the draw. Hu didn't look two weeks ago after spraining her ankle at the league tournament. But was walking around at the regional 10 days ago. If she's at or near 100 percent, she's going to be hard to beat. She is the No. 2 seed.
Birmingham Seaholm's Nancy Benda.
On the same half of the draw, Farmington Hills Mercy's Winnie Karoub has an interesting draw. She'll face Portage Central's Carly Pratt in the second round. If she can win that, she'd be matched up against Fenton freshman phenom Madison Ballard. If Karoub brings her A-game, both mentally and physically, I can see her reaching the semifinals, where she could face Benda or Hu.
Lahser's Mollie Fox earned the No. 1 seed and won't be challenged until she faces Okemos' Irene Ng in the semifinals. I really don't see her being challenged Saturday.
Okemos' Emily Struble is seeded No. 1 at second singles, but Seaholm (Labina Petrovska), Marian (Elaine Apaza) and Andover (Kristen Law) are 2-3-4. Law, who has missed a few matches this year, is the darkhorse here in my mind. Sorry Struble. But Petrovska is the best player. Should be a great flight to watch.
Catherine Christian (#2 seed) and Lauren Dietz (#1 seed) give Marian a good chance to score big at Nos. 3-4 singles.
Forest Hills Northern's No. 1 doubles team has been dominant all season long and are the top seeds. But it'll be fun to watch the bottom half of this draw. Mercy's Margaux Kabodian and Jessie Guindi (#2) and Marian's Kelly Lunghamer and Olivia Underwood (#3) are on a collision course to meet in the semifinals. They've gone back and forth this season. Expect this one to be close.
From there, area teams should dominate the rest of the doubles competition. Andover's Paige Atkinson and Hailey Brownstein (#1) and Mercy's Anna Hinrichs and Christy Snyder (#2) battled it out in the regional final and I expect a rematch in the final Saturday. At No. 3 doubles, Seaholm's Jackie Meier and Rachel Wilson (#1) have been dominant this season. I don't see them being challenged. The better match will be Andover's Alana Gutman and Jenna Yousif (#2) and Marian's Mollie MacKenzie and Bianca Emde (#3) in the bottom half of the draw.
And at No. 4, the same can be said. Marian's Macy and Mallory Hudson - the top seed - have beaten all challengers this year. Their only loss - that I'm aware of - came to Division 3 foe Cranbrook. Their only other "close" match came against Andover, in which they beat Sydney Aronovitz and Madison Lorenz (#2) in three sets. Expect a rematch in the finals.

Division 3
I'll leave my predictions for Thursday. But if you wanna bet some Gatorade, put it all on Cranbrook. No one's gonna touch the Cranes on Saturday. They earned three No. 1 seeds, three No. 2s, a No. 3 and No. 6. Do the math. If they play to their seeds, they'll roll.
Alexandria Najarian is getting healthier and healthier by the day and will have no problem at No. 1 singles. The top seed is the best player in the state - regardless of class or Division - and will dominate. I'll be surprised if she loses a combined 10 games in her four matches.
Cranbrook's Meg Phyle (left) and Megan Simmons.
Kendra Sweet (#3), Sarah Lipworth (#6) and Alissa Rowens (#2) give Cranbrook a good chance to score well at 2-3-4 singles. But the Cranes' doubles lineup will make the difference. Megan Simmons and Meg Phyle are seeded second at No. 1, as are Claire Huttenlocher and Maria Landi at No. 2. Briana Letica and Holly Meers are the top seed at No. 3 doubles, just like Lauren Lanzon and Christina Roualet at No. 4.
Don't be surprised if the Cranes sweep. Just saying.
Country Day's singles lineup has been among the state's best all year long. Amabel Karoub is unseeded at No. 1 singles, but should still score some valuable points for the Yellowjackets. Madelyn Karoub, Marina Selenica and Jane Ziecik are top seeds at 2-3-4 singles. That's a lot of points to be had.
Country Day earned a five seed and two six seeds in doubles. If it can exceed expectations in doubles, they could pose a threat to Cranbrook. But that's a big if. Doubles across the state in Division 3 is tough, and deep. East Grand Rapids, Allegan and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern all have quality doubles teams that will gobble up a lot of points.

Click here for a look at the seeds/pairings in Divisions 1 and 2.

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