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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, September 1, 2012

My observations on preseason tennis rankings

Preseason rankings are never easy, especially when trying to gauge the competition from all across the state. I had just Oakland County to deal with. And that was a chore in itself. There were the obvious choices. And then there were the not-so-obvious ones.
When it comes to the state rankings, it takes a couple weeks for things to shake out. Some of what the coaches have to go on is how a team fared the previous season. And some has to do with how a team performs in the first week or two of this season. But scores are hard to come by (yes coaches, we need you to call or email your scores in please) and teams are still finalizing their lineups. Most first-week matches are scrimmages.
That being said, I'll give the Coaches' Association a pass and offer up a little advice moving forward - as it pertains to Oakland County's teams. That includes 13 teams (of 35 ranked in Divisions 1-3).

1. Ann Arbor Huron
2. Birmingham Brother Rice
3. Novi Detroit Catholic Central
4. Novi
5. Northville
6. Ann Arbor Pioneer
7. Saline
8. West Bloomfield
9. Rochester Adams
T-10. Troy Athens
Port Huron Northern
Traverse City Central

First off, in Division 1, please move Brother Rice up to No. 1. With all due respect to Ann Arbor Huron - which lost eight starters off last year's state championship team (accounting for 21 of the team's 30 points) - Brother Rice is the best team in the division. The Warriors return a ton of talent and are very deep, as was evidenced in their match against Country Day Wednesday.
The next-best team is probably Novi, with Northville right there as well. Huron and Ann Arbor Pioneer will be in the hunt come the end of the year, but for now I'd rank them 4-5. And I'm sorry Catholic Central, but graduation hit you hard and it's purely your reputation that has you ranked No. 3. We could very well see the Shamrocks bumped from the Top-10 in the coming weeks - until the team starts to jell and the doubles lineup starts to mature.
West Bloomfield and Troy Athens might be ranked a little high, at least this early in the season. I'd slide Rochester Adams up a spot or two and maybe replace the Lakers and Red Hawks with Troy, with maybe Stoney Creek earning a No. 10 ranking.

1. Midland Dow
2. Bloomfield Hills Andover
3. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
4. Okemos
5. Portage Central
6. Birmingham Groves
7. North Farmington
8. Battle Creek Lakeview
9. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
T-10. Bloomfield Hills Lahser
East Lansing
Detroit U-D Jesuit

I have no problem with Midland Dow atop Division 2. They've earned that right with three-straight dominating victories at the state tournament. It doesn't hurt that I played with and then coached its head coach, Terry Schwartzkopf.
After that, it's tough to say who should be No. 2. Last year six teams finished just three points apart, behind the Chargers. Among those were Oakland County representatives Andover, Groves and North Farmington. Groves just beat Andover in a tight, 5-4 match on Thursday. So I'd give the Falcons the slight nod. Their No. 6 ranking is too low. I'd slide them up to No. 3 or 4 at this point, with Andover right behind them. I'd say Lahser is about right, maybe slide them up to No. 9.

1. Birmingham Detroit Country Day
2. St. Joseph
3. East Grand Rapids
4. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
5. Grand Rapids Christian
6. Petoskey
7. Holland Christian
8. Allegan
9. Richland Gull Lake
T-10. South Lyon East

The most definitive thing about this Top-10 is the team at the top. No one is going to beat Country Day this season - wishing them good health of course. Too talented, and too deep, the Yellowjackets might just win 6-7 flight championships at the state finals. The rest of the usual suspects - St. Joseph, East Grand Rapids and Cranbrook included - are behind Country Day. Always tough to rank these teams early on, so this looks about right. Even Cranbrook coach Jeff Etterbeek would admit his team is a work in progress, albeit a talented work in progress. Expect his doubles to get better and better throughout the season and, combined with a good singles lineup, this team is Top-3 in my mind.
Oh, and someone let the committee know that South Lyon East (currently T-10th) has just seven players back - one starter - from last year's team, and it's not No. 1 state singles champion Kevin Renehan!

1. Ann Arbor Greenhills
2. Kalamazoo Christian
3. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett
4. Armada
5. Portland
6. Lansing Catholic
7. Almont
8. Traverse City St. Francis
9. Williamston
T-10. Essexville-Garber
North Muskegon

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