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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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Girls tennis finals predictions - 2012

OK, so I've spent far too much time breaking down - match by match - all the draws for each of the four divisions. So I know which teams are going to win state championships this weekend. Because I don't want to put any undue pressure on any individual singles and doubles players, I'll instead give you my finalists in each flight, as well as the Top-10 teams and their projected point totals. I'll also offer a few thoughts. Here goes:

Port Huron Northern, Clarkston and Grosse Pointe South are the class of this division - appropriately ranked No. 1-2-3 heading into the finals at Midland. Northern beat Clarkston twice this season head to head, both times by a 5-3 score. Clarkston beat GPS 5-3. But in a tournament format, it's all about depth and scoring at all flights. And that's what may separate the winner from the other two.

My predicted Top-10
1. Port Huron Northern 27 points
2. Clarkston 26
3. Grosse Pointe South 23
4. Ann Arbor Pioneer 19
T-5. Ann Arbor Huron 16
T-5. Saline 16
7. Midland Dow 14
T-8. Northville 13
T-8. Novi 13
10. Troy 12

Flight finalists
1S Katie Brozovich (C) d. Mary Hanna (S)
2S Lexi Baylis (C) d. Allie Sweeney (PHN)
3S Lizzie Brozovich (PHN) d. Paige Olsen (C)
4S Rae Brozovich (PHN) d. Catherine Chou (AAH)
1D Dana Olsen-Olivia Dunn (C) d. Alexa Arvidson-Julia Rampton (AAP)
2D Amelia Boccaccio-Carrie Lynch (GPS) d. Elizabeth Sakorafis-Jordan Hermiz (NOR)
3D Anna Borowicz-Sarah Court (AAP) d. Amy Tseng-Maggie Bachella (PHN)
4D Alyssa Roopas-Evie Van DeWege (AAP) d. Monique Zentner-Katie Hubregsen (C)

Thoughts: I tried to give Clarkston every possible edge in close matches, even predicting a mini upset at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. Port Huron Northern is just too strong on the back half of its singles lineup and just balanced enough in doubles to make it the team to beat. If Clarkston can get fellow Oakland County power Novi to pull off a second-round upset at No. 4 doubles, the Wolves might have a chance. That, or if their No. 2 and 3 doubles can somehow pick up a big upset win in the second round, they might be able to get by the Huskies.
If Ann Arbor Pioneer had a stronger singles lineup, it might have a chance to make it a four-team race. But tough draws at 1-2-3 singles hurt its chances. If my predictions hold true, it could be quite a day for the Brozovich family. Lizzie and Rae are the younger first cousins of Katie. One of their teams should walk away with the championship trophy.
Though I didn't list it above, I do think Novi's Abby Wang - the fourth seed at No. 1 singles - will reach the semifinals, where she'll face Hanna. Same goes for Troy's No. 1 doubles team of Kalie Collins and Tonya Malyarenko. I've got them falling to Olsen and Dunn in the semifinals.

I'll be at these finals in Kalamazoo. And I can't wait. Again, maybe I was a little fixated on the local teams competing for a chance to deny Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern of a state title for the first time since Seaholm did it back in 2004. But it's for good reason. Marian, Andover and Seaholm enter as the 1-2-3 ranked teams in the state. And there's no reason to think they won't finish 1-2-3 on Saturday afternoon.
Balance throughout each of their lineups will carry them into the finals, all with a chance to take home the title.

My predicted Top-10
1. Birmingham Marian 29 points
T-2. Birmingham Seaholm 27
T-2. Bloomfield Hills Andover 27
4. Okemos 20
5. Farmington Hills Mercy 19
6. Forest Hills Northern 18
T-7. Bloomfield Hills Lahser 14
T-7. Traverse City Central 14
9. Grand Rapids Northview 10
10. Mason 7

Flight finalists
1S Mollie Fox (BHL) d. Kerry Hu (BHA)
2S Labina Petrovska (BS) d. Kristen Law (BHA)
3S Catherine Christian (BM) d. Draga Sabotic (O)
4S Lauren Dietz (BM) d. Claire Markley (BS)
1D Victoria Minzlaff-Ariel Verbrugge (FHN) d. Kelly Lunghamer-Olivia Underwood (BHM)
2D Anna Hinrichs-Christy Snyder (FHM) d. Paige Atkinson-Hailey Brownstein (BHA)
3D Jackie Meier-Rachel Wilson (BS) d. Molly MacKenzie-Bianca Emde (BHM)
4D Macy Hudson-Mallory Hudson (BHM) d. Sydney Aronovitz-Madison Lorenz (BHA)

Thoughts: Where do I start? I mentioned in yesterday's blog that I was disappointed to see Seaholm's Nancy Benda and Andover's Kerry Hu pitted against each other in the second round. I'm basing my decision to pick Hu on the fact that her sprained ankle won't bother her much. If it does - and same goes for Benda - then each might get knocked off before the finals. Either way, Mollie Fox of Lahser is my clear-cut choice to run away with the No. 1 singles title.
Okemos got some love by the seeding committee in singles. But something tells me Andover's Kristen Law is primed for an upset in the semifinals at No. 2 singles. And if Labina Petrovska of Seaholm can make it three straight wins over Marian's Elaine Apaza in the semifinals at No. 2 singles, it will be one heckuva championship match. At 3-singles, Catherine Christian (Marian) and Lauren Frazier (Seaholm) split this season, with Frazier beating CC in a close, 3-setter in the regional final. Expect Saturday's semifinal to be another close match.
Another barn burner should be Mercy and Marian in a semifinal at No. 1 doubles. Mercy's Margaux Kabodian and Jessie Guindi  split with Marian's Kelly Lunghamer and Olivia Underwood. This one could go either way, which is why it'll be so fun to watch. Either way, the winner will get Forest Hills Northern, the best team in the state.
I see Oakland County matchups in the finals at 2-3-4 doubles. In the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see Marian, Seaholm or Andover win it all. If Benda beats Hu, Seaholm could pull it out. I don't have Andover winning a flight championship. If it does, the Barons could win it all.

Unlike Divisions 1 and 2, where a match or two could decide the championship, Division 3 is a bit more clear cut. Cranbrook enters ranked No. 1 and beat the No. 2 team, East Grand Rapids, 6-2 a couple weeks ago. And that was with Alexandria Najarian still out of the lineup. Now that she's back, the Cranes are running on all cylinders. The real battle will be for second place, where Country Day, East Grand Rapids and Allegan will all battle it out.

My predicted Top-10
1. Cranbrook 33 points
2. Country Day 25
3. East Grand Rapids 23
4. Allegan 22
5. Holland Christian 17
6. Forest Hills Eastern 16
7. St. Clair 14
8. GR Catholic Central 11
9. Sturgis 10
10. Haslett 6

Flight finalists
1S Alexandria Najarian (CK) d. Sydney Liggins (GRCC)
2S Madelyn Karoub (CD) d. Abbey Dekkinga (A)
3S Marina Selenica (CD) d. Madeline Bissett (FHE)
4S Jane Ziecik (CD) d. Alissa Rowens (CK)
1D Megan Simmons-Meg Phyle (CK) d. Kaycee Harness-Christin Drozd (A)
2D Carly Sillivan-Maddy Boylen (EGR) d. Claire Huttenlocher-Maria Landi (CK)
3D Briana Letica-Holly Meers (CK) d. Lauren Krug-Jeanie Weinrich (EGR)
4D Lauren Lanzon-Christina Roualet (CK) d. Kathleen Schumar-Margaret Gregg (EGR)

Thoughts: I don't often go out to a lot of practices, but last week I went out to Cranbrook for a feature story on Najarian. And what I witnessed was one of the most intense tennis practices I've ever seen. Coaches Keith Cullen and Jeff Etterbeek make the most of their time with the girls. And it always seems to pay off as the Cranes are battle tested and ready to go at states.
Despite having the dominant singles lineup in the state, Country Day lacks depth in doubles and that'll keep the Yellowjackets from catching Cranbrook. That's exactly what will prove to be the difference for the Cranes. I expect all four doubles teams to reach the finals, with three winning them.

This was by far the hardest division to predict. Heck, half the teams involved haven't seen all too many of the other teams competing. And considering there are just a handful of metro-Detroit teams playing in Holland, it's really hard for me to gauge the competition. But I tried. The easy part was figuring out the winner. Last year's runner-up, and the team that was ranked No. 1 from start to finish this spring, Academy of the Sacred Heart, has the most talent from top to bottom.
If the singles can pick up a few key victories, the doubles will carry the Gazelles to the first state championship in school history. Williamston, currently ranked No. 2, Ann Arbor Greenhills (#10) and St. Mary's Catholic Central (#7) should push Sacred Heart. Notre Dame Prep's balanced lineup should carry it to a top-eight finish, according to my estimates. If the Irish can pick up an upset or two, they could vault themselves into the top-five.

My predicted Top-10
1. Academy of the Sacred Heart 27 points
T-2. Williamston 22
T-2. Ann Arbor Greenhills 22
4. St. Mary's Catholic Central 20
5. Lansing Catholic Central 18
6. Portland 17
7. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 16
8. Notre Dame Prep 14
9. Grandville Calvin Christian 11
10. Traverse City St. Francis 10

Flight finalists
1S Kasey Gardiner (AAG) d. Meika Ashby (KH)
2S Colleen O'Brien (AAG) d. Katie Blake (P)
3S Calla Ramont (LC) d. Charli Greenhoe (P)
4S Corrine Gardner (AAG) d. Bailey Ray (TCSF)
1D Kelsey Nagle-Emily Nash (ASH) d. Caitlyn Chick-Delaney Nikolai (W)
2D Hannah Gerard-Elia Wilson (ASH) d. Holly Laginess-Chrissy Flynn (SMCC)
3D Heidi Lemon-Sarah Spangler (ASH) d. Amber Laginess-Vinnie Gupta (SMCC)
4D Kendall Lehmann-Teresa Walawender (ASH) d. Sarah Stayman-Courtney McCardel (TCSF)

Thoughts: The target, so to speak, has been on the Gazelles' collective back since they finished runner-up at last year's finals. They were returning 10 of their starters - most in key flights - and surely had the talent to take it up a notch. Greenhills has the best singles lineup, but Sacred Heart has the best doubles players.
There's a bit of pressure on the Gazelles' doubles to perform this weekend. That's where a good chunk of the team's points should come from. They're all seeded #1. Confidence will be key. They are seeded #1 for a reason. They are the best. If Kelsey Nagle, Emily Walsh, Hannah Gerard, Elia Wilson, Heidi Lemon, Sarah Spangler, Kendall Lehmann and Teresa Walawender all play to their abilities, Sacred Heart wins.
Notre Dame Prep scored seven points at last year's finals. This year, the Irish had a couple good draws and could score multiple points at a number of flights. It's unfortunate senior No. 1 Lisa Savagian is in Kasey Gardiner's quarter of the bracket, but her early draw is favorable and she could win a couple matches before seeing Gardiner.

Follow me on Twitter @MIPrepZone as I'll be trying to tweet on Saturday. And go to MIPrepZone's tennis home page for all of our tennis coverage from this year - as well as after Saturday's finals.

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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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