The Eagles Varsity Tennis Program continues its historic 6 year run of finishing in the Top 5 at the State Finals, concluding their year with a strong 3rd place finish over two tough days of competition in Novi, Michigan. The team also crowned 4 Semi-Final Flights, with two of those flights reaching the State Final, Junior Tri-Captain Maya Barbee/Sophomore Lauren Peal, and the first individual flight State Title since 2016 in Junior Grace Maurer/Freshman Calista Bremer.
The team was set up to make a run at a high finish, having 7 out of 8 flights seeded in the top 6 based on their season performance and the efforts of Coach Tim Morey at the Seed Meetings. It is worth noting right from the jump that every single flight earned points for the 3rd place finish, and as the tournament unfolded, the end result truly hung on the outcome of 1 or 2 matches.
The wait for the team to play was long due to most flights being seeded. When the team finally played, the did not disappoint as the scoring began with Junior Lilia Zylstra playing the best match of her entire season with a 6-2,6-1 victory over St. Clair before falling to the #2 Seed in Holland Christian. Up next was Junior Tri-Captain Annika Weeber, seeded #6 at #1 Singles, facing off against a tricky opponent she had a close match with earlier this season in Fruitport. Weeber left no doubt this time, with a 6-0,6-4 victory and a crucial 2 points. Playing the #3 seed Allegan in the quarterfinals, she fell 6-2,7-6(4) in a hotly contested match. At #3 Singles, Junior Tr-Captain Hannah Feng barely broke a sweat in her first match, dispatching Williamston and only dropping one game 6-0,6-1. In her quarterfinals she came up against a familiar foe in FHE, whom she had played twice before this season, splitting matches. With the momentum swinging back and forth greatly, the match came down to a 3rd set where Feng lost in a heartbreaker 7-6 in the 3rd. Finally, the #3 Seeded Ryann Breslin at #2 Singles made it look way too easy, only dropping 2 games in both of her matches en route to the 2nd day and Semi-Final berth.
In Doubles on Day 1, it seemed GRC was destined to play St. Clair in every flight. #2 Doubles Senior Madison Moorhead/Sophomore Dafna Heule were seeded #6 and had a bye and another crucial 2 point match against St. Clair. The team was off the court quickly with a 6-2,6-1 victory and looked very sharp, a trend that would continue for the team during the rest of the tournament. In their next round, against higher seeded Allegan as the #3 seed, a team with a 26-0 record coming in, Moorhead/Heule played very well in extremely hot and humid conditions. Dropping the first set 6-4 and being down in the second, the team clawed back to win an epic 11-9 tiebreak to force a third. Unfortunately, an Allegan player had to retire due to heat cramps and sickness and Moorhead/Heule earned a Semi-Final berth. #4 Doubles, Maurer/Bremer beat Stevensville Lakeshore 6-4,6-2 before facing off against Country Day, seeded #3. Maurer/Bremer, showing absolutely zero fear, took out the team from the defending state champs easily, 6-2,6-2 earning a Day 2 Semi-Final. In the toughest two first matches of the day, #3 Doubles Sophomores Grace Poortenga/Elizabeth Rupp seeded #4, and #1 Doubles Barbee/Peal had their hands full. Poortenga/Rupp won their first set convincingly, but played a little loose second set dropping it 6-4 before finishing with authority 6-0. Unfortunately, the length of the day and heat was a lot to overcome, and Poortenga/Rupp dropped a very close match to Holland Christian 6-2,7-6(6) in the next round. The team had an outstanding season together, and lost to a HC team playing very well. At #1 Doubles, Barbee/Peal were only slightly above average in their first match against a very pesky team from Fruitport, winning an extremely tight match 7-6(5),7-5. It wasn’t until halfway through their next match, after dropping their first set 6-4, did their opponent make the mistake of poking the sleeping bear and Barbee/Peal roared back to win 6-2,6-1 in the next 2 sets.
The Eagles had 4 Flights reach the Semifinals, Breslin at #2S, Barbee/Peal at #1D, Moorhead/Heule at #2D, and Maurer/Bremer at #4. In singles, Breslin fell to familiar foe, the player from FHE she had beaten in straight sets two weeks before and played 4 times during the year. Over the past 2 seasons, Breslin herself has been the only Singles Semi-Finalist since 2017. At #2 Doubles, Moorhead/Heule had one of the most hotly contested and controversial matches against Cranbrook and the girls’ integrity showed against some difficult calls that could have swung either way. After dropping the first set quickly, it did not look good. But again, playing their best tennis together of the year, Moorhead/Heule kept chipping away tenaciously and shocked CK 6-4 in the second set. Refusing to go away, the tough calls started to mount but our girls kept their composure and fight. They finally fell 7-5 in the third. At #1 Doubles, Barbee/Peal absolutely wrecked the higher seeded team from CK, winning the first set 6-1 before CK even knew they were playing in the State Semi-Finals. CK showed some fight in the second set, carrying a 4-3 lead before Barbee/Peal put together some truly classic doubles serving, returning and volleying to upset the #2 seed 6-4 in the second to reach the Final. In the final, many spectators were commenting this was some of the best doubles they had seen as Barbee/Peal faced off against defending State Champ DCD. The match was much closer than the score, as GRC lost 6-3,6-2 to close out an outstanding season for Barbee/Peal that will certainly result in postseason accolades. Finally, Maurer and Bremer faced off against the #2 Seed in Chelsea, and team that had gone 23-1 over the course of the season where Maurer/Bremer had about half that amount of matches even playing together. With almost all of Chelsea high school and the city it seemed sitting 5 feet behind their court shouting after every point won, Maurer/Bremer won the first set 7-6(7-5 in tiebreak). The team took a lunch break in the second losing 6-1 before fighting for every point to win in a ridiculous 7-6 third set and winning 7 out of the last 8 points to head to the Final. In the Final, they played the #1 Seed from Allegan, a team that had gone 30-0 on the season. Allegan and GRC were tied at that moment so it seemed a victory would secure either team the 3rd place finish and a coveted State Title. Maurer and Bremer got down quickly 3-0 and could not overcome the deficit losing the first set 6-4. Down 5-3 and having 3 match points against them it seemed the Title and 3rd place was not to be. But with a little bit of luck and a ton of fight, Maurer/Bremer willed themselves back into the match and somehow won the next four games to win 7-5. At one point the team shook their heads at the ability of Maurer/Bremer to return the ball and recover. Allegan could not overcome, and the third set, while very competitive, showed Maurer/Bremer dominating the points with sheer athleticism and exceptional positioning and finishing skills. The individual title is the first since 2016, and the 6th overall in GRC Tennis History. The third place finish, the best since 2017, adds 5 times out of the last 6 years where the team has finishing in the Top 3: 2014-3, 2015-2, 2016-2, 2017-2, 2018-4, 2019-3. Congratulations to the Eagles Varsity Team and Coaches!