Ian Sood never had to look far to find greatness on the tennis court. The Father Gabriel Richard tennis player finished second in the state at one singles this past weekend and reaching the state finals in anything is an amazing accomplishment. But Sood comes from a family of “amazing.”
“I started playing tennis when I was 4 years old,” he said. “All the members of my family played tennis, allowing us to all spend time together and bond over a common activity.”
They did more than bond – they competed and competed and competed. Maybe they drove each other, maybe their parents gave them a supportive nudge or maybe it just came naturally – or probably all of the above. But the Sood family could play tennis – there was no doubt about that.
Ian’s older sister, Anjali, was a state finalist at two singles for FGR. His other sister, Surina, was a state semifinalist for Pioneer. And Ian’s brother, Evan, was a state finalist at one singles his senior year at FGR. Tennis was all in the family.
“Being the youngest one in the family, this year I was given a little extra motivation knowing this was the last time my parents were going to watch one of the ‘Sood kids’ play high school,” Ian said. “My parents have sacrificed so much for me and my siblings in order for us to be the best players that we can be, and I can never thank them enough.”
Playing on the same team for one season at FGR with his brother was not only a highlight but a “blessing.”
“Each morning in the summer, we would wake up and practice together, and while we both played for FGR together we were able to build each other up to compete as best as we could for our school,” Ian said. “Having an older brother to always hit with was an amazing part of my childhood, and I owe much of my accomplishments to the time we spent playing together. Although he doesn’t play tennis as much anymore (Evan is a sophomore at Michigan), he would still come out this past summer whenever he could to help me prepare for my upcoming season.”
Ian, however, did a very good job of standing on his own. He reached the finals of the MHSAA D-4 State Finals at Hope College on Saturday after a 6-0, 6-0 win in the second round, a 6-0, 6-2 win in the quarterfinals and a 6-4, 6-4 win in the semifinals. He lost to Liggett’s William Cooksey 6-1, 6-1 in the championship match.
“Making the final round at the state finals was the ultimate goal for my season,” he said. “Being completely honest, once I heard that William Cooksey, a junior who attends the University of Liggett, was going to play this year, I knew that winning states was very unlikely. Cooksey is one of the top tennis players in the nation.”
So his mindset changed a little.
“My goal was to just make it to the finals,” he said. “Heading into the state tournament, as I was seeded 2, my goal was to advance to the very end for one last time. After only dropping two games the first day of the tournament, I was relieved to advance to the final round after defeating the third seed, Andrew Solarewicz, 6-4 6-4 in a hard-fought semifinals. Although I ended up losing in the finals, for my third time, I could only look back and be proud of all that I had accomplished.”
He’s also very proud of what his team accomplished. The Irish tied for fourth overall with Traverse City St. Francis with 18 points in a very competitive tournament – five points separated the top seven teams.
“With Greenhills moving up to Division 3, our team was able to step up and win our schools first ever men’s tennis regional championship,” Sood said. “This was a fantastic accomplishment for our team, and was very exciting especially for the seniors playing in their final Regional.
“Having 11 seniors on our team, we knew that this year was going to be special. We knew we had the best chance yet to compete for the state title. We ended up finishing tied for fourth at states, matching our best finish in school history. With this group of seniors, we were able to rank in the top 10 all four years, finishing in the top five three consecutive years.”
This year, however, wasn’t an easy one for the team. The Irish were playing with a very heavy heart.
“Last spring, our assistant coach, Coach Naveed, who was only 25 years old passed away,” Sood said. “I know for me, as I cannot speak for my whole team, this was hard to handle as Coach Naveed and I were very close and oftentimes I felt myself distracted while at practice or competing in matches.
“However, our team supported each other and truly bonded this year, helping us push through any hardships to compete as hard as we could for Coach Naveed and for our school.”
Sood, 17, was thankful and proud to play for four years for varsity head coach Jim Sayed.
“I would like to especially attribute much of our success to Coach Jim,” Sood said. “Throughout all four years, he always guided us towards success and making our school proud. Coach Jim was a fantastic coach!”
Besides “netting” second in the state, Sood also was proud of winning Regionals, which was another of his goals this year. “After four years, I finally prevailed and was able to capture my first Regional title after defeating Hillsdale’s one singles 6-1, 6-1 in the finals. For both myself and the team, winning Regionals was a great memory and has showed us how hard we have worked throughout these past four years.”
Sood, who was named to the All-State Team for the fourth consecutive year and All-Catholic for the second time, is putting his competitive racket away and once again following in his brother’s footsteps – focusing on school and his very bright future.
“After 13 years, I am kind of sad to see my time of competitive playing come to an end,” says Ian, the son of Manak and Lucienne Sood. “The plan is to prepare for college. I am applying to the University of Michigan, MSU and Loyola Chicago where I hope to go pre-med, with the ultimate goal of going to medical school.”
Sounds like a net positive and truly a winning shot for a young man who knows all about hitting winning shots.