Pioneer’s Kari Miller was a heavy favorite heading into last weekend’s MHSAA Division 1 State Finals. Anything but first place would have been shocking – even losing a set would have been a surprise (we will get to that in a minute).
But Miller admits that when she locked down that final point to win her second state title at one singles she was excited, thrilled and proud. There is something about being called “champion.”
“Yeah, I was really excited,” says Miller, the extremely talented junior from Pioneer. “It was just as special to me as it was my freshman year and I love the feeling of having my team run onto the court to hug me.”
That team, the Pioneers, finished fifth overall with 19 points.
Miller won the state title at one singles two years ago as a freshman and didn’t play high school tennis last year as a sophomore. She cruised early on without much of a challenge, winning her first two matches 6-1, 6-0 before winning her semifinal match 6-4, 6-1 over Tia Mukherjee of Bloomfield Hills.
The junior actually lost the first game of the finals match 5-7 to Lily Jones of Grosse Pointe South. But she cranked up her game to win the last two sets 6-0, 6-0.
And what sometimes appears easy, sometimes never is.
“I was expecting it to be difficult because I knew my opponent is a good player and plays a lot of the same tournaments as me,” Miller said of Jones. “The final definitely wasn’t easy and I had to stay really mentally tough and focused throughout the entire match.”
Kari, the daughter of Inge Miller and David Miller, finished the season with a 28-0 record and only lost two sets the entire season.
Unlike her freshman year, Miller had her teammates not only by her side but also on the courts at the State Finals.
“We didn’t do as well as we hoped to do at states, but overall we had a really good season,” Miller said. “We all fought really hard and I think that was important to our success.”
Miller is already signed, sealed and delivered to play at the University of Michigan starting in the fall of 2020.