The MHSAA Division 1 State Tennis Finals are this week, and as usual, Ann Arbor has served up a couple of heavyweights capable of finishing top three, or even netting the overall title.
The finals will begin on Thursday with first-round and quarterfinal matches at various sites. The semifinal matches and the championship match are on Friday at Novi High School.
Okemos comes into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to win it all. Huron is ranked second in the state and their only dual-meet loss this season was a 7-1 decision to the talented Chiefs.
But the River Rats aren’t throwing in their rackets without putting up a fight. Okemos is going to have to earn this title, and they will most likely have to go through one of the co-defending state champions Huron or Pioneer.
“We played Okemos once this season and lost 7-1,” said Huron No. 1 singles player Angie Zhou said. “That was our only loss this season, but it gave us motivation to work even harder to get the opportunity to play them again. We all know that we can play even better next time, and I think that if we all play our best, as a team, we definitely have a chance to beat them.”
Huron’s Michael Shi, who plays three singles for the River Rats, says their goal all season has been to win a state title. “I feel like our team is very energized and positive in the way we bring each other up when we win/lose points,” Shi says. “I feel that with the new system this year of states, it shows more of a team-based effort on and off the court.”
The River Rats and Pioneers each finished with 27 points at last year’s state finals. Troy was third with 19 points and Okemos fourth with 17.
The River Rats (16-1 overall) defeated both Westland John Glenn and Saline 8-0 in the Division 1 District 3 tournament to advance to the state finals while the Pioneers (17-3-1 overall) defeated Belleville 8-0 and Skyline 5-3 to win D-1 District 4.
Huron defeated Pioneer 5-3 to win the SEC championship earlier this month. The River Rats open the state tournament against 15th seeded Canton at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Northville HS. The winner will then play the winner of Brother Rice-Troy Athens at around 4 p.m.
Third-seeded Pioneer, also playing in the lower bracket, opens up with 14th seed Utica Eisenhower and will play the winner of Bloomfield Hills-Rockford if they advance to the quarterfinals.
If both Huron and Pioneer hold serve, they will meet in the semifinals on Friday at the Novi High School tennis courts.
The finals will be at 4 p.m. on Friday at Novi HS.