BY: Duncan MacLean
HOLLAND — The Grand Haven girls tennis team took on their Division 1 Regional tournament Thursday at Holland High School, falling just three wins shy of a trip to the state championship tournament while claiming fourth place.
Rockford claimed 28 points to take the Regional Championship, followed by West Ottawa with 21 and Hudsonville with 17. The Bucs took fourth with 15 ahead of Caledonia, Holland, East Kentwood, Grandville, Jenison, Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix.
The Bucs sent three singles and all four doubles flights into the semifinal round of their brackets, where all seven matches ended in losses for the Bucs, despite some serious fight from the girls.
“It was a great day for us,” Grand Haven head coach Chris Wilton said. “To get into the semifinals in seven flights is great, everyone played really well to get to that spot.”
The doubles flights showed tremendous tenacity in their semifinal appearances, forcing some of the more exciting matches of the day.
Nos. 1, 2 found Rockford opponents, while the No. 3 team got a crack at a duo from West Ottawa.
Audrey Reus and Lilja Plumert at No. 1 doubles fell just short of completing a monumental comeback from down 2-5 in a third set, falling to the first of many Rockford champions.
On their way to the semifinal, the duo caught a bye into the second round, before dismissing the team from East Kentwood, 6-3, 6-2.
Felicity Alder and Alyssa Yeager started off their No. 2 doubles semifinal on the wrong foot, giving up a 6-0 sweep in set one. The second was marginally better, as they fell to Rockford, 6-2.
The No. 2 pair also enjoyed a bye through the opening round, but had their hands full with Grandville. They defeated the Bulldogs to claim a semifinal spot in three sets, 6-1, 4-6 and 6-4.
No. 3 doubles proved to be the most dramatic match of the day for the Bucs, as Cauryn Nowicki and Carley Schmidt swept Set 1, stunning their Panther adversaries with a 6-0 win. A 1-6 loss in Set 2 to even the score threw the Bucs back on their heels as they dropped the final set, 4-6.
Finally, Hannah Stall and Laura Slocum battled Hudsonville’s No. 4 doubles team for a trip to the championship match. The Bucs took Set 1, 6-2, but couldn’t close the door on the eager Eagles. They forced a third set (1-6), eventually defeating Grand Haven in a third set, 6-3.
“All those doubles did really well today,” Wilton said. “Almost all of them were underdogs and they still fought hard. We forced a couple of three-setters with 6-4’s in the third. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Julia Bachman, Grand Haven’s No. 1 singles player finished out her four-year varsity career with a loss in the second round of her flight.
“I don’t say this often, but I am proud of how I played today,” Bachman said. “I don’t think the scores really reflected how good some of the points where. It was a good match to go out on.”
Bachman fell to the eventual No. 1 singles champion in the second round of the tournament in two sets, 6-0, 6-2.
The senior will be continuing her tennis career at Kalamazoo College in the fall, but will be sad to leave her team.
“It is a little bittersweet for me,” she said. “I’ve been a part of this team for four years, I have made some close friends. I am excited for the next chapter of my tennis career, but it will be hard leaving these girls. We have so much fun together, I’m going to miss them.”
The early exit for Bachman allowed her to cheer on her teammates one last time.
“I’m really proud of how the girls played today,” she said. “We have had a lot of tough matches and they pushed through.”
Grand Haven’s singles did not fair as well in their semifinal appearances.
Kelsey Lanksy at No. 2 singles (6-0, 6-3), Madison Ray at No. 3 (6-0, 6-0) and Sam Korecki at No. 4 (6-0, 6-0), all fell in their semifinal appearances to eventual Rockford champions.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Wilton said of trying to top the Rams. “We knew West Ottawa and Rockford were going to make it through. It was going to take a couple of big upsets for us to get there, and they almost pulled it off, they almost did.
“It was a good season.”