Rockford High School’s girls’ varsity tennis team capped its remarkable season last week by winning a regional tournament for perhaps the first time ever.
“As far as I know, we’ve never won a regional championship,” Coach Tom Huizing said, “I’m extremely proud of my girls for how they played and how far they got. It was a team effort.”
This week, the squad was to head back onto the courts to prepare for the Division I state finals in Midland. It’s the second year in a row that Huizing’s spring players have made the trip, another unprecedented milestone for Rams girls tennis.
The Midland Community Tennis Center and Northwood University are scheduled to host the finals on May 29-30. Nineteen teams from across the Lower Peninsula will participate, including teams from two other OK Red conference high schools, Grandville and West Ottawa.
“We’re proud to be representing Rockford,” Huizing said, following Rockford’s May 14 win at the regional tournament at Jenison High School. “We’re going to work hard.”
At the regional contest, the Rams brought home the hardware in three flights. Fourth doubles players junior Lindsay Gauger and senior Meliah Mead topped off their undefeated season with a flourish by beating West Ottawa High School in two sets. Alex Stembaugh, sophomore at three singles, made her championship match against Grandville High School a nail-biter, but came up the winner on a third-set tie-breaker. Senior Michaela Young and junior Mackenzie Young, relying on a nearly flawless record, set back West Ottawa in two sets.
With three freshmen and a sophomore filling out the singles flights, the team’s storybook season wasn’t anticipated back in March. “It’s cool, because we weren’t expected to win with such a young class,” said senior co-captain Jillian Haverkate, adding that the Region I, Division I championship “took a lot of hard work.”
Rockford tallied 22 points and came in first, qualifying the team for the state finals. Tied for second at 18 points apiece were teams from Grandville and West Ottawa. First singles players Robyn Power of Grand Haven and Maria Tran of East Kentwood qualified as individuals.
Coach Huizing brought home his own honors with recognition as Regional Coach of the Year. He offered the credit to his players as well as to the junior varsity coaching staff for its effort in developing strong players for the varsity team. JV-A Coach Valerie Wallace was on hand at the regional tournament. JV-B Coach Matt Drolett assisted the varsity coach at the OK Red conference tournament, where the Rams tied for first with the Eagles of Hudsonville. Hudsonville, ranked fifth in the state in its division, will play in the Division II state finals at Kalamazoo College.