Rockford tennis advances to state finals

Oops, they did it again! Rockford girls varsity tennis qualified for the state finals after accumulating the necessary 18 points to earn the honor. The stage was set back on May 15 when the Rams hosted the OK Red conference tournament. Rockford earned 45 points, finishing third and providing the positioning needed for preferred seeding at the regional tournament this past Saturday, May 22 in Jenison.

Seniors Megan Zawacki, Heather Williams, Nicole Strobel (front), Katie Rachon, Lindsay Gauger, Tara Murray and Mackenzie Young wind down their varsity tennis careers.

Each of the eight flights won their first round in the single elimination regional event. As the day progressed, it started to become a possibility that Rockford would be a contender. All four doubles teams won their second round as two, three and four singles did as well.

It happened to be the hottest day of the season, with temperatures reaching over 80 degrees on the courts. All the players were getting anxious to see if their dream would become a reality. As each flight advanced, it became evident the dream was possible. By late afternoon, after each flight contributed points toward the required 18, it was realized that Rockford had 17 points with one match still to play. Junior Alex Stembaugh, playing three singles, had advanced all the way into the final round. Playing as cool as she did all year, Stembaugh beat her worthy opponent from Hudsonville in straight sets.

The Lady Rams tennis team of (front row, l–r) Megan Zawacki, Julie Daukss, Nicole Strobel, Alex Stembaugh, Heather Williams; (back row) Coach Val Wallace, Jenelle Miller, Mackenzie Young, Lindsay Gauger, MJ Bothma, Lauren Korlewitz, Katie Rachon, Tara Murray and Coach Tom Huizing advance to the state finals.

“I expected tough competition going into the match,” said Stembaugh. “I knew I would have to step up my game.”

Coach Tom Huizing stated, “This was a hard-fought season. In the OK Red anything can happen on any day. The same holds true in the regionals. Everyone knew what to do and everyone contributed. Alex was amazing at handling the pressure like a veteran player. I’m extremely proud of the entire team. They did it as a team. They got it done.”

It looks like spring tennis is blossoming nicely in Rockford. This will be the third year in a row that the team will be going to state finals under the coaching of Huizing. The entire team is thankful for Coach Huizing, all the community for their support, the parents, the press for covering the action each week, their teachers and friends that came out to see them play, JV coach Val Wallace and their number one fan Loretta Huizing (Tom’s mom) who gave all the players and parents encouragement and hope at every game.

It is also the last opportunity for the seven seniors on the squad to play together. As they wind down their varsity careers, they look forward to their new endeavors. All seven seniors are matriculating to college this fall.

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