BOYS TENNIS: Holly defends regional championship, advance to finals for 16th straight season
BY DAN STICKRADT
FENTON — Holly has the ultimate goal of finishing in the top 10 at the Division 2 boys tennis state finals. The unranked Bronchos took the next step Friday in achieving that milestone.
Holly amassed 27 points to cruise to its third straight regional title.
Ortonville Brandon was second with 18 points, followed by Flushing (16), Lapeer Unified (9), Fenton (8), Swartz Creek (8), Alpena (6), Bay City Central (2) and Flint Kearsley (2) rounded out the field at Fenton High School.
The top two teams, additional team scoring 18 or more points, and all finalists at No.1 singles, advance to the Lower Peninsula Division 2 state finals, which will be hosted by Holly and Fenton high schools.
“We felt we had a very good chance to win this regional based on the teams here,” said Holly co-coach Will Sophiea, whose team is shooting for its first top-10 state finish since 2005. “We defeated the teams in our league already and we knew some things about the other teams. We felt confident if we played well that we could qualify.”
It marked the 16th straight season that the Bronchos have reached the state finals. The last absence came at the 1997 Class A finals.
“We’ve been fortunate,” noted Sophiea. “In our regional we have a bunch of schools that have players that don’t necessarily play all year round. We don’t always have that either. We do have kids who work very hard to get better and we’ve built a nice reputation where reaching the state tournament is always a goal. The kids understand.”
Holly, fresh off its 20th straight league championship, won three of the four doubles flights and sent players into the finals of all singles flights to help win the regional by nine points and keep its string going forward.
Brandon swept the singles flights, including a series of upsets, to help earn second place above Flushing, which finished two points shy of a state berth.
Spencer Navarre captured his third straight regional title at No.1 singles, topping Holly’s Jeff Sophiea in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Younger brother Nathan Navarre was the surprise winner at No. 2singles, posting a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Holly’s Connor Bilkos in the finals.
In the finals at No. 3 singles, Nick Skinsacos held off Holly’s Evan Vergith, 7-5, 6-2, while Matt Jones completed the Blackhawks’ sweep of the singles flights with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 upset of Holly’s Dillon Sink in the finals.
The doubles flights saw the Bronchos dominate in three of the four flights.
Craig Richards and Parker Rowse rolled to a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Alpena’s Noah Barney Steinke and Samyak Harsh at No.1 doubles. Zac Goodrich and Taylor Mills continued the trend with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Flushing’s Nick Donley and Matt Hoff.
Parker Cuthbert and Aaron Vergith of Holly joined forces for a regional title at No. 3 doubles with a 6-2, 6-2 sweep of Swartz Creek’s Jesse Hale and Joshua Milem.
The No. 4 doubles flight was the only flight where Holly or Brandon did not produce a champion. Flushing’s Don Olson and Phillip Wu posted a come-from-behind, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Holly’s Morgan Baylis-Gunner LaFave in the finals.
Sophiea firmly believes that another top-10 finish at the state finals is looming. the Bronchos, who feature just two seniors in their top 12, have not reached their ceiling.
“We are still young, but I like the way we have been playing,” offered Sophiea. “I think if we can get some nice draws, maybe even a couple of seeds in the doubles flight, and play well, then we could sneak in the top 10. That is a goal of this team. If we don’t get there this year, then we could have a strong chance next year because we only have two seniors. But, like any year, it all depends on the draws and how well you play.”
DIVISION 2 REGIONAL
(Oct. 12 at Fenton)
TEAM SCORES — 1. Holly, 27; 2. Ortonville Brandon, 18; 3. Flushing, 16; 4. Lapeer Unified, 9; 5. Fenton, 8; 6. Swartz Creek, 8; 7. Alpena, 6; 8. Bay City Central, 2; 9. Flint Kearsley, 2.
SINGLES — 1. Spencer Navarre (Ortonville Brandon) d. Jeff Sophiea (Holly) 6-3, 6-3; 2. Nathan Navarre (Ortonville Brandon) d. Connor Bilkos (Holly) 6-1, 6-4; 3. Nick Skinsacos (Ortonville Brandon) d. Evan Vergith (Holly) 7-5, 6-2; 4. Matt Jones (Ortonville Brandon) d. Dillon Sink (Holly) 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
DOUBLES — 1. Craig Richards-Parker Rowse (Holly) d. Noah Barney Steinke-Samyak Harsh (Alpena) 6-2, 7-6 (5); 2. Zac Goodrich-Taylor Mills (Holly) d. Nick Donley-Matt Hoff (Flushing) 6-2, 7-5; 3.Parker Cuthbert-Aaron Vergith (Holly) d. Jesse Hale-Joshua Milem (Swartz Creek) 6-3, 6-2; 4. Don Olson-Phillip Wu (Flushing) d. Morgan Baylis-Gunner LaFave (Holly) 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
HOLLY AT RECENT BOYS TENNIS STATE FINALS
2011: 17th Two points
2010: 17th Three points
2009: 15th Three points
2008: 15th Five points
2007 (fall) 16th Two points
2007 (spring): 17th Four points
2006: 16th Two points
2005: 10th Seven points
2004: 11th Seven points
2003: 10th Seven points
2002: 11th Six points
2001: 17th Three points
2000: 12th Six points
1999: 20th No points
1998: 16th Two points
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)