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Utica’s Davina Nguyen putting together one final run at netting gold

By: Dan Stickradt, May 29, 2015, 10:07 pm

Utica — When Davina Nguyen was a freshman, she gained a ton of respect the tennis courts as a rising prodigy.

Now a senior, Nguyen is in the final stretch of a phenomenal prep career with one of the most memorable runs for a player who does not hail from a powerhouse school. 

She does not live in Birmingham or Bloomfield Hills, nor Troy or Rochester or even West Bloomfield, Midland, Ann Arbor or Grosse Pointe.

Nguyen lives in Utica, just over the borderline in Macomb County. She is one of the most successful high school players ever to hail from Macomb County — period.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” admitted Nguyen. “When I came into high school, I just hoped to do well. I never imagined any of this.”

Before Nguyen’s arrival in 2012, the school had not sent a player to the state finals in years — if at all. She is a four-time state qualifier for the Lower Peninsula Division 1 state finals and a certain four-time All-State honoree.

“They don’t have much history in tennis,” said Nguyen of Utica. “I think I was their first (state) champion.”

The talented Nguyen is making up for lost time for Utica and has represented her school, county and Macomb Area Conference well. 

With a 70-6 career record in a Chieftains uniform heading into the D-1 state finals at Midland Community Tennis Center May 29-30, she has compiled quite a resume. As a freshman in 2012, she entered the Division 1 state finals at the No. 5 seed at No. 1 singles and eventually upset Clarkston’s Katie Brozovich, the No. 2 seed, 7-5, 7-5 to claim the state title to finish 19-0.

As a sophomore, Nguyen carried the No. 3 seed into the Division 1 tournament and advanced to the state semifinals before bowing out too No. 2-seeded Lexi Baylis of Clarkston, 6-3, 7-6(3). She finished the campaign 15-1.

In her junior year, Nguyen went 4-0 at the finals (22-1 on the season) and avenged Baylis in the flight finals of No. 1 singles, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Three trips to at least the semifinals and two state titles later and her resume is quite stacked.

The three-time MHSTECA All-State First Team, All-Macomb County First Team and All-MAC White Division honoree carried a 14-2 record into the state finals this season and earned a No. 3 seed. She is also a candidate for Miss Tennis, given annually to the state’s top senior by the MHSTECA.

Bound for Michigan State in the fall after being offered by multiple colleges, including William & Mary, Michigan and Rutgers, among others, Nguyen has also shined at the United States Tennis Association level, including a 16s national title tin 2012 among many accomplishments. 

She is the daughter of Tam Pham and Tom McCulloch of Shelby Township. 

Fighting through some nagging injuries, it was Nguyen’s mother, Tam, that talked her into playing as a senior. She had considered sitting out the season with her scholarship in hand. 

“I didn’t know I would play this year. I had thoughts of not playing,” offered Nguyen. “But my mom talked me into it. She said I had a great chance to win it all again and win Miss Tennis. That is such an honor to be considered for that award.”

Although there has been a handful of three-time state singles champions in various flights, few have done so at Division 1 and few have done so all at No. 1 singles. Nguyen has a chance to join the state’s elite before she heads of to East Lansing to play for MSU.

“That is my goal, to win it again,” said Nguyen, who does not like to talk about tennis too much away from the court. “I am looking forward to the state (tournament), but sad that (high school) tennis is almost over. But I have Michigan State (to look forward to). The coaches are very personable there and they made me feel welcome there.”

Nguyen is currently ranked in the top 100 nationally for high school students, eighth in the Great Lakes region and second overall in Michigan for those 18-and-Under. She still has some unfinished business on the prep courts.

Her 14-2 ledger this season includes two defeats against Utica Eisenhower sophomore sensation Ava Thielman, who defeated Nguyen in the regional finals two weeks ago. Thielman gained the No. 1 seed for the state finals.

Nguyen could not face Thielman against until the championship flight at No. 1 singles.

“I still have a shot to win again," said Nguyen.