With the right blend of experience, depth and athleticism, the Harper Creek girls’ tennis team is heading to the MHSAA state finals on Friday.
The Beavers had a dominant performance at regionals last week, taking first place and earning a trip to the state finals. According to head coach Brian Herr, it was Harper Creek’s first regional title in over 20 years, putting the Beavers in the Division 3 MHSAA State Finals at Kalamazoo College Friday-Saturday.
In Division 2, Lakeview also won a regional title and the team will compete at Holland on Friday and Saturday. Also in Division 2, Gull Lake’s Lily Fell qualified as an individual at No. 1 singles and will compete in the state finals at Holland.
“We were really pretty strong all day long and we were deep enough in every flight to win it,” Herr said of Harper Creek’s performance at regionals. “There were at least four teams that could have pulled out of that region by winning it and I think that by us having such a strong showing there, the girls are much more excited now about the possibilities.”
In No. 4 singles Harper Creek freshman Renae Malone was flight champion at regionals, as was the No. 4 doubles team of Emma Moore and Kirsten Murphy. Nicole Gilbert was the No. 2 singles flight runner-up and the doubles team of Maeve Hammond and Bella Ballez also took flight runner-up.
Harper Creek’s team is not made up of “classically trained tennis players,” as Herr puts it. But with seven seniors on the team and several multiple-sport athletes, the Beavers keep finding ways to win.
“With a good athlete you can coach them to do really good things,” Herr said. “Some of them are extremely coachable, too, and they’ll try what you tell them to do and quite often things will work out in their favor.”
Last year Harper Creek took 15th place at the state tournament after earning a berth for its second-place finish in regionals. After posting an 8-2 record during this year’s regular season, and then winning regionals, the Beavers are hoping to improve on last year’s finish.
“It’s been a good season,” said Harper Creek junior and No. 1 singles player, Kendall Latshaw. “We have seven seniors, we’re an older experienced team, so it was nice to win regionals. Since I’ve been on the team we haven’t done that and I think we’ve only done it one other time in school history… (At state) we’re just gonna do the best we can. Try to take something out of it, learn something new, have fun.”