MIDLAND – Three was a big number for Utica senior Davina Nguyen on Saturday at the Division 1 tennis state finals at Midland Tennis Center.
Nguyen, the third seed at No. 1 singles, was trying for her third singles state title and was playing Utica Eisenhower sophomore Ava Thielman, the top seed, for the third time this year.
Serving out of a love-40 deficit in the eighth game of the second set, Nguyen got revenge from her two previous losses to beat Thielman, 6-3, 6-3.
“I’ve been through a lot this year,” Nguyen said, fighting back tears. “Oh, my God, that (eighth game) was insane. When it was 4-3, I said ‘I’m not taking a break. I’m not coming back 5-4. I have to win it.’ I was freaking out at love-40. I said, ‘What the heck is going on?’ I felt I could handle the pressure a little bit better with my experience.
“I never thought about winning three (titles). I wasn’t even sure about two.”
After fighting back to win the eighth game, Nguyen broke Thielman to claim the title.
“This year has been really tough for her as far as getting mentally focused,” said coach Christine Dabrowski. “Part of it was she was already accepted to a college (Michigan State). That drive wasn’t there as much to compete. … You can’t go back to high school anymore. Once she put things in perspective, she started moving forward. We had to get into her that this was still attainable.”
In the semifinals, Thielman beat No. 4 seed Isabella Spindler, a junior from Clarkston, 6-2, 6-2, and Nguyen beat No. 2 seed Raven Neely, a junior from Grosse Pointe South, 6-0, 6-0.
That set up the third meeting with Thielman, a baseline banger.
“I had a few rough patches this year, but it doesn’t matter now,” said Nguyen. “She’s like 5, 6, 7-feet from the baseline. I need to bring her up to the net and make her move up. She doesn’t like coming to the net and shorten up the points.
“I feel there’s a lot of pressure that you need to be able to handle. I don’t care if she’s able to deal with it or not. I know I can.”
Nobody could deal with Northville’s incredible doubles teams this year. All four entered the championship round undefeated and helped paved the way to the school’s team title, edging Midland Dow, 32-28.
“They don’t know how to quit,” coach Linda Jones said of her doubles teams. “They just keep going and going and going. They’re like the Energizer Bunny. The whole purpose of our schedule this year was to set up all of these terrific matches so they would see these people in the finals and have experience against those teams.”
Northville also picked up big points when No. 3 seed Shanoli Kumari won the No. 2 singles title with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph over top-seed Jessica Brown of Dow, and top-seed Joanne Gao beat Dow’s Elaina Parrillo, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 3 singles.
“Of course I wanted win to help the team, but I wanted to be a state champ, individually,” said Gao.
Northville’s No. 1 doubles team of Anika Mukherji and Reeshma Kumar lost in the finals to Midland Dow’s Afua Ofori-darko and Kamryn Matthews, 6-2, 2-6, 2-6. However the No. 4 doubles team of Serena Wang and Molly Bis defeated Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Claire Meingast and Olivia Reyes, 6-1, 6-2.
Northville’s No. 2 doubles team of Paige Baal and Claudia Mia also picked up an important point over Dow’s Nicole Dobrzelewski and Kelly Livingston, 6-2, 6-3.
“With all of our doubles seeded No. 1, every point was important,” said Baal.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.