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‘Best tennis’ of season helps North Muskegon girls capture third straight regional title

Whitehall also advances to June 3-4 state finals with top-two finish at its regional.

North Muskegon’s girls tennis team poses with a Division 4 regional trophy after winning the championship Friday, May 20, 2022, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Courtesy of Heather Gaston)

North Muskegon’s girls tennis team waited for the right time to play its best tennis of the season.

The Norse used a complete team effort Friday in Grand Rapids to pull out a championship in what coach Cody Liverance believes is the toughest Division 4 regional in the state. It’s their third straight regional title.

North Muskegon, which is ranked fourth in the state, advances to the June 3-4 state finals in the Ann Arbor area.

On Friday, the Norse totaled 22 points to edge runner-up Grand Rapids Catholic Central by one point. The top two teams plus any squad with 18 or more points qualifies for the state finals. Grand Rapids West Catholic placed third in the regional with 18 points.

North Muskegon’s Gabby Gaston and Fia Lindsay earned individual regional titles at Nos. 2 and 3 singles to lead their team. Noa Bowen at No. 1 singles and Francine Vinson at No. 4 singles were runners-up.

“This was an outstanding day for our girls and our program. We finally put our best tennis together top to bottom on the same day and were just able to squeak by for the team title,” Liverance said. “I have to focus on the word ‘team’ because it was a total team effort to get us to that point. 

“Every flight of ours won their first match today and we needed every single point when it was all said and done. I was very proud of all the girls doing their part of the ‘group project,’ as we called it and earning points toward our team total. We actually played above our expected point total and that wouldn’t have happened without all twelve girls doing their part.”

North Muskegon tennis coach Cody Liverance poses for a portrait during practice Thursday, May 19, 2022, in North Muskegon, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

As has been the case all season, North Muskegon’s singles players carried the load for the Norse in accumulating 14 of their 22 total points.

Liverance said the key matches for his team were in the Nos. 2 and 3 singles championships. Both Gaston and Lindsay played GRCC opponents and needed to win in order for the Norse to come out on top as a team.

“Had either of them lost, the point totals between us and GRCC would’ve flipped and they would’ve won the outright team title,” Liverance said. “Both girls displayed an immense amount of mental and physical toughness, as both girls ended up winning their matches by outlasting their opponents in three sets. 

“Gabby did so against a girl who had beaten her pretty handily earlier in the season and Fia wasn’t feeling the greatest when she showed up to play today, but they both buckled down when they needed to in order to finish the deal for themselves and our team.”

Earlier this season, North Muskegon captured Greater Muskegon Athletic Association and Coastal Conference titles.

Now, the Norse shift their focus to achieving a third straight top-five finish at the state finals.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them and our entire team for their never-say-die approach to the game today and throughout the season,” Liverance said. “It was a great day for our program, school, and community, and I hope our girls feel the love they deserve from achieving such an impressive goal.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

WHITEHALL EARNS STATE FINALS BERTH

Whitehall’s girls tennis team punched its ticket to the June 3-4 state finals in the Midland area with a top-two finish at regional competition Friday in Holland.

Whitehall tied Ludington with nine points as both teams edged Fruitport (8). Host Holland Christian ran away with the regional title by scoring 19 points.

All four doubles teams for Whitehall advanced to regional championship matches. Elizabeth Bentz and Brianna Bentz teamed to win the No. 3 doubles title. Chloe Christensen and Mylee Boyd at No. 1 doubles, Lacey Herbert and Autumn Ferris at No. 2 doubles, and Addy Bernhardt and Grace McDowell at No. 4 doubles all finished runners-up for the Vikings.

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