Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark and courtesy of Cody Liverance
When winning Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament titles is the standard, North Muskegon’s girls tennis program has every right to be picky.
The Norse weren’t perfect in Saturday’s GMAA tourney, held at Fruitport Middle School and Mona Shores High School, but they were good enough to win a third straight championship in the event.
North Muskegon totaled 47 points to edge runner-up Mona Shores, which had 45. Whitehall, Fruitport, Reeths-Puffer, Muskegon Catholic Central and Western Michigan Christian rounded out competing teams in places 3-7, respectively.
“It was a much closer day than I thought it might be going in and that’s a credit to the competitive teams there. Mona Shores played above their seeds at a few flights and made things tight for us down the stretch, but we ended up finishing higher than them at six of the eight flights, so our top-to-bottom team depth ended up pushing us over the edge,” North Muskegon coach Cody Liverance said.
“We won the key matches when we needed to and that’s a testament to our girls’ growing mentally and being able to buckle down under pressure. I’m definitely not complaining and know I speak for our girls when I say how excited we are to win this tournament, but I also know them well enough to know that they would agree with me when I say I still think we have some room to grow and we haven’t put our best tennis on display for an entire day throughout our lineup yet this season.”
Champions for North Muskegon included Fia Lindsey at No. 3 singles and Francine Vinson at No. 4 singles, as well as Ella Tarrant and Anna Toebe at No. 2 doubles.
Runners-up for the Norse included Noa Bowen (No. 1 singles) and Gabby Gaston (No. 2 singles).
Whitehall’s No. 1 doubles team of Mylee Boyd and Chloe Christensen took home the title at their flight. Runners-up for the Vikings included Brianna Bentz and Elizabeth Bentz at No. 3 doubles and Addy Bernhardt and Grace McDowell at No. 4 doubles.
“I’m really excited for our three seniors (Bowen, Gaston and Natalie Lorenz), who have been members of all of those (three straight GMAA title teams),” Liverance said. “I know the day didn’t end the way any of them wanted individually, but they are the most experienced members of our team and I think we were able to lean on them when we needed to because of that.
“Of course, Fia and Fran did a great job of holding their seeds with a target on their back and playing well while weathering the storm of charging Mona Shores. All of our singles girls have played really well this year and these two sometimes get lost in the shuffle being lower in the lineup, so it was great to see them have a good day and get some recognition for it.”
Fruitport’s Hope Busscher captured the No. 1 singles title over Bowen, 6-2, 6-3. Fruitport’s Grace Sweet defeated Gaston in the No. 2 singles final, also by a score of 6-2, 6-3.
Lindsay defeated Mona Shores’ Ella Wasserman in the No. 3 singles final, 7-5, 6-1. Vinson beat Mona Shores’ Samantha Simonelli for the No. 4 singles title, 6-3, 6-4.
North Muskegon is 10-0-2 overall in dual meets this season. The Norse won the Coastal Conference regular-season title and look to capture the league’s tourney championship next Saturday at Whitehall.
“We are currently ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 4 and are in a very tough regional hosted by Grand Rapids Northpointe Christian in a couple weeks that we will have to play our best at in order to advance to the state finals,” Liverance said.
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