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Postseason honors roll in for North Muskegon girls tennis coach, players

Cody Liverance named Division 4 Coach of the Year; North Muskegon, Whitehall players earn all-state accolades.

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

North Muskegon’s climb and consistency as a girls tennis program is not lost on the Norse’s counterparts.

The accolades are coming North Muskegon’s way after a third-straight top five finish at the Division 4 state finals.

Cody Liverance was named Division 4 Coach of the Year by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association. Meanwhile, four Norse players earned all-state honors: Senior Noa Bowen received first team, while senior Gabby Gaston and the doubles tandem of sophomore Marilyn Gaston and senior Natalie Lorenz were all named second team.

Liverance also earned Division 4 Coach of the Year honors with the North Muskegon boys team in 2020.

“Ultimately, it’s a testament to our girls and their support systems both on and off the court,” said Liverance, whose team was ranked fourth in the state this season and tied for fourth at the state finals June 3-4. “If the girls weren’t as talented as they are, something like this probably wouldn’t happen for a coach like me. They really do the heavy lifting by putting the work in and make me look pretty good.

“Our parents in our program deserve a huge piece of recognition for this award, too. Without all their help with the girls and making sure they have the things they need to be successful at all times, my job would be exponentially harder if not outright impossible. Lastly, all of those that have helped assist me this year and in the past have had a part in this as well.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Liverance tipped his cap to assistant coaches Brad Coon, Wayne Brenneman and Chris Nance, who all helped the Norse throughout the season and contributed in many ways. He also gave a shout-out to North Muskegon’s middle-school coach, Christine Koman, as well as to alumni of the program who have remained involved.

North Muskegon won Coastal Conference, Greater Muskegon Athletic Association and regional championships this season. The Norse finished with a 14-1-2 dual-meet record.

“I’m proud of the culture we’ve built in our program and hope that all of our kids, both current and alumni, feel like they’re part of this little family we’ve built in my time coaching,” said Liverance, a proud North Muskegon alumnus, who completed his sixth season leading the Norse’s girls tennis program.

Bowen sported a 21-7 record at No. 1 singles this season. She was a conference champ, GMAA runner-up, regional runner-up and state quarterfinalist.

Gabby Gaston finished 25-4 at No. 2 singles this spring. She was a conference and regional champ, GMAA runner-up and state semifinalist.

Marilyn Gaston and Lorenz ended with a 19-7 record at No. 1 singles.

“I’m really happy for all three of our seniors who have played their entire high school career getting the recognition they deserve for being some of the best players in the state,” Liverance said. “All three of them have put in countless hours of work both during and out of the season and that’s what it takes to be recognized as an all-state player.

“They’re all leaders for our team in their own way and hopefully this recognition gives the girls behind them a bit of a blueprint for what it takes to be known as one of the best in the state.”

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)

Liverance said Lorenz was “so excited” when she learned Tuesday morning that she had received all-state honors, as tennis hasn’t always been easy or fun for her but she kept pushing forward.

Marilyn Gaston added the all-state honor to the state championship she won at No. 4 doubles in 2021. Liverance believes that she is just scratching the surface in terms of her talent and potential.

Liverance is as humble as one can be, but he’s poured his heart into the tennis programs at North Muskegon as well as in the school.

“It’s a great honor to be thought of in such high regard by some of the most successful coaches and tennis people in the state. I’ve put in a lot of my time, effort, and energy into our program since I took over in 2016 and it’s refreshing to see that others outside of our little bubble notice that,” he said.

“I know that there are many better coaches at the game of tennis out there than me, but I’m proud of my ability to help teach the game to a bunch of kids who I know and love while focusing on them as people first and players second. A lot of the best teams in the state have a teaching pro as their head coach and only tennis players on their team so to think that we’re able to achieve these levels of success with a bunch of multi-sport athletes and a middle and high school social studies teacher who moonlights as a tennis coach is pretty remarkable.”

WHITEHALL DUO EARNS ALL-STATE

Whitehall seniors Chloe Christensen and Mylee Boyd received Division 3 all-state honorable mention after a strong season at No. 1 doubles. The tandem finished with an 18-7 record. They were GMAA champions, regional finalists and second-team all-conference.

Last year, Christensen and Boyd went 21-7 at No. 2 doubles.

“Chloe and Mylee were better together as a doubles team than they were singles players,” Whitehall coach Greg McManus said. “They played second doubles last year and moved up to first doubles this year.

“They were not flashy players with hard shots, but they were very competitive and played best when frustrating their opponents with consistency.”

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