Utica Eisenhower girls tennis took state runner-up in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state finals June 1 at Greater Midland Tennis Center in Midland.

Utica Eisenhower girls tennis took state runner-up in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state finals June 1 at Greater Midland Tennis Center in Midland.

Photo provided by Eisenhower Athletics

Eagles girls tennis soars to highest finish in school history at D1 state finals

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Shelby-Utica News | Published June 14, 2024


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Utica Eisenhower girls tennis could have done a lot of things after setting the school record for the highest finish at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state finals meet last year, so the team chose to double down.

Jumping five spots from their seventh place finish in 2023, Eisenhower finished state runner-up on June 1 at Greater Midland Tennis Center in Midland.

Sophomore Gabriella Sadowski, who battled a tendonitis issue in her left wrist this season, cruised through the singles flight No. 1 bracket to take on Rochester Adams junior Nicole Fu, whom Sadowski is all too familiar with.

“Nicole (Fu) and I are very good friends,” Sadowski said. “She is an extremely talented player and I feel blessed to be able to hit with someone as good as her as regularly as we do. Because we play all the time, I know what her game is like and she knows what mine is, so there weren’t many surprises. It was just a matter of who was going to play better that day.”

Sadowski, who was named Macomb County MVP for girls tennis, won the state championship in three sets, putting a stamp on her sensational sophomore campaign that included a 15-0 record and another addition to her high school career, which currently includes a 42-1 career record so far.

Eisenhower coach Michael Pearson said Sadowski is a student of the game and has a bright future ahead of her because of her work ethic.

“She’s been playing since she was 4 years old,” Pearson said. “Nick (Sadowski) has pictures of her at Peachtree (Tennis Club) holding a racket where she was hitting the foam balls. She just works her butt off. Ever since she’s been able to hit, she’s been playing people older than her. Ever since she’s been in the fifth or sixth grade, Nick’s had her playing college-level players in some of the tournaments.”

On the doubles side, senior Brooke Nicholson was looking to end her final year on a high note after anchoring Eisenhower tennis for four years.

A four-time all-state selection, four-time Macomb County Dream Team, and three-time team captain, Nicholson’s 110 career wins set a new school record, but she wasn’t done there.

Teaming up with sophomore Alexis Gabriel in doubles flight No. 1, Nicholson and Gabriel, who were named all-county Dream Team this year, became the first doubles squad to win a state championship in school history, holding the top seed and delivering throughout the entire tournament.

“I created this goal after finishing in the quarterfinals my junior year at states, because I knew we could work to finish at the top,” Nicholson said. “Achieving this position to close out my senior season made it more special than I could have imagined. I am so proud of the work Alexis and I put in to accomplish this achievement of being state champions.”

The duo went 32-2 on the season, a school record, and were undefeated against Division 1 opponents.

Nicholson is the youngest of three Nicholson sisters who all played tennis for Eisenhower, and Nicholson said her sisters were role models for her tennis career.

“They taught me the importance of good sportsmanship, hard work and determination to reach my goals. My sisters helped me set my goals for my tennis career and led me on the path to achieve them,” Nicholson said.

All eight flights scored for Eisenhower for the first time in school history, with junior Annabelle Murphy (singles 4) and sophomores Sofia Gardner and Lauren Volaric (doubles 3) all-county first team selections, reaching round three (top eight) while junior Jillian Rodzik and sophomore Addison Virga (doubles 2), all-county Dream Team selections, and freshmen Kara Lu and Maria Khami (doubles 4) made it to the semifinals.

Other key contributors for Eisenhower, who won the Macomb Area Conference Red for the second straight season, were freshman Mia Miller (singles 2), an all-county first team selection, junior Alayna Aamodt (singles 3), an all-county honorable mention, and junior Madison Emerick.

Eisenhower head coaches Pearson and Kevin Donahue were Macomb County co-coaches of the year alongside Macomb Dakota head coach Hayden Carey. Eisenhower was also crowned regional champions.

With so many accomplishments this season, Sadowski said this year is only a building block for the team moving forward.

“I think we’re all proud of what we did this year as a team, but there’s still room for improvement,” Sadowski said. “We’re going to dedicate ourselves to more time on the court in the offseason and also focus on building our chemistry with one another.”