Stallions tennis back on top in MAC Gold

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 17, 2024

  Sterling Heights senior Khyra Kimble serves during a team practice.

Sterling Heights senior Khyra Kimble serves during a team practice.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


STERLING HEIGHTS — It’s been a long time coming for Sterling Heights girls tennis, but they’re back on top in the Macomb Area Conference Gold.

The Stallions, for the most part, have always been a threat in the MAC Gold over the past decade, but they have never been able to separate themselves from the pack.

There were moments of shared dual-meet championships, but for the first time since 2011, Sterling Heights is standing alone at the top of the league.

Going 3-0-2 in the league and finishing nine points ahead of Utica High School in the divisional meet, Sterling Heights earned a clean sweep of its conference rivals with the dual-meet and divisional meet championship.

The Stallions tied with St. Clair Shores Lakeview High School for the dual-meet title last year but fell to Lakeview in the divisional meet.

“We did really well last year,” Sterling Heights head coach Katie Kennedy said. “We won a lot of great matches, and I think it’s just that experience of going from one year to the next and the consistency of our lineup.”

More impressively, Kennedy was without her No. 1 singles player, senior Khyra Kimble, for the majority of the season.

Kimble was sidelined after having knee surgery, but returned the first week of May in efforts to help her team at the MAC Gold meet.

Tough as nails when it comes to being a competitor on the court, Kimble’s resiliency to return to the court spoke volumes to coach Kennedy and the rest of the team.

Kimble said she was nervous at first making the transition back, but seeing her teammates compete from the sidelines gave her a different outlook.

“I did gain a different perspective, and it made me see how easily you can see things that you don’t notice when you’re playing, yourself,” Kimble said.

Alongside Kimble, senior Julia Griest (No. 2 singles), junior Tanaysha Stamps (No. 3 singles), and junior Thao Nguyen (No. 4 singles) rounded out the singles flights.

Stamps and Nguyen both earned a league title in their respective flights, and both will headline the returning 2025 core for the Stallions.

Stamps, who went 10-1 this year, and Nguyen both saw significant improvements from their 2023 season, and Nguyen said trusting in her game more was the difference.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot by learning and taking advantage of what I can do best instead of focusing on trying to achieve difficult tricks that just seem cool,” Nguyen said. “As I’ve played singles for two years now, my first year consisted a lot of just trying to keep the ball in. Now that I’m in my second year, I’ve come to realize the advantages I have, especially as a left-handed player. For example, I started adopting a slice serve in my matches this year because it’s easier for left-handed players and trickier to receive.”

On the doubles side, junior Mirela Rovcanin and sophomore Lonna Phillips anchored doubles flight 1, sophomore Megan Xie and sophomore Tyresha Baetiong doubles flight 2, senior Jasmine Abuel and junior Pham Agar doubles 3, and senior Ujvesa Blakaj and senior Sama Khalid doubles flight 4 —  all consistent contributors for the Stallions.

Sterling Heights ended its season May 15 in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 Regional 13 Championship at Grosse Pointe North High School.

Against all odds and a region loaded with talent, Sterling Heights finished fifth in a field of 10 teams.

While the team is graduating a core group of seniors in the starting lineup this year, the sophomores and juniors are ready to take the next step with another year under their belt and to continue the success the Sterling Heights tennis program has achieved.

“It feels great to hold the title of league champions, especially two years in a row,” Nguyen said. “I hold a lot of pride knowing that not only the Sterling Heights tennis community, including our players, coaches and families, are getting the recognition they deserve for all their hard work and dedication that they’ve devoted to this sport, but recognition to the Sterling Heights athletics program overall as well.”