Grosse Pointe South No. 3 singles player Gigi Bonnell goes to hit the ball during her match against Bloomfield Hills High May 2. Bonnell won her match 6-2, 6-3.

Grosse Pointe South No. 3 singles player Gigi Bonnell goes to hit the ball during her match against Bloomfield Hills High May 2. Bonnell won her match 6-2, 6-3.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Grosse Pointe South girls tennis staying humble with success

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 7, 2019


GROSSE POINTES –– After knocking off No. 2-ranked Bloomfield Hills High last week, you’d think the Grosse Pointe South girls tennis team would be boastful and looking toward a state championship.

But while winning a Division 1 state title may be the ultimate goal, the Blue Devils aren’t getting ahead of themselves. From day one, they’ve had a next-matchup mentality.  

Overall, that strategy has been working, as the Blue Devils were 13-0-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the state in the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association poll at press time. South also claimed the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title.

“You can’t look to the future. You can only deal with what you got to deal with — the next match,” coach Mark Sobieralski said. “It’s sounds like an old cliché, but if your kids start looking ahead, you’re just going to get in trouble. The big thing I try to tell the kids, ‘Let the other teams play Grosse Pointe South. We just play the tennis ball, and that’s all we can control.’”

Outside of the talent South has, mental toughness has been guiding the Blue Devils throughout the season. With multiple matches against top-ranked opponents, things aren’t always going to be positive.

The team’s mental toughness is something that has impressed Sobieralski thus far, and it’s an aspect of the game he feels is very important.

“It’s a frustrating sport,” Sobieralski said. “How many sports do you play where if you make a bunch of mistakes, you stay in the game? If you’re striking out every time, they might pinch hit for you. If you’re throwing the ball away in basketball, they’ll pull you out and put someone else in for a few minutes or something. But here, you have to finish the match once you start it.

“You can win like 52% of the points and still win like 6-3. So that means you’re going to lose maybe 48% of the points, and you can still win 6-3 in a set. It’s a crazy sport.”

For Sobieralski and the Blue Devils, perhaps the biggest reason for their success is team chemistry. Everyone is willing to help each other get better and is always rooting for one another.

They also play together in the offseason and hang out outside of tennis, which has helped them come together during the season.

“When we go to other matches, I really try to get the girls to all cheer for each other and just have a really good attitude when they play on the court,” senior Laurel Sullivan said. “And during practice, we try to play games and have bonding activities and just, overall, hang out with each other.”

Tennis regionals are set to begin May 16, and South has a rich tradition in the state playoffs. Since 1976, the Blue Devils have won 14 Class A/D-1 state championships, with the most recent coming in 2014.

Last season, the Blue Devils finished fourth behind Northville High, Midland Dow and Bloomfield Hills High. Since South’s last title, it’s been Midland Dow or Northville taking the top spot each season.

With that being said, the Blue Devils have been doing whatever it takes to be successful. Whether it’s hitting extra balls or working on technique, the girls are motivated to get better and play to the best of their ability.

“We have high standards when we go to states, and we love to play really hard at regionals,” senior Alex Walz said. “Just to be able to compete with these teams is really amazing, and we’ve had some really great girls.”