Reunion of champions

South girls tennis to be recognized for 11 consecutive state titles

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 18, 2018

 Pictured are team members from Grosse Pointe South’s 1984 girls tennis team. South won 11 consecutive Class A state championships from 1976 to 1986, and that accomplishment will be recognized prior to the school’s homecoming football game Sept. 28.

Pictured are team members from Grosse Pointe South’s 1984 girls tennis team. South won 11 consecutive Class A state championships from 1976 to 1986, and that accomplishment will be recognized prior to the school’s homecoming football game Sept. 28.

Photo provided by Courtenay Kotas

GROSSE POINTES — Earlier this year, 1986 Grosse Pointe South graduate Courtenay Kotas had one of those “crazy ideas.”

Kotas played girls tennis for South during an era in which the program was dominant in the state.

Every year from 1976 to 1986, which covered 11 seasons, South won a Class A state championship.

“I don’t know what hit me one day, where I thought, ‘I wonder if we still hold the longest streak?,’” Kotas said.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association confirmed that not only is it a state record for tennis, but it’s also a record for every Class A/Division 1 girls sport in the state.

South’s accomplishments will be recognized prior to the school’s homecoming football game against New Baltimore Anchor Bay Sept. 28. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Approximately 17 players from that era of South tennis are expected to be on hand.

Prior to the on-field recognition, the former players will be at a ceremony at 4:45 p.m. at Cleminson Hall at South and then will be part of a parade at 6 p.m.

“The girls are very excited,” Kotas said. “I have girls coming in from multiple parts of the country. … They’re very, very happy that the school is (going to) do this.”

Lee Robinson Moore, who graduated from South in 1980 and currently resides in Florida, was also part of the program’s streak. She commended Kotas for her efforts.

“The celebration is (going to) be incredible,” Moore said. “Winning the states at the highest level, 11 years in a row, that’s pretty cool. … I’m so, so grateful to Courtenay for going back and looking into this, because this kind (of) stuff’s a big deal.”

From Kotas’ perspective, that era of American tennis was a very unique time. She said tennis was huge and “very, very popular,” with players such as Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Tracy Austin capturing people’s attention.

On the men’s side, players like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe reached a high level of popularity.

While that may have helped lead to an interest in the sport, girls who played for South did more than just watch tennis stars on TV.

“Many of these girls played 12 months of the year to become an accomplished tennis player, so they were practicing, playing, traveling and playing tournaments throughout Michigan, the Midwest (and) the United States,” Kotas said. “That’s why many of them, including myself, went on to get tennis scholarships and play Division I. … They didn’t look at it as a two- or three-month sport, they played 12 months a year to get their game where they needed to be at.”

Nancy Wright Maxwell, who graduated from South in 1982 after being part of four state championship teams, recalled what the atmosphere was like surrounding tennis in that era.

“Tennis was so huge in Grosse Pointe at that time,” Maxwell said. “It was really a big time in tennis in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Stephanie Prychitko was South’s coach during the program’s consecutive state title streak. She has since died, and Moore shared some recollections about her former coach.

“Coach ‘P,’ she was amazing,” Moore said. “There wasn’t enough that she could do for any one of us. … Coach ‘P’ told us, ‘There’s nothing you can’t do.’ … That should be the theme that any coach gives you when you give them your all.”

Come Sept. 28, it’ll be a chance for champions to reunite, and for Kotas to see the fruition of all her efforts.

“Many of us haven’t seen each other since we graduated from high school,” Kotas said. “I’m excited, and I know the gals are.”