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 Members of the Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart girls tennis team are pictured May 17 after winning a Division 4 regional tournament at home. The Gazelles qualified for the state finals May 31-June 1 at Kalamazoo College.

Members of the Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart girls tennis team are pictured May 17 after winning a Division 4 regional tournament at home. The Gazelles qualified for the state finals May 31-June 1 at Kalamazoo College.

Photo provided by Jim Slaughter

Sacred Heart tennis back in a familiar place

By: Jacob Herbert | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 24, 2019


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart girls tennis team has won the Division 4 state championship in five out of the last seven years, including last season. The Gazelles won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, and again in 2015 and 2016.

By taking first place in a regional tournament May 17, Sacred Heart will again have the chance to defend its title May 31-June 1 at Kalamazoo College.

“I just saw everyone working hard and playing their heart out,” senior Elizabeth Etterbeek said about her team’s regional performance. “Even if people lost their matches, they did the best that they could. That was the best I’ve seen everyone play.”

Sacred Heart did the majority of its damage at regionals in doubles.

The No. 1 doubles pairing of Annie Keating and Reagan Beatty, No. 2 doubles Nolwenn Crosnier and Marisa Nafso, No. 3 doubles Serena Seneker and Kate Myers, and No. 4 doubles Cate Blumberg and Hannah Kakos won their respective flights, giving the team 16 of the 18 points needed to qualify for states.

Seneker pointed out that a big reason for the team’s success this season is due to the coaches putting players in the right spots. The lineup is balanced from top to bottom, which more easily allows the team to score points.

“I think what’s special is the depth of our team; the best players aren’t necessarily No. 1 doubles,” the senior said. “Our coaches have done a really nice job of stacking our team and really balancing our strengths and weaknesses. We’ve been able to really connect with our partners; our chemistry has been really good.”

Co-coach Jim Slaughter said Keating set the tone for the doubles flights during the regional tournament. As the top doubles pairing, she played a part in only dropping one set the entire flight.

“The key to our success is doubles,” Slaughter said. “I’ve always said singles win matches, but doubles win championships. Everybody has a good (No. 1) singles, but if you can be deep and really dominate in doubles, that’s four flights and you just have to get one more flight somewhere and be a solid team.”

The singles flights ran into a tough opponent in each final match. Just as Sacred Heart was dominant in doubles, Clarkston Everest Collegiate took that same role in the singles flights. No. 1 singles Etterbeek, No. 2 singles Isabelle Burg and No. 3 singles Sofia Eddy all fell to tough Mountaineer competition.

There was one singles player able to break through, however. No. 4 singles Alexis Harman topped her counterpart from Everest 6-0, 6-4.

Unable to crack the starting lineup as a freshman, Harman put in the work this offseason and earned her way into a starting role. She started off in doubles, but has since moved on to play a prominent role as a singles player.

“There’s probably about five or six girls on the team that are very equal. She nudged her way in there and found a spot,” Slaughter said of Harman. “We started her at doubles, but since moving to singles she’s won some key matches.”

With another regional title trophy in the trophy case, the Gazelles now look to capture yet another state title. Across the board, the team is confident that it has what it takes to get the job done.

This confidence stems from the selflessness of the players, who are willing to play at any position for the betterment of the team. It also comes from the coaches, who have strategically put the puzzle pieces together to give their team the best shot to win.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how much work the players are willing to put in. And this coaching staff has seen no signs of the team slowing down.

“If our girls continue to have the heart that they have, play the way that they’ve been playing and put the work in, I think we can be successful,” Slaughter said.