Girls varsity tennis improves each match and places top ten at state tournament


Sophomore Emily Johnson reached the semi-finals at 4 singles in the state tournament for the second consecutive year to help the Rangers score 9 points total and place tenth overall. Along with Emily, junior Andrea Wang at 3 singles, seniors Katie McClure and Lyndsay Werkema at 1 doubles, and senior Myah Leavenworth and junior Courtney Fox at 3 doubles all made the quarter-finals before getting knocked out of the tournament.

Playing at 1 doubles in one of the toughest flights, Katie and Lyndsay gave Forest Hills Northern a run in both of their last matches of high school.

“Playing against Northern and losing was tough,” Katie said. “I was just proud of the team, though, for getting to the state tournament. It was a cool way to end my senior year with a bunch of girls that I was really close to.”

This close bonded team she referred to was a big part of the reason for the team success not only in regionals and states but the whole year.

“The team played extremely well this year due to our close-knit team,” sophomore Olivia Hooper said. “I don’t think we would have done so well and made it to the state tournament if we weren’t this close of a team.”

While the Rangers eventually became a successful team at the end of the year, they started the season off slow with injuries plaguing a chunk of the lineup.

“We dealt with a lot of injuries,” head coach Dan Bolhouse said. “This was part of the reason for the slow start to the season.”

The team lost to Hudsonville then West Ottawa followed by finishing last in a quad at Midland Dow.

After tying for first in the Traverse City Central quad, the momentum of the season started to shift.

“I think the quad at Traverse City was huge for the team because we needed a win,” Courtney said. “After this match, we started rolling against every team basically except Northern.”

It then beat Cedar Springs 7-1 to start the conference season but lost to eventual state champion FHN. Against Ottawa Hills a day later the Rangers swept the Bengals and followed this up by playing well in Portage, Lansing, and against Troy and St. Francis.

“We just kept getting better throughout the season,” Andrea said. “By winning all of these matches and finishing second in some quads, it gave us this feeling like we can keep winning and do well at conference, regionals and make it to states.”

Before conferences started, though, the Rangers had to deal with lesser conference opponents; they beat these opponents. However, they lost to Rockford and East Grand Rapids—teams that ultimately did well at states.

In conferences, every flight made the finals but eventually all lost to FHN.

“Going into regionals we knew we needed to get at least 18 points to qualify for states,” Myah said. “We were only supposed to get 16 points so we needed some flights to pull through.”

Three flights did pull through: Emily Johnson, Andrea, and junior Mandy Ehrlich—all playing singles. They each upset EGR in the semi-finals to earn the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth points for the Rangers and move forward into the finals—all once again against FHN.

“I think the team played really well this year,” Mandy said. “Our whole team, especially our singles, pulled out tough matches when we needed them.”

“I’m extremely happy and proud of this team,” Bolhouse said. “Even making states in the region that we’re in is extremely difficult, so I’m proud of the team for stepping up when it mattered.”

The Rangers didn’t just make the state tournament because of togetherness and winning pressure matches but with energy as well.

“The energy on the team helped us get [to the state tournament] for sure and helped us do well there,” Katie said. “The highest point of the season was definitely when we qualified for states at regionals. That was just really awesome.”

At the state tournament, the Rangers were close to earning ten points overall. Emily Johnson in the semi-finals forced the two-seed at 4 singles to play well and earn her points every time. The experience she had from last year, though, played a factor in how successful she was as well.

“I was more prepared mentally this time knowing what to expect,” Emily said. “I knew every point mattered so I was never going to give up.”

She lost 6-3, 6-3, but the match was even closer than that; out of the seven deuce games in the two sets, she won just one of them. Even with her movement limited and her forehand not up to her standards due to her leg injury, she put herself into position to win and played well but couldn’t pull out some games.

“I just wanted to do my best win or lose,” Emily said. “I wanted to try my hardest every point because every point matters.”

The Rangers will not only try to mimic the season they had this year next season, but surpass it.

“I think our goals for next year will be to qualify for states again and get more flights into the second day of states,” Mandy said.

The team is in a good place to do this due to the senior captains this past season, the other seniors, and the soon to be senior captains.

“Katie and Lyndsay did a great job this year leading the team,” Bolhouse said. “Them, along with the other seniors, Myah and Emily [Benson], played well in the doubles lineups and left the juniors in a great position to be leaders next year.”

“Some of the soon to be seniors have been playing varsity tennis a long time and getting better every year,” Katie said. “I think they will be awesome next year.”

The girls varsity tennis team turned what looked to be average season into a successful season due to many elements: momentum, a close, together team and practicing hard every day. Freshman Libby Moog, sophomore Mina Seibert, junior Isabella Notarnicola also helped the team make it to states and will help the team be successful next year.

“Overall, this team is very cohesive and they’re all very close,” Bolhouse said. “They pushed each other in practice every day which ultimately made the team better as a whole and each of them better individually. I think this cohesiveness and hard work will turn over to next year with our captains, and I think it will lead the team to be successful and hopefully check off our goal to make states once again.”