MIDLAND – The cancellation of last season due to COVID-19 didn’t affect Abby Siminski in the same way it affected her classmates in the Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern girls tennis program, because she hadn’t planned on playing high school tennis in 2020.
But that hardly means it was lost on her and her current Huskies teammates that they were back playing for a championship Saturday at Midland Tennis Center.
Forest Hills Northern had a participant in every championship match and ran away with the team title, scoring 39 points by winning seven of eight flights. Bloomfield Hills Marian finished second with 25 points, one more than Birmingham Groves.
“It was sad for all of them (2020 seniors) because everything got cut short,’’ said Siminski. “Especially for the captains. I felt really bad for them. It’s a huge deal for us to be out here today and have someone in every flight. We’re just happy to be playing.’’
Before last year’s cancellation, Northern had won outright team titles in 2019, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003 and 2002, and tied for first in 2014.
“It was tough not being able to play last season,” said longtime Huskies coach Dave Sukup. “We had three seniors on last year’s team that couldn’t finish their careers. We have four seniors on this year’s team. This is an experienced, talented group. This is one of the most talented groups we’ve had. It’s never over until the finals, but we got everyone through.’’
Alexis Pena, the team’s No. 3 singles standout, said current team members still keep in touch with the seniors from last year.
“It was really hard last year because we got through the hard part,’’ said Pena. “We got through tryouts, waking up at 5 in the morning. Then we got a couple practices in. It was really hard on the team because we didn’t know if we were going to keep going or not. We tried our best to go out and play whenever we could and keep conditioning.
“I think this year we did a really good job of coming back as a team and playing well. The seniors last year come out and watch us play, so we’re playing for the seniors last year and the seniors this year.’’
The Huskies lapped the field this weekend. Northern went into the semifinals with a two-point lead over Groves and a three-point lead over Marian.
Northern’s first champ was crowned at No. 3 doubles, as Tanishka Shenoy and Maya Echtinaw won when their opponents retired due to injury.
The Ws kept flowing.
Isabella Paul won No. 2 singles over Deshanaa Betala of Portage Central, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
“I played her during the season, so I knew it was going to be tough,’’ said Paul, who won the No. 3 singles flight in 2019.
“It was tough not playing last season, but it may have been a blessing in disguise for me because I broke my foot. Winning this year was equally as exciting as it was in 2019.’’
Pena won No. 3 singles with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Anna Dinsmore of Portage Central. Siminski defeated Groves’ Sullivan Patel 6-0, 6-2, to claim the championship at No. 1 singles; Siminski had finished runner-up at No. 1 in 2019.
Marian’s Lily Low ended Northern’s flight title run with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over the Huskies’ Nathalie Lanne. But Northern’s No. 4 doubles team of Marion Haviland and Megan Broughal downed Marian’s Marcella Zarouk and Meghan Sharkey 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) to claim that flight.
Northern’s seventh flight championship came from Sophie Richards and Rhea Marwaha at No. 1 doubles. They defeated Makenna Crandell and Taylor Humphrey of Byron Center, 6-3, 6-2, in that final.
PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Abby Siminski returns a shot during Friday’s No. 1 singles play in Division 2. (Middle) Marian’s Gaby Gryzenia returns a volley during a No. 1 singles match. (Below) The Huskies’ Sophie Richards (left) and Rhea Marwaha await a serve at No. 1 doubles. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)