Traverse City St. Francis wins 6th straight LMC tennis crown; Elk Rapids' Johnstone stays perfect on season

May 23—TRAVERSE CITY — Ayva Johnstone takes an undefeated record and two titles into the state finals where she'll be looking for a third.

The Elk Rapids senior is seeded No. 1 going into the Division 4 state finals May 31-June 1 in Ann Arbor, and she sure looked the part Thursday as she won both her matches decidedly to take her third Lake Michigan Conference championship.

Johnstone won her matches 6-0, 6-0 and 6-2, 6-0 in Thursday's Lake Michigan Conference girls tennis championships at the Bandrowski Family Tennis Center at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School in Traverse City.

"She has been a rockstar," Elks head coach Keith Schulte said. "She's fully committed to becoming the best person and the best tennis player that she can possibly be."

The Ferris State commit is a perfect 25-0 this season, including six wins over state qualifiers from a year ago and victories against Traverse City Central, TC West and Ann Arbor Greenhills.

Division 4 No. 3-ranked St. Francis captured the team title for a sixth consecutive season, scoring 21 points to 13 for a shorthanded No. 5-ranked Elks squad missing its normal No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles flights.

"As long as I've been coaching, we've won the conference," St. Francis head coach Dane Fosgard said. "But I don't take that for granted. Every one counts."

The Elks' No. 1 doubles team of Caroline Best and Chloe Taylor knocked off Harbor Springs' tandem in the finals to secure second place outright after the Rams' duo of juniors Charlotte Westbrook and Elliott Baetens upset second-seeded St. Francis in the semifinals. Taylor and Best have won 16 of their last 18 matches, including taking last week's regional title in addition to the LMC crown Thursday.

Harbor took third with 11 points, with Charlevoix, East Jordan and Boyne City all scoring three points and Grayling two.

"The depth of the team really showed today," Fosgard said. "There's a few teams that were a little bit shorthanded today, but our girls have been very reliable all season. We have a team that sticks together, and we've just had a full, deep lineup, and everyone's always ready to play."

The Gladiators are seeded in seven flights at states.

"That puts us in a pretty good position to earn a lot of points," Fosgard said. "We're hoping for top three."

Harbor Springs' Gabby Cesario and Sloan Hayes won No. 2 doubles to improve to 13-4 as a duo.

They posted a 6-2, 6-2 win over St. Francis' Elly March and Caroline Knox in the finals.

Every other flight went to either St. Francis or Elk Rapids.

St. Francis freshman Elliana McClellan breezed through at No. 2 singles, winning 6-0, 6-1 and then 6-0, 6-0 in the finals to improve to 21-6 this season, winning her last 12 matches.

Gladiator sophomore Abby Corpus took No. 3 singles with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Elk Rapids senior Morgan Bergquist, who was responsible for two of Corpus' six losses this season. Corpus goes into the state finals 19-6 and seeded third. Bergquist (16-5) is the sixth seed.

St. Francis senior Ava Pomaranski moved her record to 25-1 this season at No. 4 singles with 6-0, 6-0 and 6-3, 6-1 wins Thursday, going into the state finals seeded second.

It's Johnstone's fourth win over TCSF's Ansley (18-9), even though the sophomore pushed her to 7-5 in the second set of their last meeting.

"It's usually pretty close," Johnstone said. "Today, I just kind of figured it out. I'm off from school, so I got to practice a lot more this week. That really helped. It definitely boosts my confidence. I was definitely really proud of my shots, and I just executed the plays really well compared to the other matches."

Johnstone has won three LMC titles and three regional crowns at No. 1 singles. Now she's aiming for a state championship after falling in a three-set match in last year's quarterfinals.

"This has been my goal all season, all four years of high school, really," Johnstone said. "I'm pumped. I'm working hard towards it and I want to win it. I'm working really hard every day, so I have my eye on the goal, and I'm not going to get distracted."

TCSF's Katrina Lee and Grace Mason moved their record to 18-10 to win a No. 3 doubles title that included a 6-3, 6-4 semifinal win and a 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory against Grayling's Brooklynn Laskowski and Aryanna Florschuetz (11-6) in the finals.

St. Francis juniors Lizzie Frederick and Anna Cate Maday won No. 4 doubles 7-5, 6-1 over Elk Rapids and are 20-7 heading into the finals as the No. 5 seed.

The Elks' Olivia Cargill and Lily Heinzelman advanced to the finals as the third seed by beating a Harbor Springs tandem that won in their previous two meetings this season.

"Proud of how the girls played today," Schulte said. "We did some really good things and played even a little bit better than last week at regionals. Not disappointed with the results at all. We're playing the game the right way, and you know they showed up and battled. All we ask is no free points and make sure that they earn it — and if they do, tip your hat and move forward."

Elk Rapids expects No. 2 singles player Anneka Croftchik and No. 2 doubles sister tandem of Jaida and Brynne Schulte to be back for the state finals after each flight injury defaulted in the regional finals.

"We have a great team of ladies. We've worked really hard for this," Johnstone said. "I'm glad to be able to say we went to state all four years of my high school career, and hopefully we keep going when I leave and when others leave. We've been building here in northern Michigan."

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