March 26 • 06:24 AM

Almont, Imlay City tennis teams look to court success this spring

March 18, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — It is hard to believe it but the start of another girls' tennis season is right around the corner.

The upcoming campaign sees a pair of Tri-City teams hitting the courts. One (Almont) will look to uphold its successful tradition, while the other (Imlay City) is hopeful that this year's squad can fare even better than their predecessor did.

Here is a look at who those squads lost to graduation, their top returnees and a glimpse at how their seasons should wind up:

Almont Raiders

Coach and Assistants: Almont is coached by Mike Finton.

Top losses: Chanahl Putnam and Lindsey Yaklin, who played basketball at St. Clair County Community College this past winter, are Almont's top losses due to graduation.

A year ago, Putnam and Yaklin won league, Division 4 regional and Division 4 state titles at the number one doubles position. Those credentials enabled the duo to lock up All-State recognition at season's end.

Claire Turvill, of Almont, returns a shot during a match at the state finals last season.

Top returnees-

Suffice it to say, there is no shortage of talent in Almont's lineup this spring.

Finton says junior Bobbi Enos, who started at first singles a year ago, should be a force in the league and could also challenge for a regional title somewhere in Almont's singles lineup.

Michelle Fox, who started at second singles a year ago, is back for her junior season. She should battle for league and regional titles in the singles lineup as well.

Claire Turvill played third singles a year ago and was a state semifinalist. She is back for her senior season, working all winter in hopes of a league, regional and state title in the singles lineup somewhere.

Courtney Braun and Jaime Ligon both played fourth singles last year and should prove instrumental to Almont's success again. Braun is back for her senior season, returning from injury and looking to help the team's quest for league and regional titles. Ligon, a junior, played both fourth singles and second doubles last year, and will play somewhere in the lineup that benefits the team the most.

Seniors Christiana Simian, Kristen Brinker and Melissa Wilber all will play in the doubles lineup somewhere. Simian is returning from an injury that forced her to sit out most of last season and is looking to have a strong senior season. Brinker and Wilber will look to improve upon their success in last year's tournament.

Juniors Laurie Yaklin and Holly Hanson both played doubles last year. Sophomores Brooke Streber and Sierra Grant will look to strengthen Almont's doubles lineup.

League Tournament showing: Almont won the Blue Water Area Conference Tournament title.

Regional finish: The Raiders claimed a second at a Division 4 regional it hosted.

State Tournament showing: Almont took 10th place at the Division 4 state finals.

Lansing and Okemos is where the action unfolded.

League favorites: Finton believes Almont has a shot at winning the BWAC title again. Richmond is seen as his squad's top challenger.

Season outlook: "The outlook for this year is good as we have 10 starters returning," Almont Coach Mike Finton said. "We plan to battle for the league and regional titles," he noted.

"We have an extremely tough schedule this year, playing either duals or tournaments with 13 schools that were in last year's state tournament anywhere from Division 1 to Division 4. We play Port Huron Northern, St. Clair, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart in dual matches and we play Williamston, Flint Powers, Jackson Lumen Christi and Lansing Catholic in tournaments as well. The tough schedule will hopefully make this team tested by the end of the year trying to win a regional title against powerhouses such as Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Flint Powers and Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart (yes they are all in our regional this year)."

Imlay City Spartans

Coach and Assistants - Stephanie Cruciano is Imlay City's coach. She is assisted by Colleen Rumer.

Top losses - Laurin Blount (first singles), Krysta Wiegers (second singles), Kaydee Gudzikowski (first doubles) and Chelsea Rees (third doubles) are Imlay City's top losses due to graduation.

Top returnees - Anita Almendarez (third singles), Emily Druker (fourth singles), Becca Hibbler (first doubles), Molly McNary (second doubles), Lindsay Schaller (second doubles) along with the fourth doubles team of Chelsea Nacker and Ashley Dockham are Imlay City's top returnees.

League Tournament showing - Imlay City took sixth at the Blue Water Area Conference Tournament.

Regional finish - The Spartans tied for sixth place at a Division 4 regional hosted by Almont High School.

League favorites - Cruciano projects Almont as the likely BWAC frontrunner. She also believes Richmond and Armada could be factors.

Season outlook: "We have a good-sized turnout (22 players) for this year's team," Imlay City Coach Stephanie Cruciano commented. "How well the newcomers blend in with the returnees will go a long ways to determining what kind of season we have," she noted.

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