For Marc Sable, it has been three years of watching Birmingham Detroit Country Day dominate his Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook tennis team and walk away with the Division 3 state title with the Cranes left wondering when their time would come.
“We had never beaten them more than one time in any of our head-to-head matches,” said the senior No. 1 singles player for Cranbrook.
All that might change Saturday in the Division 3 final at Holland.
Country Day is the four-time defending state champion. Cranbook has a history of titles, but hasn’t broken through since Sable was in the seventh grade.
However, host Cranbrook bested the Yellowjackets, 31-25, in last week’s regional, winning every singles and doubles flight — except at No. 4 singles, where Country Day’s Alex Mettler beat Justin Luo.
“I think this is great for tennis,” said Cranbrook coach Jeffrey Etterbeek. “DCDS has been an overpowering team. This year it’s competitive between us, and Holland Christian has a great team also.”
But the Division 3 state final should shape up to be Cranbrook and County Day battling for the top spot.
“They’ve owned us this year,” admitted Country Day coach Tom Ellis. “They returned all their doubles teams pretty much and we graduated a lot. We’ll be there in the finals with them. We’re going to show up. … We’ve got a lot of players coming back next year so they better get us this year.”
The Yellowjackets drive for five may be stalled if Cranbrook played the way it did Saturday on their home courts.
“We’ve got to break through at more than just four singles,” said Ellis. “We played the next best team, which is Holland Christian. They are solid at one, two and three singles. We played them in an Allegan tournament and we won.”
Country Day lost seven of 12 players from last year’s championship team.
Conversely, the Cranes have eight seniors — and Etterbeek made them all captains.
“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “I had a dilemma this year. They all deserved it. Because they’re such a close-knit group on and off the court, they all push each other’s buttons. I think that’s what made this team a lot of fun to coach. They all bring it every day and if someone doesn’t bring it there’s a senior to get them going. That’s why I love this team.”
Sable is backed up by sophomore Benji Jacobson at two singles; Michael Bian at three singles and Luo at four singles.
No. 1 doubles is Nolan Trepeck and Matthew Gerard; two doubles is Chase Ghesquiere and Steven Meng; Brandon Karr and Colin Petzold are at three doubles while Andrew Du and Jacob Yellen are four doubles.
Sable has come a long way after taking his lumps as a freshman.
“I wouldn’t say he was terrible, but he was a mediocre player,” said Etterbeek. “He made a decision to go into tennis. He went out and played tournaments and got beat, badly at times. He kept a great attitude and persevered through it all. It just shows you what hard work and putting your ego out there can do. He really was, as a freshman, a good player, but certainly not like he is now.
“Today I’d say he’s one of the best high school players out there in all divisions.”
Ellis said that about the entire Cranes team.
“They are the best team in the state,” he said.
But that won’t keep the Yellowjackets from going all out for the title.
“We’re doing some things different this week,” said Ellis. “One of our doubles players also plays soccer, but it’s strictly tennis this week.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.