BOYS TENNIS: All the racquet: Ortonville Brandon No. 1 singles star Navarre set to finish up memorable run |
BY DAN STICKRADT
ORTONVILLE — For many that have honed high skills in the arena of sports, the key ingredient is often picking up a sport at a very early age and then going from there.
Ortonville Brandon’s Spencer Navarre first picked up a tennis racquet when he was six years old, but the sport didn’t really interest him much until he was 12. His tennis playing outings as a young child were sparse.
That has changed.
Over the past six years, the talented senior from Ortonville Brandon has built up quite a resume and he is at the end of a historic journey through the prep tennis circles.
Although unseeded at this weekend’s Division 2 state finals at No. 1 singles, Navarre has already established several school and Flint Metro League records — all marks that may not be broken for some time.
This season Navarre is an impressive 26-3 overall with all of his losses to players that have earned All-State honors in the past, including Mr. Tennis favorite Brett Foreman of Troy. In his career, all at No. 1 singles, he is a fine 108-9 overall.
“I never really imagined be able to accomplish what have over the past four years,” said Navarre, who has spoken with the likes of Wayne State, Detroit Mercy, Wooster College and Alma College, among others, to continue my career. “I certainly didn’t think I would be at the point where I was talking to colleges. I am going to go to college for academics first, but I wouldn’t mind playing in college. It would be fun.”
Each of Navarre’s aforementioned stats are records in both the school and league and he hopes to add to that total one final time this weekend. But a first- or second-round departure would not mark down the resume of perhaps the top player the FMLhas produced to date over four decades.
Navarre is the only player in the 41-year history of the Flint Metro League to win four league championships at No. 1 singles and the only player from the league to win three regional titles in the sport’s top flight.
“Tennis in Michigan, especially in Southeastern Michigan, is one of the top areas in the Midwest, along with the Chicago area,” noted Navarre. “People don’t understand the level of competition you have when you get to the state (finals). Everybody is good. It’s hard to win there.”
Navarre isn’t a daunting figure on the court by any stretch of the word, as he stands only around 5-foot-6 and checks in around 140 pounds. But his speed on the court is exceptional.
“I am very quick on the court and very aggressive,” he smiled. “I might not be the hardest hitter, but I make up for it in other areas. I do hit it pretty hard. My game is definitely offensive.”
Brandon coach Debbie Sebatic, who watched the Blackhawks sweep the singles play at the recent Fenton regional and advance to the state finals as a team, said it has been a pleasure watching Navarre rise to the top.
“I’m hoping he can win a couple of matches at the state tournament. He wasn’t seeded so he didn’t get a very good draw. But again, anything is possible,” she said. “It has been so fun to watch him develop as a player. He’s a terrific kid and he has earned everything that has happened to him.
“You can’t deny what he has already accomplished in his career here at Brandon,” added Sebatic. “He’s the first player in 41 years in our league to win four league titles at No. 1 singles. You just don’t see that happen very often in any league.”
Navarre has already won league and regional titles this season to go along with four other tournament flight championships and was unbeaten in league play again this season. He will have a tough road at the D-2 state finals, which will be held on some familiar courts Oct. 19-20. Tournament play will commence at FML rivals Holly and Fenton.
If he can beat Birmingham Seaholm’s Zaven Dadian in the first round, he will likely face No. 2 seeded David Crocker of Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix in the Round of 16. Eric Katz of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, who barely beat Navarre in three sets earlier in the season, could be waiting in the wings in the Elite Eight if Navarre can spring an upset.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Navarre of the state finals. “To go far at (the state finals) you have to beat some very good players, anyway, so it might as well be a seeded player. I’m hoping I can win a few matches and see what happens.”
Whatever happens on the final weekend of the season, Navarre is glad to have the opportunity to play the game he has grown to love.
“It’s weird, because I played some as a kid but never really liked it much until I was around 12. Then it really grew on me,” explained Navarre. “Now, I really have a love of the sport. I play year-round and it is, by far, my favorite sport.
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)