TRAVERSE CITY — St. Francis tennis coach Jeff Hughes juggled his lineup during the season — and it paid off with a Division 4 regional title Thursday at Traverse City Central.
The Gladiators won five flights in finishing with 27 points. Ludington, the defending regional champion, took second with 24 points and Harbor Springs was third with 21. All three advance to the state meet.
Ludington led St. Francis by a point heading into the flight finals. But that’s where the Gladiators seized control, beating the Orioles in four head-to-head matches. St. Francis locked it down when Lauren Hansen beat Ludington’s Kelsey Wallace 6-0, 7-5 at No. 4 singles and Harbor Springs’ Eva Zoerhof and Mikayla Dickinson downed Ludington’s Anika Schmock and Olivia Laman 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. St. Francis put an exclamation point on it when Natalie Burke captured No. 2 singles with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 win over Emily Lesky of Harbor Springs.
“It came right down to the wire,” Gladiators coach Jeff Hughes said. “Ludington was actually a little stronger than I thought they were going to be. I’m proud of the way our team played. It was a great day.”
Hansen was one of the players switched in the lineup during the season. She and Lena Popp started the season at No. 3 doubles.
“We’ve always been singles players,” Hansen said. “(Hughes) tried us at 3 doubles this year and it just didn’t work so he switched us back.”
Popp reached the semifinals at No. 3 singles.
To make room for Popp and Hansen in the singles rotation, Hughes moved freshmen Carlee McCardel and Bethany Richey out of those spots to No. 4 doubles. Sarah Stayman and Rosie Wilson were bumped from No. 4 doubles to No. 3.
“All the moves really helped our team out,” Hansen said.
Both doubles teams won regional titles. Stayman and Wilson claimed No. 3 doubles with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Ludington’s Claire Flewelling and Julia Maltbie. McCardel and Richey captured No. 4 doubles by downing Ludington’s Madda Pung and Kayela Wallace 6-0, 6-4.