Updated: Dec 6, 2022
The St. Clair boys tennis team has had quite the history of MHSAA State Finals appearances, and after graduating seven seniors last year, eight new seniors and their teammates are on a mission to maintain the streak.
“We’re all friends and it's a great group of seniors, so it’s for sure fun,” senior Ian Pinnoo said. “I think we'll do pretty well [at the regional]. I'm excited for it and getting everyone else ready for it. I think everyone will at least have to win their first match and some of us will have to make to the finals, and I think we can do that.”
The Division 3 Region 21 tournament is set for Thursday, Oct. 6, at Cranbrook High School. There, the Saints and seven other teams will compete for the top two spots to punch their tickets to the State Finals the following weekend.
For five of the eight St. Clair seniors, this season could mark their fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament, but it will take all 12 players on the roster to make that happen.
“They just want to help us get to states and keep our streak going,” senior Hadley Schwarz said. “We don't want to be the one who ends the streak.”
Schwarz, Pinnoo, Michael Mascarin, Joey Fajardo, and Patrick Mason have all competed in the last three state tournaments, combining for nearly 30 tournament wins at many different spots in the lineup.
For Schwarz, this marks her first year as a singles player, filling the team’s No. 3 spot. She had previously played No. 1 and No. 2 doubles.
“There was one weekend I lost all three matches early on this season. I learned a lot from those matches to see how playing guys singles is way different than girls singles,” Schwarz said. “I'm used to boys doubles which is a lot different than singles, so it was a good learning experience from those losses.”
Since that weekend she’s gone 10-2.
Pinnoo, however, has played singles his entire varsity career, starting at the No. 4 spot as a freshman and has held the No. 2 spot the last three years.
“I like that in tennis, as much work as you put in is how much you get out of it. And it's individual too so you don't really have to worry about a team. If you do bad it's on you. It's your own fault,” Pinnoo said. “You’ve just got to put that point behind you…and think how you can fix it and focus on the next point.”
Patrick and Fajardo are in the No. 1 doubles spot this fall. They’ve both had previous doubles experience, but this year marks their first as partners.
In last night’s match against Romeo, they played with noticeable energy and heart on the court, cheering and encouraging each other the whole way, despite falling in a second-set tiebreaker. Mascarin said it’s that kind of passion that gives St. Clair confidence heading into the regional.
“I think we're actually a really good team even though you can't always see it in our playing. We have a lot of heart and I think our team is going to go really far this year, not even off talent, but just off of how much they want to play and how much they want to win,” Mascarin said. “I know everyone on the team has mentioned wanting me, Ian, and Hadley to be able to go and play in states, so I feel like they're doing a little bit for us, and for themselves too.”
For Mascarin, who’s playing at No. 1 singles, this season means more than just maintaining a streak. It’s been about finding a new passion for the sport he’s played for nearly his entire life.
“I've been playing since I was about like two years old. I took a break when I got to seventh grade because I got burnt out a little bit,” he said. “I didn't really like the sport anymore. And then I started to really like it this year again and I want to play in college.”
He said having a leadership role and being able to help his teammates has made a big difference.
“I think it's because I'm higher up on the team and I have more of a leadership role on the team,” he said. “It's easier to like the sport when you're helping other people enjoy the sport.”
The Saints will have a few more opportunities to perfect their game before heading into the regional.
“It's going take a lot of hard work right now. We’ve got some open weeks just to practice and work on the things that we all need to work on,” Schwarz said. “But I think we'll be OK. We'll just need to battle when we get to those matches that aren’t going to be easy. We just need to take one match at a time.”
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
To receive notifications about new stories from The Sports Report, subscribe for free.
Photos from Wednesday's match against Romeo. The Saints and Bulldogs tied 4-4.