Girls varsity tennis wraps up its season after a year of highs and lows


The return of spring sports in 2021 was a remarkable event, considering the unexpected turn of events last March. The cancellation of the 2020 season was devastating; however, the girls varsity tennis team bounced back to a massive extent. The Rangers possessed tremendous talent this season, with a perfect mix of young talent and veteran experience. Seniors Emily Johnson and Olivia Hooper along with junior Libby Moog carried out their duties as captains all season long, creating a team-first environment that valued the true meaning of high school athletics. 

Led by a talented group of seniors, the upperclassmen drove this team’s narrative through their leadership and voice. While the group may have fallen short of its ultimate goal in reaching the state tournament, FHC’s senior leaders have expressed their emotions and sense of pride for this treasured, character-building program. 

“Being a senior and having this season has meant a lot this year, especially after losing so many activities and not having a season last year due to COVID,” Olivia Hooper said. “The team has helped make my senior season super fun and unforgettable. Overall, this tennis season helped make my senior year feel a little more normal.”

Like Olivia, fellow senior Lily Campbell counts her blessings for the 2021 tennis season and its presentation of a “normal” feeling. 

“I wasn’t really sure if we’d have a tennis season this year, or if it’d even be remotely normal,” Lily claimed. “But, as the tennis season ends, I just feel really lucky that I got to have, for the most part, a normal last season. I’m so thankful for the team this year and all the ladies on it. I think we really bonded as a team and looking back from the beginning to the end, I think we all improved greatly.”

The girls kicked off the year with a couple of challenging contests, competing in the Rockford Tri and the Northville quad. These were matches in which FHC took on multiple teams that possessed top rankings in the state. After freshman Lily Ohlman and junior Libby Moog showed out at the Midland Dow Classic, it was clear that the Rangers had all the tools to construct a successful season. The extremely tough competition to open the season is a defining factor for head coach Dan Bolhouse, as he believes that being battle-tested is a recipe for success. 

“This team is very resilient.  We had a long talk early in the season and I explained why we play such a demanding schedule every year,” coach Bolhouse said. “I’m a true believer in playing the best teams because it will make us stronger and improve at a faster rate. It’s tough for the girls because we could rack up a lot of wins against lesser competition, but in reality, beating weaker teams doesn’t help us get to where we want to go.”

As conference play began to pick up, the Lady Rangers dropped three consecutive matches at the hands of Portage Central, Grand Rapids Christian, and East Grand Rapids. However, this stretch is what ultimately fueled the fire to a successful run later on.

As FHC picked up some wins, the stars began to establish themselves. Freshman Lucy Wu and sophomore Ella Hunnewell teamed up this season to create a monster duo, competing night in and night out at third doubles. Victories over Lowell, Northview, and Petoskey solidified the girls’ stance as a top team in the conference. 

In this winning streak, senior Emily Johnson had her way with any opponent that challenged her. The captain’s play in the back half of the season was a huge contributor to FHC’s success, as she picked up several valuable wins. Her ability to lift the Lady Rangers to prosperity was a vital asset in this particular season.

“Being a senior on the tennis team this year has meant a lot to me, especially because of the circumstances,” Emily said. “I had been waiting for this all of my high school career, and when I found out that we actually got a season, I was thrilled. It was so much fun getting to know a totally different team. It was a great season.”

As the scene shifted to the postseason, the OK White Conference posed a tremendous threat to the Rangers. Playing teams such as East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills Northern, Byron Center, and Grand Rapids Christian has created an entirely different schedule for FHC this year. The Rangers placed sixth at the conference tournament, standing as a less-than-ideal ranking. However, the team had the MHSAA Regionals to look forward to. 

After Lucy Wu and Ella Hunnewell made a deep run in the Regional Tournament, FHC was in an adequate position to qualify for states. Sophomore Brooke Kushak and senior Delaney Michalski teamed up at first singles to reach the semifinals, likewise to freshman Lily Ohlman’s noteworthy performance at first singles. To top it off, Emily clinched an appearance in the finals at third singles. While she lost to her opponent from Northern, her success on the day was a huge boost to FHC’s ranking.

In the end, the girls fell just a few points shy of states. The Lady Rangers battled to no end; however, the outstanding effort was just barely short. FHC finished third at regionals, marking the end of an impressive 2021 campaign. 

Seniors Olivia Hooper, Maddie Knoor, Emily Johnson, Lily Campbell, and Delaney Michalski will truly be missed and remembered as part of this particular squad. While the season may have not ended like the team was hoping, this Ranger group has provided a blueprint for success in coming years and has contributed to a bright future within the girls tennis program.

“I’m proud of this team because every girl wants to be better in 2022,” coach Bolhouse praised. “They are ready to get to work to make it happen.”