Stoney Creek tennis earns OAA White crown

By: Timothy Pontzer, | Rochester Post | Published October 10, 2017

ROCHESTER HILLS — In her final try, Gina Petherick finally won a league championship.

The Rochester Hills Stoney Creek tennis coach watched her boys club secure the title Oct. 5. Serving as the event host, the Cougars posted 54 points, besting rival Rochester High by four to finish atop the Oakland Activities Association White Division.

In her third season helming the boys team and ninth with the program overall, Petherick has decided to retire at season’s end, citing the desire to spend more time with family. However, she considers her roster to be like family as well, taking great pride in a long-awaited banner day.

“Today is huge — it really means a lot for so many reasons,” Petherick said after the Oct. 5 performance. “It means so much because these kids have worked so hard for this the past two years. To dominate the regular season and then win this shows what we can do, and hopefully we can carry that confidence to our regional.”

Stoney Creek put together a perfect slate in the White, going 6-0 in division play. The Cougars finished 8-2 overall, suffering a pair of close losses to OAA Red powerhouses Troy High and Rochester Adams.

“Today was the first true test to see if we can compete at this level,” Petherick continued. “This was the first time they felt pressure, and they handled it very well. I’m so proud to see what they accomplished.”

Petherick also led the girls program at Stoney Creek, announcing that she was stepping down after the 2017 spring season. She chose to come back for the fall, citing her close bond with a group that she has guided from their freshman campaign until now.

“I announced it last year because I wanted the boys to know, and they responded by working extra hard in the offseason,” Petherick said. “I’m so glad I stayed. I would never leave them high and dry. This is such a great group of kids; I honestly wish I could stay one more year because there will be a bunch of returning players. But I’ll let someone new come in and bask in their glory.”

Petherick cited her current crop of juniors, a group that features nine starters. Five of those nine entered their third year on varsity, in lockstep with when Pehterick began her tenure as the coach.

“I love these kids. They came in during my first year, and we started working together,” Petherick said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, so to win it today was special.”

Junior Nick Klak lines up at No. 1 singles for the Cougars, one of those initial five freshmen to start the journey with Petherick.

“We were dubbed the ‘Fab Five’ when we came in as freshmen, and we’ve stuck together and watched each other grow,” Klak said. “(Coach Petherick) has always been there for us. We definitely couldn’t do this without her. Knowing she was going to leave, we wanted to work extremely hard because we wanted to end her career on a positive note. We’re really happy we were able to get it for her.”

A returning first-team All-State player, Klak serves as a captain for a team that is now looking to capitalize on its recent success and a move to a different regional site.

Previously, the Cougars annually competed in a regional that included perennial state championship contenders Bloomfield Hills High and Clarkston High. Now, Stoney heads to Utica Eisenhower’s regional Oct. 13.

“We feel like we have more air to breathe and think we now have a really good chance to qualify for states,” said Klak, who defeated Rochester High’s Vlad Meluta 6-1, 6-2 in the division’s No. 1 singles flight final.

Petherick is thrilled with the realignment, hoping it can result in Stoney Creek’s first trip to states since 2009.

“The year I came in as a JV coach, we went to states through that regional,” Petherick recalled. “I’ve been begging to get back into this regional for a long time because the one we were in was so difficult. The move is obviously good for us, and we’re playing really well now headed into it.”

With her retirement date officially set for Nov. 1, Petherick is approaching the regional with a myriad of emotions.

“It will be bittersweet, for sure,” Petherick said. “I think we have a great chance to do well. Our lineup doesn’t have many holes, and we’re very balanced. … I’m excited to finish strong with this wonderful group.”