UTICA — Davina Nguyen wasn’t going to be denied from winning back her state title.
After falling in the semifinals a year ago, Nguyen won back the No. 1 singles title that she won as a freshman in 2012.
At the MHSAA Division 1 state tennis tournament held May 30-31 in Midland, Nguyen defeated Lexi Baylis from Clarkston in the flight’s final match 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win the tournament.
“It was a sigh of relief, finally, I wanted the state title back for so long, so it was finally mine again,” Nguyen said while describing her feelings right after the championship match.
Nguyen was also relieved to have the match end because of a hand cramp that occurred at the worst possible of times, at match point.
“I was up 40-0, then my hand started cramping on the last point, and then I lost (the point),” Nguyen said. “My hand was hurting a lot. At 40-30 we just rallied it out, and all of a sudden she missed and that was it, and I just thanked God because my hand was hurting.”
Nguyen didn’t drop a set through the flight until her match with Baylis, who defeated her in the semifinals in 2013. Nguyen said that facing Baylis again added motivation for her victory.
“I knew it was going to be the last time seeing her during high school season, and I didn’t want her to have my state title,” Nguyen said. “When I won the second set, I knew the next set was going to be my last one for the weekend and I had to make the most of it.”
Making the most of it has been something Nguyen has done throughout her career at Utica.
To make that possible, Chieftains coach Chris Dabrowski has enlisted the help of her daughter, Natasha, a former state champion, to help coach Nguyen.
“The two of them have developed a bond over the last three years, so I left a lot of it up to my daughter,” Chris Dabrowski said.
“It’s a wonderful thing, because when I watch the two of them on the court, they’re looking eye-to-eye, and usually with me she’ll kind of look down and so on, and when you see that dynamic, that’s what it’s all about.
Throughout the season, Dabrowski has noticed Nguyen improved in skill, but she pointed to the improvement in her mental game.
Nguyen was tested in her semifinal match against Raven Neely of Grosse Pointe South. Nguyen fell behind 4-1 in the opening set, but she was able to refocus before going on to win in straight sets.
“The one thing that I did see with (Nguyen), in all of her matches she was stroke-for-stroke, they were evenly matched, it was all of the growth in her mental game. She clearly exemplified that this year.”
Nguyen had a small, but vocal, support section following her at the state tournament, which Dabrowski said was a great experience for the rest of her team.
“The girls were tremendous, and then the mental support they gave throughout the whole thing, pushing her to want it, made it a very rewarding, positive experience to see for three years, to see that change,” Dabrowski said.
Ultimately, Nguyen said that confidence and experience helped her win the flight.
“I feel like I had more confidence. I knew more of what to expect and what’s going on,” Nguyen said. “I just had a goal in mind, and nothing was going to stop me.”