Black Hawks Soar Again in Division 1, while Kumar Repeats with Top-Flight Title

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

October 15, 2022

HOLLAND – While Bloomfield Hills boys tennis coach Greg Burks was being interviewed late Saturday afternoon at Hope College’s Etheridge Tennis Complex, the Black Hawks’ team canopy lifted in a gust of wind and toppled onto the court.

That was about the only thing that went wrong for Bloomfield Hills this weekend. The Black Hawks used their supreme depth to run away with the MHSAA Division 1 boys tennis championship, the program’s third in six years and fourth in eight seasons – and also their first since 2018.

Bloomfield Hills capped the chilly, two-day tournament by capturing titles in five of eight flights and finishing runner-up in two others. The top-ranked Black Hawks tallied 35 points to win going away.

Northville was runner-up with 25 points, followed by Troy with 24. Novi was fourth with 17 points.

Each of the top four teams was ranked in the top four of the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association poll.

“We had a lot of depth. We had a couple kids come in – a couple freshman, Jonah Chernett and Connor Shaya – and they kind of extended that lineup even further to where we were just very, very deep,” said Burks, who also guided the Black Hawks to Division 1 titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

“To be honest, everybody just worked very hard in the offseason. They knew that we were getting those couple of guys and we only graduated one from last year, so they just knew – these are the stakes, and we knew that Troy and Northville and Novi were going to be tough. Yeah, it was great.”

Bloomfield Hills settled for a Finals runner-up finish last season behind Troy. This time, championships at two of the four singles flights and three of the four doubles flights helped push the Black Hawks over the top.

Bloomfield Hills senior Daniel Stojanov repeated at No. 2 singles with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s Patrick Cretu. At No. 4 singles, the spunky Shaya defeated Troy’s Dhruv Gupta in the Finals match, 6-2, 6-3.

The doubles teams of Pierce Shaya-Merrick Chernett (No. 1), Michael Dillon-Ryan Rose (No. 2) and Kierth Lingam-Dominic Pascarella (No. 4) earned big points for Bloomfield Hills with flight championships.

Bloomfield Hills’ Aaron Rose was runner-up to Detroit Catholic Central’s Alec Maynard at No. 3 singles (6-2, 6-4). The Black Hawks’ Drew Davis and Toni Vasile finished second at No. 3 doubles, falling to Ann Arbor Huron’s Warren Gunnar and Hassan Hejazi in the final.

Northville junior Sachiv Kumar fires a backhand during his No. 1 singles final. Northville junior Sachiv Kumar repeated at No. 1 singles winning a championship rematch against Rochester junior Clayton Anderson, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1. Kumar defeated Anderson in last year’s title match, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5). Kumar finished 34-1 this season with his lone loss coming against Anderson during a dual meet.

It was a different Finals experience for Kumar this time around. Last year’s Division 1 Finals in Kalamazoo was moved indoors because of rain.

“The conditions – just way too cold outside, and (too) windy to play tennis, but somehow I didn’t cramp and the conditions didn’t get to me,” the even-keel Kumar said with a smile, alluding to temperatures hovering at or just below 50 degrees.

“It’s really, really nice, especially to say I won it once and I won it again – won it twice in a row.”

Stojanov knows the pressure of attempting to repeat as well.

It wasn’t easy for him Saturday, but the reward was well worth it, especially since his teammates also can call themselves state champions.

“It was great to get it done as a team. Fell short last year, so getting it done as a team was great this year,” Stojanov said.

“Down a set, I had to raise my level, I had to raise my game. I played a great player, so everything had to align for me to get the win. I want to give credit to my coaches and my teammates for cheering me on. It was great overall.”

Burks recalled how the 2018 Division 1 title team also displayed superior depth and won six of eight flights.

He considers that a “fantastic year,” but said what differentiates this group is that every single person on the team held his own and played an important role.

This Black Hawks squad is relatively young, so the future looks bright, too.

“It felt amazing because, like, I was really nervous because early in the season. I barely beat (Gupta) in the third set, but I really felt in that third set (Saturday), I knew his game. When I came here to play him today, I felt great,” said Shaya, who goes by the nickname “Cosmo.”

“It’s amazing (to win the team title) because we all just feel like champions. It was the perfect season.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills senior Daniel Stojanov sends a volley on the way to repeating at No. 2 singles. (Middle) Northville junior Sachiv Kumar fires a backhand during his No. 1 singles final. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for

May 30, 2024

KINGSFORD – After a two-year absence, the West Iron County Wykons returned to the top of Division 2 boys tennis in the Upper Peninsula on Wednesday with their razor-thin victory over host Iron Mountain and 2023 champion Ishpeming at Kingsford High School.

With two flight championships and four runner-up finishes, West Iron County recorded 14 points compared to 13 for Iron Mountain and 12 for Ishpeming.

Junior No. 2 singles player Zander Birmingham and the No. 3 doubles duo of senior Ethan Isaacson and junior Keenan Dobson-Donati led the Wykons to their first team championship since 2021.

Second-year coach Jim Anderson was effusive in his praise for his squad.

“I’m thrilled beyond words,” Anderson said. “They put in a lot of work this season and had a ton of commitment, and that showed on the court today. They played with a ton of heart and a lot of grit, and they dug deep for the win.”

Birmingham rolled to his second U.P. championship after having won the title at No. 4 singles in 2023, losing just two games in his two matches on Wednesday, both to Munising’s Levi Westcomb in the final.

“To move up from (No. 4) singles to (No.2) singles and still have the same success means a lot to me,” Birmingham said. “I’m very, very excited and just proud of myself in general.”

At No. 3 doubles, Issacson and Dobson-Donati earned a bye into the second round, then won by forfeit in the semifinals before fighting off Iron Mountain’s Ben Truong and Carter Kassin 6-4, 7-5 in the final.

“Two of the hardest-working kids on the court,” Anderson said of his No. 3 doubles pairing. “Ethan’s a senior and one of the leaders on the team this year, and Keenan’s been moving up the ranks. They had a goal in mind today, and they achieved it.”

In the top flights, Munising’s Carson Kienitz recorded his third U.P. title – his first in singles – by defeating West Iron County’s Caleb Strom 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1, while Iron Mountain’s brother tandem of Reece and Oskar Kangas knocked off Hunter Smith and Caden Luoma 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles.

Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider.Kienitz, a two-time U.P champion at No. 1 doubles, scuffled a bit early in his match against Strom but rolled to the victory once he got going.

“Pretty much every match that I’ve played I start out really slow and I lose the first couple of games,” the 6-foot-4 junior said. “But I start to learn my opponent and I get in my groove, and I’m able to climb back up and finish it.”

Kienitz did so Wednesday against Strom, who came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and had defeated Kienitz in their previous two matches.

“I knew he hits it really hard, and he’s a good player,” Kienitz said of Strom. “But instead of playing his game and hitting the ball back hard and making mistakes, I was just playing my game and hitting to his backhand and pushing the net.”

In the top doubles flight, the Kangas brothers also started slowly in the final but won 13 of the final 18 games to record their first U.P. title in their only attempt.

Reece said he had to convince his 6-foot-6 brother Oskar, an all-U.P. Dream Team selection in basketball, to take up tennis this season.

“I definitely had to talk him into it,” said Reece, who played singles his previous seasons. “He was thinking of doing some other sports and I told him, ‘If you and me play doubles this year, it will be a year to remember, especially for me in my senior year.”

To close out their “year to remember,” the Kangas brothers needed to gain some revenge on Smith and Luoma, who had won the previous matchup in the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship.

“We knew it would be tough, they are a quick team and they retrieve a lot, so it’s hard to score on them,” Oskar said of the Ishpeming pair. “But we had a sense of urgency today. It was our last (match) no matter what, so we wanted to go out with a big win.”

The Mountaineers posted two other flight championships. Freshman Braden Kassin outlasted West Iron County’s Dominick Brunswick 7-6, 7-6 at No. 3 singles, and freshman Malakai Broersma fought back to upend West Iron’s James White 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.

Ishpeming won the other two flights. Hayden Hares and Tramon Gauthier knocked off Iron Mountain’s Geno Schinderle and Dylan Lindgren 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles, while Adam Maki and Ethan Corp topped West Iron’s Jackson Secord and Matthew Swenski 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 doubles.

PHOTOS (Top) Munising's Carson Kienitz returns a serve during the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 Final on Wednesday in Kingsford. (Middle) Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider. (Photos by Sean Chase.)