Cranes Take Back Top Spot from D3 Rival

October 17, 2015

By Greg Buckner
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND — For the last four years, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood had to watch Detroit Country Day hoist the Division 3 Lower Peninsula boys tennis championship trophy.

On Saturday, the Cranes turned the tables, winning the MHSAA Final with 38 points to leave the Yellowjackets settling for second with 30 at Hope College. 

“I think for our seniors, it’s fantastic,” Cranbrook Kingswood coach Jeff Etterbeek said. “These guys have watched that trophy presentation for four years now, and for them to have this day was really exciting. Country Day obviously has a great program — they’re one of the top five programs in the state in all divisions.

“We had to beat them three times (this season) and we did. I’m really proud of this team, especially the leadership that our seniors came out with today.” 

The win was especially sweet after Country Day beat Cranbrook Kingswood by seven points for the LP Division 3 championship last year — and the Cranes did it in dominating fashion Saturday by winning all but two flight finals on the day.

“It’s so surreal watching Country Day come away with the title the last four years and being able to take it away for my senior year; it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Cranbrook Kingswood senior Marc Sable said. “Just this group of guys — they’re my best friends. Just the depth with our team and (Country Day) is crazy. 

“When you have a team like us where from No. 1 singles to No. 4 doubles that has some great team chemistry, that lets us have such great results and we were able to come away with the title.”

Cranbrook Kingswood held on to its two-point first-day lead on the Yellowjackets thanks to a clean sweep of all four doubles flights. 

Nolan Trepeck and Matthew Gerard started it off with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Country Day’s Damian Runkle and Adam Junn at the first flight. Chase Ghesquiere and Steven Meng beat Country Day’s Ryan Murakawa and Ricky Wamicke 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2; Brandon Kerr and Colin Petzold topped Country Day’s Kavon Rahmani and Joe Zhang 6-4, 6-4 at No. 3; and Andrew Du and Jacob Yellen claimed a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Holland Christian’s Brady Brower and Ethan Mouw in the No. 4 flight final.

“I think over the year, our doubles teams have all been very strong,” Etterbeek said. “I felt coming in here that was where we had to win this. Country Day has great singles, Holland Christian has great singles and we have great singles. 

“But I thought the edge would be in the doubles for us, and that certainly proved to be true.”

The Cranes also won the No. 2 and No. 4 singles flight titles. Benji Jacobson topped Country Day’s Jakob Gahn 6-1, 6-0 at the second flight final and Justin Luo edged Country Day’s Alex Mettler 6-1, 6-0 for the fourth flight title. 

The hometown Maroons placed fourth with 17 points, trailing third-place East Grand Rapids by three, but JP Avila won the No. 1 singles title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sable for the first MHSAA title at the top singles flight in program history.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that it’s my first year playing here at Holland Christian and being able to do this is not only cool for myself, but for the school and the team as well,” said Avila, who was born in Holland but lived in China and Mexico before returning. “It’s an honor to be able to do it and play for Holland Christian. … I think it will be a couple days until I realize what I’ve done.” 

The Yellowjackets’ Michael Khaghany beat Cranbrook Kingswood’s Michael Bian 6-1, 6-3 for the No. 3 singles flight title — and it was only fitting that the two state powers that have combined to win the last seven Division 3 titles would square off in six of the flight championships Saturday.

“Cranbrook was better and we gave effort. We played better today, but they played better than we did,” Country Day coach Tom Ellis said. “You’re probably looking at the two best teams in the state. We’ve played the Novis, the Cranbrooks and played Division 1 teams. You’re looking at Cranbrook as the best team in the state — and we’re not far behind.” 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood tennis players pose with their MHSAA championship trophy. (Middle) Holland Christian's JP Avila returns a shot during his run to the No. 1 singles title. (Below) Country Day's Adam Junn returns a shot during his No. 1 doubles final. (Click for more from

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.)