Cranes Write Championship Finish Again

October 21, 2017

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – This year’s MHSAA Division 3 Boys Tennis Finals featured a familiar storyline and an equally familiar ending.

For the third straight season, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood came away with the Lower Peninsula Division 3 title – and for a third straight season the Cranes held off a familiar foe in longtime rival Detroit Country Day.

Led by outstanding singles players and clutch doubles play, top-ranked Cranbrook Kingswood totaled 36 points while Detroit Country Day placed second with 28. East Grand Rapids and Ada Forest Hills Eastern tied for third place with 20 points.

Cranbrook Kingswood did have a twist to this year’s winning plot. The Cranes were led by a new coach this season in Steve Herdoiza. Although in his first season with the boys, Herdoiza is no stranger to the tennis program as he has coached the Cranbrook Kingswood girls team the past four years.

 “With this group of guys, I thought that winning a third state title was very attainable,” Herdoiza said. “I knew a lot of these guys. As a new coach it’s important that everyone buys into the system, and all these boys did. This is a team with a lot of depth and a lot of talent. When you put those two things together, and everyone is working hard, you can accomplish big things.”

Cranbrook Kingswood’s depth and talent proved key. Two years ago, the Cranes won the title by eight points over second-place Country Day, and last year the margin was just one point over the Yellowjackets. At the Regional leading up to this year’s Finals, Cranbrook Kingswood defeated Country Day, ranked second in LPD3, by two points.

Strong play in the singles flights proved a key for Cranbrook Kingswood. At No. 1 singles, senior Benji Jacobson came into the tournament as the top seed. A two-time individual Finals champion and last year’s winner at No. 1 singles, Jacobson claimed this year’s title with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Jack Dausman of Coopersville. Dausman was a familiar foe for Jacobson, as Jacobson defeated Dausman in last year’s semifinals.

After a slow start to the season, Jacobson came into the tournament on a roll the last few weeks.

“At the beginning of the year I struggled a little bit,” Jacobson said. “I changed my grip and it took a while to get used to it. A few weeks ago, it started to click and it made a big difference this year.”

Jacobson, who will continue his tennis career at Tulane University next season, capped his career at Cranbrook Kingswood as a three-time individual and three-time team Finals champion. While the individual titles are nice, the team title is by far more special for Jacobson.

“Winning the team title easily feels better,” Jacobson said. “For the past three months we’ve been on the court grinding and having fun off the court. These guys are like my brothers. We are more like a family, and winning three in a row is unbelievable.”

While Jacobson won his third individual singles title, his teammate, sophomore Lucas Bosch, claimed his first. Seeded first at No. 2 singles, Bosh defeated Ricky Warnicke, the second seed from Detroit Country Day, 6-4, 6-0.

“Words can’t describe this feeling,” Bosch said. “Being here last year helped me because I was not as nervous as last year. Winning the team title is great, especially for our seniors. This was their last matches in high school, and to send them out with a third title is amazing.”

Cranbrook Kingswood also came away with the championship at No. 3 singles. Justin Luo, the top seed, turned in an efficient performance in the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 win against second-seed Kody Harrington of Allegan.

At No. 4 singles, Detroit Country Day senior Eric Wang, the top seed, defeated a familiar foe in Cranbrook Kingswood’s Sohum Archarya. Wang held off Archarya 7-6 (7), 6-2 in a tight match.

“The first set was real close,” Wang said. “It went to a tie breaker and I won it 9-7, so it definitely was real close. It feels good to end my senior year with a win.”

In doubles play, Cranbrook Kingswood won at No. 2 as the top-seeded duo of Joseph Croskey and Nikhil Deenadayalu defeated Connor Smith and Kole Butterer of East Grand Rapids 6-4, 6-2.

Detroit Country Day claimed a pair of titles in double competition. At No. 3, Country Day’s team of Tom Nardicchio and Eric Liu held off Cranbrook Kingswood’s Eshaan Kawira and Jack Trees 7-5, 6-3.

At No. 4 doubles, the Country Day team of junior Nick Sicilia and senior Justin Lee defeated Cranbrook Kingswood’s Hayes Bradley and David Hermelin 7-6 (2), 6-4.

“To win the last match of your high school career is pretty awesome,” Lee said.

“It’s pretty special,” Sicilia said. “This is the third time we beat them this year. The first time it was 6-0, 6-3 and the second time it was 6-4, 6-1. This time the first set went to a tie breaker, so it was closer this time.” 

One of the bigger surprises of the tournament came at No. 1 doubles, where Forest Hills Eastern’s Nick Hakken and Anish Premkumar, the three seed, defeated Cranbrook Kingswood top seeds Andrew Du and Jacob Yellen 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

“To finally win it is amazing,” Premkumar said. “It’s always been a goal of ours to win state.”

The win also helped Eastern finish in third place, the best finish the Hawks have ever posted at the Finals.

“We were just really focused,” Hakken said. “We had Country Day in the semifinals so we had to be real focused for that match also. To help the team to its best finish ever is really cool.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood celebrates its third straight LPD3 championship. (Middle) Anish Premkumar and Nick Hakken led Forest Hills Eastern to its highest Finals finish. (Click to see 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.)