DCDS Claims D3 in Record-Tying Fashion

October 20, 2012

By Alan Babbitt
Special to Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS - Max Fliegner served up a memorable first experience with high school tennis.

One of the nation's top young players helped Detroit Country Day repeat as MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 champion on Saturday, winning his No. 1 singles flight to lead a Yellow Jackets domination of the two-day tournament.

Country Day matched Ann Arbor Pioneer's Michigan High School Athletic Association all-division record (set in 2002) with 39 points. The Yellow Jackets won seven of eight flights and finished eight points ahead of runner-up St. Joseph.

"I've never experienced that before. It's great being on a team," said Fliegner, who was homeschooled before enrolling at Country Day this fall. "I played a ton of USTA tournaments. Nothing I've ever done feels (this) good mainly because of the team atmosphere. Everyone's watching.

"To come through like that, we did great. We've got a ton of good players on one team."

Fliegner, a junior, wrapped up his first high school season by winning his title match 7-5, 6-4 over sixth-seeded Jan Krakora of Plainwell. He entered this fall ranked No. 19 in the United States Tennis Association Under-16 rankings.

Krakora, the lowest seed in the tournament to reach a title match, is an exchange student from the Czech Republic. He enjoyed his first experience with American tennis.

"It is really nice," Krakora said. "I didn't how big the state tournament is. It's really, really good guys. I'm happy I'm runner-up. I think I really played well in the finals. This is a really good experienced for me."

St. Joseph finished team runner-up for the second consecutive season. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood took third with 25 points. East Grand Rapids (18) and Grand Rapids Christian (16) rounded out the top five.

St. Joseph's Kenny Garstecki spoiled Country Day's bid for a perfect tournament by rallying in the No. 4 singles final for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over top-seeded Max Shanbron.

"It means a lot to us," Garstecki said of finishing second. "We would like to win, but at least they didn't sweep."

The third-seeded Garstecki avenged a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Shanbron earlier this season. Garstecki also won a three-setter during the semifinals.

"It feels good, a huge sense of accomplishment," Garstecki said. "I played him in my third match. I thought I could turn that match around, and that's why I did. I improved my ability to push him back, to keep him from being aggressive."

The Yellow Jackets held their top seed in every other flight.

Country Day coach Josh Molino was pleased with how his team handled the tournament moving indoors to Riverview Athletic Center and a 1 p.m. start on Saturday. It moved from Holland Christian High School because of wet playing conditions.

"It's late in the season now. Weather is a big factor," Molino said. "When we got here today, the guys were sitting around a little bit, but with any sport, you've got to be ready to roll with the punches. We understand we're here for one reason - to play tennis - whether it's inside, outside or underground

"We feel if we work hard enough, we can match up pretty well with anybody."

At No. 2 singles, Country Day's seeded Sven Kranz won his flight with a 6-1, 6-3 decision over St. Joseph's Thomas Bellio in the championship match. Kranz, the 2011 state runner-up at No. 1 singles, completed an undefeated season.

At No. 3 singles, Country Day's Rishi Patel repeated as champ in the flight by defeating Cranbrook-Kingswood's Will Dube 6-1, 6-0 in the final.

In doubles play, Country Day won every final in two sets. At No. 1, Alex Gruskin and Patrick Adams recorded a 6-2, 7-6 (5) finals win over St. Joseph's Mike Kincaid and Matt VanWinkle. Gruskin and Adams each won doubles titles last season in different flights.

Country Day's No. 2 doubles team of Max Lee and Lorenz Ghan topped St. Joseph's Ryan Teich and Jared Kuntz 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match. At No. 3, Country Day's Blake Burnstein and Rishabh Nayak defeated St. Joseph's Sam Singler and Ed Nieh 6-3, 6-1. Burnstein won a doubles title with a different partner in 2011.

The No. 4 flight saw Country Day's Matt Stebbins and D.J. Bailey beat St. Joseph's Eric Miller and Nick Stants 6-2, 6-3 for the championship.

Molino said Saturday provided a great cap to his team's awesome season. Country Day went undefeated during the regular season and claimed a Regional title. The YellowJackets also earned their third team MHSAA Finals  championship in four years.

"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get better each match. We had a lot of guys come through," Molino said. "I was really proud of Max. It was a tough loss - a lot of pressure on him - but he had a great season. The only thing I ask for is to fight for every point, and he did.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day's Lorenz Ghan returns a shot Saturday during a No. 2 doubles match. (Middle) The Yellow Jackets pose with their team championship trophy. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Negaunee Caps Near-Perfect Season by Taking Back Top Spot in UPD1

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for MHSAA.com

May 31, 2023

KINGSFORD – The Negaunee Miners are no strangers to lifting Upper Peninsula Division 1 tennis title hardware.

Coach Kyle Saari’s program has been a powerhouse over the past 14 years, winning eight championships and finishing runner-up three times. 

Still, the Miners entered the 2023 event having finished second behind Escanaba the last two seasons. But this Negaunee squad was dripping with confidence, having gone through the regular campaign unbeaten and barely losing a set along the way. 

With that in mind, the Miners' championship Wednesday at Kingsford High School was rather expected. But take nothing away from the 12 Negaunee players who shined nearly as brightly as the blazing sun overhead with seven flight championships and one second-place finish to recapture the trophy in emphatic fashion. 

The Miners are presented with the championship trophy Wednesday. The Miners finished the day with 23 points, well in front of 2022 champion Escanaba, which recorded 11 points. Kingsford took third with eight, Marquette placed fourth with six, Westwood wound up fifth with five and Gladstone did not post a win and finished sixth. 

“From day one, they wanted to bring a U.P. title back home,” Saari said of his squad. “So for us to take seven out of eight finals, it’s a great feeling. You have to play your best on the final day, and today they were able to do that. They answered the bell.” 

Frankly, the Miners have done that all season, to a remarkable degree. Negaunee not only beat every opponent they faced along the way, the Miners' players won a staggering 155 of 160 matches they played combined. 

And to cap it all off, Negaunee lost just two of 32 sets on the final day of the season. 

“This year has been kind of unprecedented,” Saari said. “I don’t think you can ever see (155-5) coming. Our 2012 team was 162-7, and this team beat that as far as winning percentage. 

“The unique thing was they were able to answer the challenge every single day. They’re a humble group, they do it the right way and they handle it the right way, too.” 

The Miners swept the four doubles flights. At No. 1 doubles, Jace Turri and James Thomson knocked off Kingsford’s Ben Trevillian and Gabe Lafraniere 6-1, 7-5, while Gavin Jacobson and Gavin Downey defeated Gabe Tossava and Reid Frustaglio of Westwood 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.

Escanaba’s Dawson Williams sends a backhand at No. 1 singles.In the No. 3 doubles flight, Philip Nelson and Zack Brundage posted a 7-5, 6-2 win over Nick Chaillier and Vincent Guindon of Escanaba, and at No. 4 doubles, Ethan Harris and Brandon Borlace upended Brett Berglund and Isaac Lebouef of Kingsford 6-3, 6-3. 

The only flight that didn’t end with a Negaunee win was No. 1 singles, where Escanaba senior Dawson Williams defeated Negaunee senior Luke Syrjala in two tough sets, 7-6 (2), 6-4. 

Williams was overwhelmed with emotion after putting his name in the U.P. boys tennis record book. 

“I’m lost for words right now,” Williams said, fighting off tears. “I never thought when I was a freshman walking into tennis, I’d be winning a U.P. title at one singles.” 

Williams said the matchup with Syrjala, their fifth duel of the season, came with the added difficulty of playing a left-hander. 

“It is always tough to deal with a lefty, and he’s a very competitive player,” said Williams, who won four of the five matches with Negaunee’s top singles player along the way.

But in the overall competition, Negaunee’s depth was too much for all the other competitors. 

“We feel that from one singles to four singles, on any day, they could have each other’s (flight) numbers, so all four of them were able to push each other during the course of the year to make us better,” Saari said. “And I think that’s true within our doubles lineup, too.” 

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PHOTOS (Top) Negaunee’s James Thomson returns a volley during a No. 1 doubles match, with partner Jace Turri. (Middle) The Miners are presented with the championship trophy Wednesday. (Below) Escanaba’s Dawson Williams sends a backhand during the championship match at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Dennis Mansfield.)