Game, Set, Gurnee

December 16, 2011

The highlight of Jonathan Gurnee's tennis season, without question, was helping Midland Dow to a third-straight MHSAA Division 2 championship.
But setting the state record for career singles wins was a close second.

Playing the No. 2 singles slot in Dow’s lineup, Gurnee tied another state record with 41 victories on the way to winning the Division 2 championship at his flight. He finished his final high school season with 141 wins, topping the previous leaders by 15.
Gurnee found out at the end of his junior season how many wins he needed to break the record. By midway through this fall, his teammates were asking regularly how many more it would take.
“It was nice because I could tell the team cared. But it’s just another record to go down for Dow High,” Gurnee said. “The whole thing was really the team, I think. I just enjoyed the team record. I did win individually. But really, over everything, (the team Finals win) was the greatest accomplishment.”

Gurnee played No. 4 singles his first two seasons of high school before moving to No. 3 as a junior and No. 2 this fall. He also won an MHSAA championship at No. 4 as a sophomore, while finishing runner-up in his flights the other two seasons. He was 32-6 as a freshman, followed by 36-2, 32-2 and then 41-1 this season for a career record of 141-11.
Gurnee credited Dow coach Terry Schwartzkopf for not only scheduling a full load over the last four years, but also a strong group of opponents. Dow regularly plays many of the state’s elite.
And Gurnee’s improvements on the court came parallel to steps he was taking within the structure of the team. He went from talking mostly to classmate Santi Guerra the first season to being named co-captain with Guerra this fall.
“I started as a freshman, and I was pretty quiet on the team. My brother (JP) was on the team as a junior, and he led the path for me,” Jonathan Gurnee said. “As the years progressed, I became more open to everybody, more into the positive camaraderie, and my junior and senior years I started leading the team in conditioning.
“It was an evolution, but probably a maturing thing too. I got some great leadership opportunities."
That showed through at the start of this season when Gurnee challenged for the No. 1 singles spot.
An elite and deep team like Dow generally has a few players who could occupy No. 1 singles for many teams. Gurnee challenged for Dow’s top position and lost a tight match to junior John Templeman. Because the score was so close, Gurnee could’ve asked for a rematch. He did not, feeling Templeman at No. 1 was the best situation for all involved.
And Gurnee still made the Michigan Interscholastic Tennis Coaches Association all-state team, one of three Dow singles players picked for the top 10 spots in Division 2.

"Jonathan is the All-American kid who fought for the success of his team. Along the way, he broke a few records," Dow coach Terry Schwartzkopf said. "Of course, we will miss his ability next year. But what I am going to miss most is his presence. He led by action and deed. He was the consummate captain. He epitomized Dow High tennis."

Gurnee also finished his career with 32 tournament championships, tops on that list, and 35 shutouts, second on the MHSAA list.
He is one of 11 Dow players whose accomplishments this season have been added to the MHSAA record book. Click to check out the full listings and directions for submitting others.

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

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for

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.” 

Click for full results.

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.)