Huron Hangs On for 3rd Straight Title

October 19, 2013

By Geoff Mott
Special to Second Half

MIDLAND -- With two doubles matches left at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Boys Tennis Finals at the Midland Community Tennis Center, Novi found itself rooting for Birmingham Brother Rice.

If Brother Rice could beat two-time defending champion Ann Arbor Huron at No. 3 and No. 4 doubles, all three schools would share the 2013 team championship.

While Brother Rice pulled out a win at No. 3 doubles, Huron’s No. 4 doubles team of Will Brenner and Orion Sang held on for a 6-3, 7-5 win over Patrick Hamill and Dan Lunghamer to give the River Rats their third-straight Division 1 title.

“It was better that we didn’t know the state championship was on the line,” said Sang, who didn’t know Huron had won the title outright until he was mobbed by teammates after the win. “I had a little feeling that it was close because everybody was fighting so hard.

“This feels good. We always thought about (winning a third state title) and that’s been in the back of our minds.”

Now the River Rats are champions again, winning with 30 points. Novi finished runner-up with 29 points while Brother Rice finished third with 28.

“We knew we had to win out but we just wanted to go out and do the best we could,” said Brother Rice senior Joey Hildebrand, who teamed with David Weatherford to beat Huron’s Jason Chen and Austin Luker, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 at the No. 2 doubles title match. The win set up the dramatic final two matches.

“It feels great because we wanted to give our team a chance to win this.”

Novi junior Tim Wang captured the individual championship at No. 1 singles. After a hard-fought 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Justin Hyman of Rochester Adams, the top-seeded Wang went on to knock off Northville’s No. 2-seeded Connor Johnston 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

Johnston fought off No. 3 seed Michael Dube’ of Detroit Catholic Central for a grueling 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) win in a semifinal.

“I knew Johnston had a really tough match and while I had a three-setter (in the semifinals), Johnston was cramping up after a really tough match,” Wang said. “I had good shots today. I was playing great, and after he broke my serve in the second set, I found an extra gear.”

Wang ate bananas and drank Pedialyte to counter cramping issues that affected a lot of the athletes.

“I pride myself in fitness, and I’m really blessed that I haven’t had problems with cramping,” Wang said. “I might have been the No. 1 seed, but I had to play my best. This means a lot to me because it came down to who wanted it the most.

“I was ready to grind it out.”

Novi’s Koushik Kondapi won the No. 3 singles title with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over top-seeded Colin Williams of Huron while Novi teammate Maxx Anderson had treatments for cramps twice before delivering a 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 win over Brother Rice’s Jack Winkler for the title at No. 4 singles.

“I think I became smarter with the cramping,” Anderson said. “I almost defaulted but my coach wouldn’t let me. If he would have said yeah, I would have defaulted. But I could hear my teammates chanting my name and there was no way I could stop.”

Ann Arbor Pioneer sophomore Ian Yi captured the No. 2 singles title, beating Rochester Adams’ Oliver Li 6-1, 6-2 in the final. Yi, who beat Ann Arbor Huron’s Kevin Mei in the semifinals (1-6, 7-5, 6-1) for the fourth time this season, had lost twice to Li this year.

“I went hard for all of my shots,” the 14-year-old Yi said. “I was able to edge him on big points. Coming in my goal was to get to the semifinals. I was really loving it when the people were cheering for me. It pumped me up even more.”

Huron’s six seniors have provided the leadership for another title run. While Jack Petersen (No. 1 singles), Kevin Mei (No. 2) and Colin Williams (No. 3) came up short of individual titles, seniors Aaron Brodkey and Akihiro Ota returned to clinch back-to-back titles at No. 1 doubles.

The doubles team’s only blemishes on the season came in a pair of eight-game pro sets, and Brodkey and Ota never lost a regular set on the year. After winning 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals against Victor Flynn and Will Norris of Grosse Pointe South, Brodkey and Ota beat Brother Rice’s Connor Parks and George Hamaty 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

“There really wasn’t any extra pressure on us because we worked so hard all year to get the No. 1 seed,” Ota said. “We wanted to prove we were that good and it was a tall order (with the competition). This feels really good to go out on top.”

Teammates since seventh grade, Brodkey and Ota became leaders together while setting an example for the younger doubles players.

“We’re best friends,” Brodkey said of Ota. “You could ask me any question about him and I’d know it. When we break down for hitting drills, we don’t even join the group. We just hit with each other.

“We’ve made a pretty good team. I hit big shots to set him up at the net and he has some of the best hands you’ll see in the state in doubles.”

Top-seeded Brendan Dillon and Joe Paradiso captured the No. 3 doubles title for Brother Rice, outlasting Huron’s Michael Bondin and Danny Friedman for 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) in the title match.

“I had a large group back this year with six seniors with a lot of experience,” Ann Arbor Huron coach Stefan Welch said. “Brother Rice and Novi were so close last year and you know they wanted it so bad this year so we knew it would be close.

“It came down to who would play well, and I’m so proud to be able to send these guys out on top.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Huron players and coaches pose with three fingers raised signifying their three straight MHSAA titles. (Middle) Huron's Colin Williams launches a serve during a No. 3 singles match Saturday. (Click to see 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.)