It's Huron Again at Division 1 Tennis Final

October 20, 2012

By Fred Kelly
Special to Second Half

MIDLAND — For Ann Arbor Huron, some of the faces were new. But the end result was the same at Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 Tennis Final.

The River Rats reached finals in six of eight flights and won three flight championships en route to compiling 33 points and claiming their second straight team championship at the Midland Community Tennis Center.

Birmingham Brother Rice, last year’s runner-up, and Novi tied for second with 27 points apiece. Both the Warriors and Wildcats finished Friday’s opening day of competition with 22 points, only two behind Huron.

“Brother Rice and Novi did a good job getting 22 points yesterday, so we knew they were right on our heels, and we still had a lot of work to do coming into today,” River Rats’ coach Stefan Welch said. “(Our players) came out and executed. I’m just really happy for them.

“... It means a lot, obviously,” Welch added of winning back-to-back titles. “It’s hard to do it once, let alone twice. For the seniors, it’s nice to send them out on top. I’m really pleasantly surprised by how we performed this year. We had eight seniors leave last year’s lineup, so a lot of new faces stepped right in and performed.”

Huron junior Colin Williams said he felt his team had something to prove heading into the tournament.

“At the beginning of the year, we had a big target on our back, being defending champions,” said Williams, who won the No. 3 singles championship Saturday. “And then we played a dual match with Novi, and they beat us 6-2. They were in the spotlight then, but we felt like we didn’t play our best tennis that day, and we felt we were better than them.

“Today, we proved it,” he added. “We came out, we beat them, and we’re state champs now.”

Troy and Northville tied for fourth with 17 points each, while Traverse City Central was sixth with 14 points.

One of the individual highlights of the day was second-seeded Ed Covalschi of Utica Eisenhower upsetting top-seeded Tyler Gardiner of Northville 6-2, 7-5 in a hard-fought No. 1 singles final.

“It was definitely tough. I was a little tired from my semifinal, but it’s great to pull it off,” said Covalschi, who had to rally to beat sixth-seeded Brett Forman of Troy in three sets in the semifinals.

“He’s a great player,” Covalschi added of University of Michigan-bound Gardiner. “It was a great win. ... I picked up my serve a ton, and my returns were pretty good. Staying in long points really helped me; being patient (was the key).”

Covalschi, a senior who is headed to Notre Dame, said capping off an undefeated season with a No. 1 singles title was memorable.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s great to celebrate with my team,” he said. “My family supported me, and our fans supported me. I really appreciate it.”

Northville’s third-seeded freshman Connor Johnston finished his first Finals with a 6-1, 6-2 upset of top-seeded Jack Hamaty of Brother Rice in the No. 2 singles title match after rallying from a one-set deficit to beat second-seeded Kevin Mei of Huron in the semis.

“I was just being really aggressive, and I kept going at it the whole time. I never stopped,” said Johnston, adding of winning the match, “... I was speechless when it happened. I just dropped my racquet and screamed. I didn’t know what to do, honestly.”

Williams, who was seeded second at No. 3 singles, notched a straight-set victory over Brother Rice’s Chase Peery in the semifinals, and then swept Novi’s top-seeded Koushik Kondapi 6-3, 6-3 in the final. It was Williams’s first individual championship after two years of finishing as a runner-up.

“It feels great. ... To finally get the individual title after two years of losing in the finals is great. It’s really special,” said Williams, a runner-up at No. 3 doubles last year and at No. 4 doubles as a freshman.

At No. 4 singles, Novi’s top-seeded Pavan Rao breezed past Troy’s fifth-seeded Tarun Kalyanaraman in the semifinals, then swept Huron’s second-seeded Jon Seyhun 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

At No. 1 doubles, Huron’s third-seeded Akihiro Ota/Aaron Bradkey rallied to beat second-seeded Andrew Cansfield/Connor Johnston of Port Huron Northern in a three-set semifinal, then swept top-seeded Jason Carless/Andrew Ying of Novi in the final. At No. 2 doubles, second-seeded Max Teener/Ryan Stark of Huron beat third-seeded George Hamaty/Connor Parks of Brother Rice in the semifinals, then defeated top-seeded Nishant Kakar/Michael Chang of Novi 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the final.

At No. 3 doubles, top-seeded Joey Hildebrand/Johnny Cameron of Brother Rice defeated fourth-seeded Max Knoblock/Nick Yergens of Traverse City Central in the semifinals, then rallied to beat second-seeded George Lu/Michael Bondin of Huron 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final. And at No. 4 doubles, top-seeded David Weatherford/Brendan Dillon of Brother Rice ousted fifth-seeded Trey Pezzetti/Yani Beeker of Traverse City Central in the semifinals, then swept third-seeded Austin Luker/Will Brenner of Huron 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Ota, a junior at Huron who claimed his first flight championship, said it was satisfying to defend the team title.

“We have a big tradition to hold up, so we just practice hard every day, and we come up big at the right moments,” he said.

Asked if an individual or team title is more rewarding, Ota replied without hesitation, “The team (title), definitely. ... It’s high school tennis. It’s all about the team.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: (Top) Ann Arbor Huron celebrates its MHSAA team championship Saturday at the Midland Community Tennis Center. (Middle) Utica Eisenhower's Ed Covalschi won the individual No. 1 singles championship and finished this fall undefeated. (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.)