Kingsford Stands Alone Atop D1

May 30, 2013

By Craig Remsburg
Special to Second Half

MARQUETTE — It took 60 years, but Kingsford High School has captured the school’s second outright MHSAA Upper Peninsula boys tennis championship.

The Flivvers of head coach Mark Shanks compiled 21 points Wednesday to far outdistance runners-up Marquette and Negaunee to claim the U.P. Division 1 title in play held in Marquette.

KHS last won an outright peninsula crown in 1953. The Flivvers shared titles with Marquette in 2008 and Negaunee in 2010.

Kingsford placed seven of eight flights in the finals Wednesday and won six.

“It has been a banner year,” Kingsford head coach Mark Shanks said in closing out his 13th season at the helm of the Flivvers. “We’ve been working on this (U.P. crown) for years.

“We had T-shirts made up with ‘1953’ on them. It’s the only goal Kingsford tennis has had for 6-7 years. It’s just a grand feeling.”

Kingsford senior Sean Ryan, part of his team’s winning No. 2 doubles unit with Ted Pietila, said capturing the peninsula title had been on the Flivvers’ minds for “a long time.”

“After last year, we didn’t lose too many seniors, so we set this as a goal.” he said. “Every team skull session, we talked about the 60-year drought. 

“It feels great this being our year.”

Sophomore Adam Szabo helped lead Kingsford with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Negaunee’s Ryan Syrjala at No. 2 singles.

“It was a pretty good match with a lot of line points,” said Szabo, who finished second last year at No. 2. “My serve was on, and I hit a lot of winners with my backhand.”

Other Flivvers who won titles were Daniel Harrington at No. 3 singles, Brady Hicks at No. 4 singles, Alec Tuchowski and Joe Gregory at No. 3 doubles and Tyler Schaut and Chris Roell at No. 4 doubles.

Shanks said his Flivvers’ team sported a group of special players.

“We have seven sensational seniors, and these are the best group of kids I’ve had in my 26 total years as a tennis coach,” he said.

Cody Tossava of Negaunee High School closed out a brilliant high school career on a high note Wednesday by taking the No. 1 singles title — his third consecutive peninsula crown overall. He won twice at No. 2 singles before Wednesday’s No. 1 championship.

Tossava beat Kingsford’s Caleb Harrington 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 to remain unbeaten the last three seasons. Ironically, Tossava’s last loss came to Harrington in the 2010 U.P. Final his freshman campaign.

“I told myself afterwards he started it and I finished it (Wednesday),” the Negaunee netter said.  “I thought I really played well today. I served with consistency, and my forehand and backhand were good.”

Tossava came from behind in both sets, trailing 1-0 in the first and 2-1 in the second before winning both despite committing some unforced errors.

“Unforced errors are part of the game,” the southpaw said. “But I know what I’m capable of doing.

“My goal was to put (Harrington) on his backhand and spread him out. I did that, and it opened my forehand a lot.”

Negaunee head coach Kyle Saari noted Tossava lost only one set all season.

“In his tennis career, he has overcome a lot of adversity.” the coach said.

“Cody persevered and deep down, he’s a competitor, a tough kid. He’s one of the best in the U.P. and has helped set the stage for our program.”

The Miners saw their three-year reign as U.P. team champs — two outright — come to an end. They and Marquette finished with nine points each.

Saari said his team’s runner-up finish “went as expected.”

“Kingsford’s a strong team. We needed a near-perfect day to keep our (title) run going,” Saari said. “But today was good for us. Taking second is a good sign for our freshmen and sophomores. It will be a good learning experience and raise the bar for them.”

At No. 1 doubles, Escanaba’s Dave Fix and Justin Eastin — partners the last three seasons — toppled Marquette’s Kyle King and Alex Shahbazi, 6-1, 7-6 (6).

“Marquette’s always tough, but we just stuck to our game plan,” Fix said. “We communicated well and both moved at the same time.”

Added Eastin: “Teamwork and rushing to the net were big. It’s pretty awesome (winning a U.P. title). It’s nice to get it our senior year.”

Marquette coach Charlie Drury, who was without the services of No. 1 singles player Josh Downs due to a broken arm Downs suffered a week ago, said his team’s No. 1 doubles unit “just came up shy.”

“I was hoping Escanaba was getting tired, but it was a good match,” Drury said. “(The Escanaba duo) was experienced, sat back and let our guys make the mistakes.”

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PHOTO: Kingsford’s Adam Szabo won the Upper Peninsula Division 1 singles championship at No. 2 singles to help his team to the team championship. (Photo by Craig Remsburg.)

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.)