Liggett Outlasts Greenhills for D4 Repeat

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

October 21, 2017

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

NOVI – With its second straight Division 4 team title minutes from being locked up, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett received a scare when William Cooksey, the second seed at No. 1 singles, went down writhing in pain after hurting his left wrist.

At the time, the team title was still on the line and he was up against Evan Sood of Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, 6-1, 2-1.

After getting his left wrist wrapped, the freshman continued and prevailed 6-1, 6-3.

“I fell and it caught me off guard,’’ said Cooksey. “I fell awkwardly on it. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish. It’s just sore now.”

He scored five points on the weekend, but his final point ended up not needed as the Knights had already defended their title by edging Ann Arbor Greenhills, eventually claiming a 34-32 victory Saturday afternoon at Novi High School. Traverse City St. Francis finished third with 28 points.

“I thought it was broken when he went down; he’s still good enough to get the job done,’’ said Coach Mark Sobieralski of Cooksey’s injury. “He’s a tough kid and a good athlete.

“We’ve revived the program. Six guys on this team are four-year varsity starters. The experience was helpful. In three matches in the semis we met up with Greenhills, and we won all three. In two of the three there were match points against us.’’

High drama filled the air as three teams had a legitimate chance at winning the team title.

After dominating the Lower Peninsula’s Division 4 for eight years under longtime coach Eric Gajar, Greenhills finished second to Liggett last year.

“They’re a good team; they deserved it,’’ said Gajar. “I’m proud of my guys.’’

Friday’s first rounds left a three-team fight between Liggett, Greenhills and Traverse City St. Francis going into the semifinals, with each team sitting at 24 points.

Top-ranked Liggett and No. 2 Greenhills started to separate themselves going into the championship flight. Liggett had 31 points with Greenhills two behind at 29 and St. Francis trailing with 26.

However, the Gladiators and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard had a chance to play spoiler with four spots in the finals.

Greenhills got one point closer when Kaan Oral beat Ian Sood of Gabriel Richard, 6-3, 6-2, for the No. 2 singles championship. It was the third time Oral beat Sood this season.

“Obviously this means a lot,’’ said Oral, a sophomore. “Winning eight years in a row and then losing last year was tough. We’ve all worked very hard all year to try and get back to where it belongs. It’s a dogfight. They’re working hard and they want it, and we want it even more.

“Ian is very consistent on the baseline and I just don’t try to give him any easy points.’’

Greenhills evened the team score when Drake Rosenberg and Taha Zirapury beat Matthew Lesha and Craig Buhler of Liggett 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 3 doubles.

“We lost to them pretty bad earlier in the year,’’ said Zirapury. “Liggett was the only team we hadn’t beaten. I was really nervous, and in the first set it was difficult for us getting balls back. Later in the first set we kind of figured it out, what’s Liggett’s game. We played against it, and that helped us come out on top.’’

St. Francis senior Nathan Sodini denied Liggett a point at No. 3 singles, beating Casey Scoggin, 6-1, 6-2 for that flight title.

“We set a team record for points scored at the final yesterday (Friday), so it’s cool being able to get to this point,” Sodini said. “I had played (Scoggin) before. We’re just all trying to beat each other – St. Francis, Greenhills and Liggett. We lost some close matches in the semifinals, so we’re just trying to get as many points as we can.’’

Liggett came through at No. 2 doubles with top-seeded Thomas Van Pelt and Spencer Warezak beating Sushruta Shankar and Joey Formicola of Greenhills, 6-7 (6-2), 6-2, 6-4.

“I try not to think about (the team title), but it’s very stressful,’’ said Van Pelt. “After the first set we had a really good meeting with our head coach Mark (Sobieralski) and our assistant coach. We didn’t play that well, and we still almost won it. That gave us confidence. We were reminded that we’re a team. We put it to them in the second set.’’

Liggett extended its team lead when Andrew Staricco, the top seed at No. 4 singles, beat Greenhills’ Nathan Rosenberg, 6-4, 6-2.

At No. 1 doubles Jack Harris and Trey Feldeisen of Greenhills defeated Alec Azar and Maddie Fozo of Liggett, 6-3, 7-5.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) University Liggett's William Cooksey returns a volleyball during a No. 1 singles match Saturday at Novi. (Middle) Greenhills' Nathan Rosenberg unloads during a match at No. 4 singles. (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.)