Miners, Maroons Close with Wins to Share

June 2, 2016

By Steve Brownlee
Special for Second Half

NEGAUNEE — A tale of two strategies worked out about as well as possible for the Negaunee and Menominee high school tennis teams Thursday afternoon.

In the end, each won its final match of the day to forge a tie for the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 boys tennis title at the Miners’ courts.

It will be considered a win for each school, with each adding to its respective trophy case. A duplicate will be ordered and sent out, of course, so each team can claim the ultimate spring victory.

The Maroons claimed their half of the title when juniors Levi Kempka and Jake Anglehart pulled out a comeback 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Negaunee seniors Jacob Paupore and Matthew Jandron in the No. 2 doubles final.

Theirs was one of only two matches still going late in the afternoon at the new set of eight side-by-side courts at Negaunee High School.

Asked if they had an inkling their match might help determine the meet’s winner, Kempka said they had much more than an inkling.

“Right after the first set was over, (Menominee) coach (Troy Reuter) came over and asked if we wanted to know where we were in the meet,” Kempka said. “I said, ‘Yeah, tell us.’ And he said if we won, we wrapped up at least a share of the title.

“I think we started playing a lot better after that. The intensity went way up.”

The second-year doubles partners rallied to win those last two sets and get their team to 16 points.

One final match continued after theirs, Miners sophomore and first-year varsity player Thomas Sertich versus Kingsford’s Mikhail Roell.

Sertich would need a win to get Negaunee to its 16th point.

However, he had no idea what was on the line.

“I had no idea what the magnitude of the match was,” Sertich said. “I just thought that it was the last match.”

“We try to keep our distance and stay quiet in those kind of circumstances,” Negaunee coach Kyle Saari said. “Just let nature take its course.”

That was readily apparent as Menominee players and coaches crowded close to the fence to watch the outcome of the match, while no one from Negaunee stood within 40 or 50 feet of the adjoining outside fence where Sertich was playing.

And it worked perfectly, as Sertich won 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.

“You’ve got to give Thomas credit,” Saari said. “He’s a consistent hitter, he hits a slow ball back, and at No. 4, that can be frustrating to a lot of players.

“Give him credit, too, especially with the pressure of having two teams rooting against you.”

While this was Menominee’s first U.P. title since 1998, Negaunee added to its legacy in the second decade of the 21st century — the Miners also shared the 2010 title along with winning outright in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

“What it comes down to, going back to 2010, is that the groups (of players) that follow watch it being done, and that next group comes in not only expecting to contend, but believing they can do it.

“It makes them work that much harder to see if they can achieve more than the group that preceded them.”

On Thursday, Menominee won four flight championships and Negaunee three, accounting for all but one title among the eight flights as each scored 16 points.

Despite not winning a title, Kingsford finished third with 12 points as the Flivvers had four runner-up finishes.

Escanaba was fourth with five points, followed by Marquette with four and Gladstone with one.

The Redmen had the other champion, freshman Alec Olivier at No. 1 singles. He slipped by Kingsford’s Brady Hicks 6-2, 6-0 in his finale.

Menominee also got wins from No. 3 singles player Mitchell Boucher, 6-4, 6-4 over Negaunee’s Luke Skewis; the No. 1 doubles tandem of Adam Nolde and Aaron Maas, 6-4, 6-1 over Brett Hicks and Chris Roell of Kingsford; and the No. 3 doubles pair of Peyton Mileski and Joe Anttila, 6-4, 6-1 over Negaunee’s Dylan Tasson and Peyton Anderson.

Negaunee’s other victories came from No. 2 singles player Eric Hurst, 6-4, 6-4 over Kingsford’s Alec Shanks; and the No. 4 doubles duo of Klay Ronn and Tyler Ryan, 7-6 (7-0), 7-6 (7-4) over Menominee’s Sam Larson and Andrew Leinonen.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Menominee's Aaron Maas takes a swing during the No. 1 doubles championship match against Kingsford on Thursday. (Middle) Negaunee's Thomas Sertich serves the ball during the No. 4 singles semifinal match against Escanaba's Christer Carne. (Photos by Elizabeth Bailey.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)