Novi, Bloomfield Hills Tie to Top D1

October 17, 2015

By Scott Keyes
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND – The unexpected snow squall that hovered over the Greater Midland Tennis Center during Saturday afternoon couldn't stand in the way of the Novi boys tennis team staking a claim to the Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship. 

Novi repeated as champion, tying Bloomfield Hills with 26 points to win the title. First day co-leaders Ann Arbor Huron and Ann Arbor Pioneer finished out the top four.

"This is one of those days that you won't forget," said Novi coach Jim Hanson. "We came into the season with a lot of high expectations, but when you lose one of the top players in the state to graduation you put a lot of focus on getting better. The guys got better all year long and we were able to hang on in the end. It's wasn't easy, to say the least." 

Friday's action was indoors at the Greater Midland Tennis Center. Once Saturday's finals came around, not only did the players have to battle their opponents, they had to battle the elements as well.

After the majority of players started the day outdoors, the weather forced the remaining players indoors for a second straight day. 

"The only good thing about the weather Saturday was that it wasn't windy," Hanson said. "The guys are out their moving around. It's tough for both players in a match. It's Michigan. You never know what you are going to get weather-wise so you have to be prepared at what Mother Nature throws at you."

Ann Arbor Huron coach Stefan Welch agrees with Hanson's assessment. 

"Everyone who stepped on the court today faced the same elements. We just tried to get their mindset on what they were about to face," Welch said. "They know the ball bounces differently outdoors than indoors. It was a cold one for sure, but I think our kids were prepared for what they endured."

In singles action Northville's Connor Johnston finally broke through at No. 1 singles. 

The top-seeded Mustangs standout finished his high school career with titles as a freshman (at No. 2 singles) and senior, with  a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Bloomfield Hills’ second-seeded Josh Mukherjee to claim the No. 1 singles championship. Johnston lost to Novi's Tim Wang in No. 1 finals the previous two seasons.

Johnston fell behind, 3-4, then won the next three games to take the first set. Riding the momentum, Johnston broke Mukherjee to start the second set, firing a fist-pump at his teammates. He closed out the match by winning the final nine games. 

By the time the snow came and forced the action indoors, Johnston had won seven straight games.

“I thought it was funny playing tennis in the snow,” Johnston said. “Worst possible timing. Never done that before. It was a good match to remember." 

Novi sophomore Alex Wen fought through an illness that caused him to put down his racket for five months. A champion as a freshman at No. 3 singles, he moved up and won No. 2 singles, 6-4, 7-5, against Bloomfield Hills freshman Andrew Zhang.

Zhang’s teammate, Constantine Hemmich, won No. 3 singles, 6-2, 6-3, over Novi freshman Sid Amarnath. 

The team title came down to the No. 4 singles match between previously unbeaten Brad Silverman of Bloomfield Hills and Chris Chio of Huron.

Silverman won the first set, but lost the final two, 3-6, 3-6. The result meant that Novi and Bloomfield Hills tied at 26 and shared the title.

Birmingham Brother Rice’s No. 1 doubles team of freshman Jarreau Campbell and senior Sean Abelarde won the flight over Troy’s Sai Kagithala and Kevin Fietsam, 6-3, 6-2.

Huron’s No. 2 doubles team of Austin Choi and Robert Dong beat rival Pioneer in the final, 6-3, 6-4, against Sayhann Goraya and Nico Figueroa.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Novi poses with a championship trophy after winning a share of the Lower Peninsula Division 1 title, its second straight. (Middle) Bloomfield Hills also won a share of the title, its first since the school was created from a merger of Lahser and Andover. (Below) Northville’s Connor Johnston won No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up the last two seasons. (Click for 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.)