Performance: Bloomfield Hills' Andrew Zhang

October 19, 2017

Andrew Zhang
Bloomfield Hills junior – Tennis

Zhang moved up to No. 1 singles this season after claiming the No. 2 championship at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals, and he hasn’t missed a beat. The Black Hawks’ top player won his Regional last week, defeating Clarkston standout Luke Baylis 6-0, 6-4, in the No. 1 championship match to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” He has only one loss this fall as he enters this weekend’s Finals the second seed in his flight.

In addition to Zhang’s win at No. 2 singles last year, he also finished runner-up at that flight as a freshman in 2015 in helping Bloomfield Hills to a shared team championship. The Black Hawks finished runner-up last season, two points behind winner Ann Arbor Huron, but entered this postseason as the top-ranked team in the state coaches association poll. Zhang’s lone defeat this fall came to Troy’s Steve Forman, the reigning LPD1 champion at No. 1 singles and the top seed in their bracket this weekend at the Midland Tennis Center. Zhang also had faced Baylis (this weekend’s fourth seed at No. 1) in last season’s Finals championship match and two more times earlier this fall before last week’s Regional.

Zhang is a highly-regarded college prospect nationally and could’ve chosen to not play high school tennis – but noted that he “loves the team aspect of it; our team is so fun, we do all of these outside activities and tennis is just a great time to have a bunch of teammates outside supporting you.” He’s not sure where he’ll continue after high school, but he also carries a 3.95 grade-point average and is considering studying something in the medical fields or business when that time comes – after working for another championship this weekend and playing another season of high school tennis in 2018.

Performance Point: “It was just a great match overall,” Zhang said of facing Baylis at the Regional. “I thought at the beginning I played a little more solidly than he did. It was 3-0 in the first set and it started to sprinkle a little, and it got a little dark outside so we moved it indoors. I thought Luke’s game overall suits indoor better than being outdoors, and the match was way more competitive after the first set. I was actually pretty worried because last year during leagues, it rained that day, and we had to move indoors and it was my only loss (of last season).”

Game changer: “I’m really trying to work on my aggressive game and making my serves a lot bigger than normal. A problem last year was that a lot of people were attacking my serve, so I’ve been trying to add speed to it, add consistency to it. Overall my defensive game has been one of my strongest parts, my counter punching, so my coach and I are trying to play a more aggressive game. In a way I like both – even though playing defensive tennis and counter punching tennis is more exhausting than playing offense, I feel more confident right now playing defense. The offset is offensive tennis gets a lot more free points and you’re not as tired at the end of a match. So in the long run I’m going to keep on trying to build my aggressive tennis game, so hopefully in future tournaments that go longer, a week long, I’ll have more energy as I progress through the tournament.”

Familiar faces: “I definitely think rivalries form (from seeing the same players during high school and USTA seasons). Everyone’s very competitive. Everyone is trying to be the best out there. Usually the top people in the Midwest play in the top Midwest tournaments, play in the Midwest finals, and everyone is trying to be the best they can. I do look forward to (seeing those players in high school). It gives me a great time to work on my shots and be competitive, and to play a guy like Forman again – I just had a loss to him, and it gives me motivation.”

Solving the puzzle: “I just love this sport. I just really enjoy that it’s just you on the court. There’s no coaching in between. It’s just you versus your opponent. You have to figure out ways to dissect your opponent’s game, figure out how to beat him.”

Rafa Respect: “I really love Rafael Nadal. I love how he puts 110 percent into every single match. And he never has a bad temperament. He’s pumped to play the game, but he’s one of the few people that hasn’t broken a racket yet. I think he respects the game a lot. He’s just a great person on and off the court.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills' Andrew Zhang returns a volley during last season's LPD1 Finals championship match at No. 2 singles. (Middle) Zhang celebrates his first MHSAA title. (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.)