Preview: Power Programs Locked In

October 18, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s rematch time for many of the powerhouse programs in Lower Peninsula boys tennis.

This weekend’s MHSAA Finals feature the same No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in both Divisions 3 and 4 as a year ago, a pair of rivals that tied for the 2015 title holding down the top spots in Division 1, and the two programs with the most championships in Division 2 history heading that field again.

Play both Friday and Saturday begins at 8 a.m. Click for full brackets for all four tournaments, plus Regional results, and come back to Second Half early Saturday evening for coverage from all four Finals.

LP Division 1 at Midland Tennis Center

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills, 2. Novi, 3. Birmingham Brother Rice.

Bloomfield Hills missed a second straight championship last season by two points, scoring 28 to finish behind Ann Arbor Huron – which is ranked No. 6 heading into this weekend. Novi, which shared the 2015 title with the Black Hawks, also won in 2014 and finished fourth a year ago. Brother Rice finished runner-up in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and is seeking its first MHSAA title since 2009.

Bloomfield Hills: The Black Hawks are seeded in seven flights with six flights seeded first or second, including all four in doubles. Andrew Zhang is the second seed at No. 1 singles after winning No. 2 last season, and Constantin Hemmrich is the top seed at No. 3 singles as he looks to win that flight for the third straight season. Cade and Sebastian Burman at No. 1 doubles and Kyle Peres and Alex Walkon at No. 4 also carry top seeds.

Novi: Six flights are seeded, led by No. 1 doubles pair Robert Chen and Aditya Chitta as the second at their flight. Alex Wen enters as the sixth seed at No. 1 singles for the second straight year although he made the semifinals last season and won No. 2 as a sophomore and No. 3 as a freshman. Sid Amarnath is the third seed at No. 2 singles and was the No. 3 singles runner-up in 2015.

Brother Rice: The Warriors are seeded at three singles flights and three doubles flights as they seek to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish. Niko Mamatas and Riley McNulty are the top seed at No. 2 doubles, the highest seed among the team’s six. McNulty was part of the No. 2 runner-up last fall with Jack Brockhaus, who this season is part of the third-seeded pair at No. 1 doubles. No. 2 singles fifth seed Josh Anschuetz was part of last season’s No. 1 doubles runner-up, and No. 1 singles third seed Jarreau Campbell was part of the No. 1 doubles champion in 2015.

Troy’s Steve Forman: Now a senior, Forman improved from the semifinals as a sophomore to win No. 1 singles last fall while losing only one set during Finals weekend.

Clarkston’s Luke Baylis: The Wolves’ sophomore No. 1 singles player looks like an inevitable champion and enters as the fourth seed after finishing No. 2 runner-up last fall.

Ann Arbor Huron’s Brendan Chen and Max Brodkey: Chen was part of last season’s No. 1 doubles champion and with Brodkey is seeded fifth this weekend.

LP Division 2 at Kalamazoo College

Top-ranked: 1. Okemos, 2. Birmingham Groves, 3. Birmingham Seaholm.

Midland Dow, ranked fourth heading into the weekend, is the reigning champion and has won six of the last eight titles in this division. Okemos is seeking its first since running off four straight championships from 2004-07 – when Groves finished runner-up three times, their last three placings among the top two at a Finals. Like Groves, Seaholm also is seeking its first Finals championship and was runner-up two years at the end of last decade.

Okemos: This lines up much like the dominant Chiefs teams of old, with seven flights seeded and all seeded first or second at those flights. Josh Portnoy (No. 2), Shrey Patel (No. 3) and Daniel Gorelik (No. 4) all have top seeds in singles, while Rohan Shah and Siddharth Nagisetty (No. 2) and Deniz Kalfa and Druv Talluri (No. 3) are top-seeded in doubles. Kalfa was the champion at No. 4 singles last season and Gorelik was runner-up at No. 3 as Okemos finished third as a team, up from eighth in both 2015 and 2014.

Midland Dow: Although ranked just fourth heading into the postseason, Dow looks to be in the best position to challenge Okemos with all eight flights seeded and six seeded to make the semifinals. Aditya Middha and Saketh Kamaraju are the top seed at No. 1 doubles after Middha was part of last year’s champion at the flight and Kamaraju was runner-up at No. 4 singles. Reigning No. 3 singles champ Tyler Conrad is seeded third at No. 2, and last season’s No. 2 runner-up Anish Middha is seeded fourth at No. 1. Daniel Zhang and Gopal Parthasarathy are the top seed at No. 2 doubles after winning No. 3 last year, and Noah Nichols – part of last year’s runner-up at No. 2 – is seeded third at No. 3 singles. Ryan Killmaster is part of the fifth-seeded No. 3 doubles pair after finishing as part of the No. 4 runner-up in 2016.

Groves: The Falcons tied for fifth last season and return half of an individual champion – Aerik Joe, who is playing No. 1 doubles after helping earn the No. 4 championship in 2016. Groves’ strength is at singles, however, with all four players coming in as third seeds or higher. Junior Gabe Liss is the top seed at No. 1 singles after making the quarterfinals last season as the fifth seed in that flight.

Seaholm: The Maples actually won their Regional ahead of Groves last week after tying with the Falcons at last year’s Final, and they enter with five seeded flights and strength especially in doubles. Alex Acho and Ben Adams are paired as the top seed at No. 4.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s Connor Genschaw: The second seed at No. 1 singles made the semifinals last season as the fourth seed and took the first set from eventual champion Varun Shanker.

Portage Central’s Lucas Guy: Entering as the third seed at No. 1 singles for the second straight season, Guy also made the semifinals last season at the top flight.

LP Division 3 at Holland

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Detroit Country Day, 3. Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

Cranbrook Kingswood has won the last two Division 3 titles ahead of runner-up Country Day, by eight points in 2015 but only one point a year ago. Together, they’ve won the last nine Division 3 championships and earned five runner-up finishes in that time as well. Cranbrook Kingswood beat Country Day by two points at their Regional last week.

Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes have three top seeds in singles and two in doubles, with championship experience all over the lineup. Benji Jacobson is top-seeded at No. 1 singles and looking to repeat as champion and claim his third Finals title after winning No. 2 singles in 2015. Lucas Bosch is top-seeded at No. 2 singles after making the semifinals at that flight in 2016, and Justin Luo is top-seeded at No. 3 coming off a runner-up finish there and after winning No. 4 in 2015. Sohum Archarya is the second seed at No. 4 after also earning a runner-up finish there a year ago. Andrew Du and Jacob Yellen are the top seed at No. 1 doubles after Du was part of last year’s champion and Yellen a runner-up at No. 2, and Joseph Croskey and Nikhil Deenadayalu are top-seeded at No. 2 after Croskey teamed with Yellen and Deenadayalu was part of last season’s runner-up at No. 3. Eshaan Kawlra and Jack Trees are the second seed at No. 3 doubles after winning No. 4 a year ago.

Country Day: The Yellowjackets will bank on six seeded flights to lead them back to the top this weekend. Among top seeds are Tom Nardicchio and Eric Liu at No. 3 doubles and Nick Sicilia and Justin Lee at No. 4; Nardicchio was part of last season’s champion at No. 3 and Sicilia was part of the runner-up at No. 4. Eric Wang earned the top seed at No. 4 singles after winning that flight last year, and Nik Gruskin is the fourth seed at No. 1 after finishing runner-up at No. 2 a year ago. Prathik Chukkapalli was Sicilia’s partner last season but is teaming up for the second-seeded No. 1 pair with Ryan Murakawa, who was part of the runner-up at that flight last year with Rick Warnicke – who is seeded second at No. 2 singles.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern: If either of the Oakland County powers above falters, Forest Hills Eastern could swoop in for its first top-two Finals finish. The Hawks are seeded in seven flights and expected to make the semifinals in six of them. No. 2 doubles pair Evan Schwalm and Karsyn Vanderweele are seeded second, the highest in the lineup.

Coopersville’s Jack Dausman: He’s the second seed at No. 1 singles after surprising by making the semifinals last year as the fifth seed, before falling to Jacobson.

Holland Christian’s Ryan Rhoades: Last season’s runner-up returns as the fifth seed at No. 1 singles, meaning a rematch with Jacobson would come in the semifinals instead of the championship match.

Williamston’s Oliver Weaver: The Hornets moved to Division 3 this fall, and Weaver will test his skills against a new field after winning No. 1 singles in Division 4 last year and finishing runner-up in that division in 2015.

LP Division 4 at Novi

Top-ranked: 1. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 2. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 3. Traverse City St. Francis.

University Liggett broke Greenhills’ eight-year hold on the Division 4 title by finishing two points ahead to win last season’s championship. The pair actually have shared the top for a while, with Greenhills of course finishing second last year and Liggett finishing runner-up in both 2015 and 2014. Traverse City St. Francis remains on the verge of its first top-two finish after tying for third place in 2016.

University Liggett: Only three flights are top-seeded, but all eight flights are seeded third or higher. Thomas Van Pelt and Spencer Warezak at No. 2 doubles and Matthew Lesha and Craig Buhler at No. 3 have two of those top seeds, and all four played in championship matches last year – Warezak and Buhler won No. 3 doubles, while Van Pelt was part of the No. 1 runner-up and Lesha part of the runner-up at No. 4. Andrew Staricco is the lone top seed in singles, at No. 4 after winning that flight last fall, but No. 2 singles third seed Christian Illitch was runner-up at his flight two years ago. Maddie Fozo and Alec Azar are the second seed at No. 1 after Fozo teamed with Van Pelt last year and Azar was part of the No. 2 doubles champion. Freshman William Cooksey will lead the next wave and he’s already started, pulling in the second seed at No. 1 singles for his first Finals.

Greenhills: Like Liggett, Greenhills has all eight flights seeded third or higher. Kaan Oral has the top seed at No. 2 singles after making the semifinals at that flight last season (as the second seed), and Jack Harris and Trey Feldeisen are the top seed at No. 1 doubles after Harris was part of last season’s champion at that flight and Feldeisen was part of the runner-up at No. 3. Drake Rosenberg was a champion at No. 4 doubles last year and is part of the second seed at No. 3, while Sushruta Shankar was part of the runner-up at No. 3 and is part of the third seed at No. 2. Henry Branch is seeded third at No. 3 singles after finishing runner-up last season at No. 4.

St. Francis: The Gladiators might have their best shot yet at moving up with all eight flights seeded fourth or better. St. Francis also has one top seed in singles – Nathan Sodini at No. 3 – and one top seed at doubles with Alex Thelen and Tyler Tafelsky at No. 4. Joe Primeau will look to take some of the Finals experience he earned last year as part of the No. 2 doubles runner-up to No. 4 singles, where he’s seeded fourth.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Ian Worthington: Last season’s champion at No. 2 singles (as a third seed) has moved up to No. 1, where he enters the weekend seeded fifth.

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Ian Sood: After finishing runner-up to Worthington at No. 2 singles last season, and as a fifth seed, Sood is back as the second seed at the same flight.

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Evan Sood: Evan Sood is playing No. 1 singles for the third straight year and is the top seed after making the quarterfinals last season while unseeded.

PHOTO: Cranbrook Kingswood’s Benji Jacobson, left, and Holland Christian’s Ryan Rhoades meet at the net after Jacobson won last season’s No. 1 singles final in Lower Peninsula Division 3. Both return this weekend. (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.)