Preview: Powers Could Prevail Again

October 18, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This year’s Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals will again feature a number of contenders we’re used to seeing raise trophies during the season’s closing weekend.

Reigning champions Okemos in Division 2 and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in Division 3 are loaded with top seeds, as is Ann Arbor Greenhills in Division 4 as it looks to build off two straight runner-up finishes. The closest competition might come in Division 1, where reigning champion Bloomfield Hills must fend off the usual cast of contenders including Ann Arbor Huron and Birmingham Brother Rice – but will take them on with a lineup topped by victorious veterans.

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.

Lower Peninsula Division 1 at Midland Tennis Center

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills, 2. Ann Arbor Huron, 3. Birmingham Brother Rice.

Bloomfield Hills has won two of the last three Division 1 titles, last year by two points ahead of Troy and eight ahead of third-place Ann Arbor Huron. Huron claimed the championship in 2016, by two points ahead of the Black Hawks. Brother Rice has finished runner-up three times this decade and as recently as 2014, and will play for its first title since 2009. The Warriors came in fourth last season.

Bloomfield Hills: Seven of eight flights are seeded first or second, led by top-seeded Andrew Zhang at No. 1 singles. He’s finishing a career that’s seen him win No. 2 singles as a sophomore and finish runner-up at No. 2 in 2015 and No. 1 a year ago. Sebastian Burman is the top seed at No. 3 singles after being part of last season’s No. 1 doubles champion with brother Cade, the second seed this weekend at No. 4 singles. Noah Rosin and Adrian Wilen are top-seeded at No. 1 doubles – Wilen was part of the No. 3 runner-up a year ago.  

Ann Arbor Huron: The River Rats have won four of seven team titles this decade. They also are seeded at seven flights and pack the most power with three top-seeded doubles pairs – Nick Grosh and T.J. Bai at No. 2, Sammy Clyde and Pranav Sharma at No. 3 and Nikhil Girish and Vincent Tremonti at No. 4. Grosh and Bai were runners-up at No. 4 a year ago.

Birmingham Brother Rice: The Warriors are seeded at six flights and should stack up some singles points led by second-seeded Jarreau Campbell at No. 1 and top-seeded JJ Etterbeek at No. 2. Campbell made the No. 1 singles semifinals a year ago and was part of the No. 1 doubles champion in 2015. Second-seeded No. 1 doubles pair Josh Anschuetz and Niko Mamatas have enjoyed previous Finals success as well, Mamatas as part of the runner-up at No. 2 doubles last season and Anschuetz as part of the runner-up at No. 1 in 2016.

Clarkston’s Luke Baylis: The Wolves junior is the third seed at No. 1 singles after making the semifinals last season and finishing runner-up at No. 2 as a freshman.

Lower Peninsula Division 2 at Holland Christian/Hope College

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

The Chiefs swept their Regional flights and are looking to repeat as a Finals champion for the first time since winning four straight titles from 2004-07. They finished 15 points ahead of runners-up Groves and Midland Dow a year ago, while Seaholm finished fifth. The runner-up finish was Groves’ fourth, and the Falcons are seeking their first championship. Seaholm owns two runner-up finishes and also is seeking its first title.

Okemos: The Chiefs won six flight championships a year ago, and they’re seeded first in all eight heading into this weekend. Shrey Patel was the No. 3 singles champion in 2017 and is seeded first at No. 2 doubles with Druv Talluri – part of last season’s No. 3 doubles champion. Daniel Gorelik is the reigning No. 4 singles champ and part of the top seed at No. 1 doubles with Zal Chinoy, part of last season’s champion at that flight. Josh Portnoy was the runner-up at No. 2 singles last season and is seeded first at that flight, with freshman Ozan Colak the top seed at No. 1, Benjamin Letzer the top at No. 3 and Rohan Shah the top at No. 4; Shah was part of the No. 2 doubles champ a year ago. Siddharth Nagisetty and Aditya Kandula at No. 3 doubles and Abhi Shukul and Diego Casagrande at No. 4 round out the top seeds; Nagisetty teamed with Shah for that No. 2 title last season and Kandula was part of the winning No. 4 flight.

Birmingham Groves: All eight flights are seeded, and five third or higher. Gabe Liss is the third seed at No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up a year ago, while Gabe Vidinas is the second seed as the reigning champion at No. 2 and Jonah Liss is seeded third at No. 3 after finishing runner-up at that flight last season. Aerik Joe is part of the sixth-seeded No. 1 doubles pair and was part of the No. 4 champion in 2016.

Birmingham Seaholm: The Maples are seeded at five flights with three second-seeded doubles pairs. Ben Adams and Aidan O’Neill are teamed up for the second seed at No. 1 – Adams was part of the runner-up last season at No. 4 and O’Neill was part of the No. 3 runner-up. Max Levitsky teamed with Adams at No. 4 last season and this weekend is part of the second-seeded pair at No. 3.

Mattawan’s Nathaniel Webster: After making the second round as the fifth seed at No. 1 singles as a freshman last year, Webster enters this weekend third-seeded at the top flight.

Midland Dow’s Tyler Conrad: The Chargers’ senior is seeded fourth at No. 1 singles after finishing runner-up at No. 3 as a freshman, champion at No. 3 as a sophomore and making the semifinals at No. 2 last fall.

Lower Peninsula Division 3 at Novi

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Detroit Country Day, 3. East Grand Rapids.

Cranbrook Kingswood and Detroit Country Day have finished as the top two in this division the last four seasons, with the Cranes winning the last three titles after Country Day won four straight from 2011-14. In fact, they’ve combined to win the last 10 championships, and last year Cranbrook cleared the field by eight points. East Grand Rapids has finished runner-up twice over the last 11 seasons and is seeking its first title since spring 2007. The Pioneers tied for third last season with Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes are seeded at every flight and carry six top seeds into the weekend, with three returning 2017 champions. Lucas Bosch is the top seed at No. 1 singles after winning No. 2 a year ago, and similarly Justin Luo is the top seed at No. 2 coming off the No. 3 singles titles. (Luo also was No. 4 champion as a freshman and No. 3 runner-up as a sophomore.) Joe Croskey was part of the No. 2 doubles champion in 2017 and is seeded first at No. 4 singles. Nolan Sherwood played No. 1 singles for Forest Hills Eastern last season and is seeded first at No. 3 for the Cranes. Patrick Tiwari and Sohum Acharya are the top seed at No. 2 doubles – Acharya was the runner-up at No. 4 singles last season – and Geoffrey Qin and Isaiah Croskey are top-seeded at No. 4. Nikhil Deenadaylu teamed with Croskey to win No. 2 last season and is part of the fourth-seeded No. 1 pair this time with Jack Trees, a runner-up at No. 3 in 2017. Hayes Bradley and David Hermelin are seeded third at No. 3 doubles after finishing runner-up at No. 4 a year ago.

Detroit Country Day: All eight flights are seeded second or third at their respective flights. Nikolas Gruskin is the second seed at No. 1 singles and Ricky Warnicke is the third seed at No. 2 – they finished back-to-back runners-up at No. 2 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Nick Sicilia was part of the No. 4 doubles champion last season and is part of the second-seeded No. 2 pair. Alex Mettler and Alex Pollak are the second seed at No. 1.

East Grand Rapids: The Pioneers are seeded at seven flights including with one of the top seeds that didn’t go to Cranbrook. Nick Lambert and Graham Haslem earned it at No. 3 doubles after making the semifinals for that flight together last season. Kole Butterer was part of the No. 2 doubles runner-up last season and is part of the third-seeded pair at No. 1. Ben Collins made the quarterfinals at No. 1 singles last season as a sixth seed and returns in the third spot in that flight.

St. Clair’s Derek Distelrath: The Saints freshman enters his first MHSAA Finals as the fourth seed at No. 1 singles.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Anish Premkumar and Anish Kokkula: They’re the top seed at No. 1 doubles after Kokkula made the semifinals last season at No. 3 singles and Premkumar was part of the champion at this flight.

Lower Peninsula Division 4 at Kalamazoo College

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 2. Traverse City St. Francis, 3. Allegan.

Greenhills won eight straight Division 4 titles from 2008-15 before Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett won the last two with the Gryphons finishing second both times. Liggett is ranked No. 7 entering this weekend, and Greenhills is poised to take back the title after coming up two points short a year ago. St. Francis was third last season, six points off the lead, and it is seeking its first top-two finish. So too is Allegan, which tied for fifth in LPD3 last season.

Ann Arbor Greenhills: The Gryphons have six top seeds and two second seeds. Kann Oral is the reigning champion at No. 2 singles and seeded first at that flight, and Taha Zirapury is the top seed at No. 4 after pairing for the No. 3 doubles championship last fall. Trey Feldeisen is back at No. 1 doubles as the reigning champion but with new partner Henry Branch, a No. 3 singles semifinalist last season. Nathan Rosenberg and Finn Feldeisen at No. 3 doubles, Harrison Li and Alex Schwendeman at No. 4 and Mert Oral at No. 3 singles also carry top seeds into the weekend. Drake Rosenberg and Joey Formicola are the second-seeded pair at No. 2 doubles after Rosenberg teamed with Zirapury for the No. 3 title last season and Formicola was part of the runner-up at No. 2. Sahil Deenadayalu is the second seed at No. 1 singles.

Traverse City St. Francis: Seven flights are seeded, with one top seed and four second at their respective flights. Tyler Tafelsky is part of the second-seeded pair at No. 1 doubles after combining to win No. 4 last season, and Sean Navin and Brendan Chouinard own that top seed at No. 2 doubles. Andrew Gerling is the fourth seed at No. 1 singles, topping a lineup with the second seeds at the other three flights.

Allegan: Five flights are seeded, all third or higher, and with four seeds coming in doubles. In singles, Kody Harrington is the third seed at No. 2 after finishing No. 3 runner-up in Division 3 a year ago.  Zach Sisson made the semifinals at No. 1 doubles in last season and is part of the third seed at that flight with Zach Lang, who made the quarterfinals at No. 2 doubles in Division 3 a year ago.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s William Cooksey: Last season’s No. 1 singles champ as a freshman returns as the top seed at that flight as a sophomore.

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Ian Sood: A junior, Sood finished runner-up at No. 2 singles both of his first two seasons and this weekend is seeded third at No. 1.

PHOTO: Okemos’ Druv Talluri returns a volley during a No. 3 doubles match at last season's Finals; he returns this weekend as part of the top-seeded pair at No. 2. (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.)