Preview: Winning Streaks on the Line

October 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A pair of the state’s most impressive championship winning streaks came to an end during the 2014 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals. But two more streaks remain alive – and at least one is expected to continue.

Ann Arbor Greenhills is seeking its eighth straight Division 4 title, which would tie it for the third longest Finals winning streak in the sport’s history. And in Division 3, Detroit Country Day is playing for its fifth straight win. Greenhills is ranked No. 1 in in the latest statewide LPD4 coaches poll; Country Day is No. 2 in LPD3. 

See below for a glance at the favorites at all four tournaments this weekend, plus  individuals to watch as well. Click for qualifiers and Regional results from all four divisions and Finals results as they are reported, and check back after their completion for coverage of all four tournaments. 

LP Division 1 at Greater Midland Tennis Center

Top ranked: 1. Novi, 2. Troy, 3. Bloomfield Hills

Novi broke Ann Arbor Huron’s three-year winning streak a year ago with its first title, and now the Wildcats are expected to build a streak of their own. Troy also is seeking its first MHSAA boys tennis title, and Bloomfield Hills is seeking its first since the merger of the former Lahser and Andover high schools. The most recent title for either was Andover’s in LPD3 in 2005.

Novi – Six flights have top or second seeds, including all four doubles pairs. That doesn’t include Koushik Kondapi, last season’s champion at No 2 singles who is the sixth seed this time at No. 1. Alex Wen also moved up a flight after winning a title, from No. 3 last season to the second seed at No. 2. Maxx Anderson and Daniel Yu are the top seed again at No. 1 doubles after finishing runner-up last season, and Aditya Chitta and Robert Chen are second-seeded at No. 2 after making the semifinals at No. 4 in 2014. Sai Gotur and Abhishek Subash are the top seed at No. 3 after making the second round in that flight last season, and Aakash Ray and Nayan Makim are second at No. 4; Ray was part of a semifinalist at No. 2 last year.

Troy – The Colts are looking to improve on last season’s third-place finish with seven seeded flights, including three fourth seeds. Michael Faber is the fifth seed at No. 2 singles after making the quarterfinals at No. 1 in 2014, while Steve Forman is the fourth seed at No. 1 after making the No. 2 semifinals and Sandeep Raja moved up to No. 3 after making the No. 4 quarterfinals. Sai Kagithala was a quarterfinalist at No. 3 last season but moved to No. 1 doubles where he’s part of the fifth seed with Kevin Fietsam.

Bloomfield Hills – The Black Hawks will look to contend after finishing 10th a year ago on the strength of a singles lineup featuring two top seeds and all four flights seeded no lower than fourth. Constantine Hemmrich is the number one at No. 3 singles after playing No. 2 in 2014, and Brad Silverman comes in as top-seeded at No. 4 after making the semifinals last time. Josh Mukherjee is second-seeded at No. 1 after making the semifinals at that flight last season, and Andrew Zhang is fourth-seeded at No. 2.

Northville’s Connor Johnston – The top-seeded senior at No. 1 singles is looking to finish with another title to go with his championship at No. 2 as a freshman. He finished runner-up at No. 1 the last two seasons.

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Ian Yi – He’s back as the third seed at No. 1 after making the semifinals last season and after winning No. 2 singles as a freshman in 2013.

Port Huron Northern’s Chris Adams – He’s the top seed at No. 2 singles after falling to Kondapi in three sets in the final last season.

Ann Arbor Huron’s Austin Choi and Robert Dong – Choi, a junior, won the No. 1 doubles title last season with Jason Chen and this time is top-seeded with Dong, a sophomore.

Other returning 2014 flight champions – Ann Arbor Huron’s Brenden Chen (No. 3 doubles last season, No. 1 doubles this season with Justin Park). 

Division 2 at Holly

Top ranked:  1. Portage Central, 2. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 3. Midland Dow.

Forest Hills Central ended Dow’s five-year run atop LPD2 a year ago, but Portage Central is favored to win its first title since sharing the championship in spring 2007 – with an interesting side note that Central co-coach Erik Anderson led East Lansing to back-to-back titles in fall 2007 and 2008. Dow and Portage Central tied for third last season, six points behind the champ.

Portage Central – The Mustangs have either the first or second seed at every flight and reigning runners-up at the top two singles spots in top-seeded No. 1 Bill Duo and second-seeded No. 2 Ben Orwin. Lucas Guy and Camilo Bautista round out the singles lineup with two more second seeds at Nos. 3 and 4, and the Nos. 2-4 doubles pairs are all second seeded as well. Kento Hirakawa and Cameron Raedy are the top seed at No. 1; Raedy was part of a semifinalist at No. 1 last season with Sahil Tandon (now No. 2 doubles), and Hirakawa made the semifinals at No. 3 singles. 

Forest Hills Central – The Rangers are seeded to win two flights after winning four on the way to the team title in 2014. Jacob Wiltjer is the reigning champion at No. 4 singles and seeded first, while Peyton Herbert and Mike Battiste are top-seeded at No. 4 doubles. Humzah Azeem teams with Reed Aleck at No. 1 doubles, and although they are unseeded, Azeem was part of the champion at No. 3 doubles last season. Sophomore Connor Genschaw is the second seed at No. 1 singles after making the semifinals last season after entering unseeded.

Dow – The singles lineup includes two top seeds and a pair of former individual champions. Michael Szabo owns two titles at No. 4 singles and a third at No. 3, plus the MHSAA career wins and career 6-0, 6-0, wins records, and is the top seed at No. 2 this weekend. Varun Shanker won No. 3 singles in 2013 and is the fourth seed at No. 1, and Tyler Conrad is the top seed at No. 3 this time.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern’s Jacob Dennen – He was upset in the second round at No. 1 singles as the fifth seed last season, but is back as the third seed this time.

Detroit U-D Jesuit’s Louis Wyre and Joey Wilson – They are the second seed at No. 1 doubles after finishing runner-up at No. 2 in 2014 as a fourth seed.

LP Division 3 at Holland

Top ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Detroit Country Day, 3. Holland Christian.

Country Day has won four straight LPD3 championships and beat runner-up Cranbrook Kingswood by seven points last season while scoring a near-perfect 39 – but Cranbrook Kingswood beat Country Day at last week’s MHSAA Regional. One of those two teams has won the last seven championships and they faced off in all eight flight finals in 2014. Holland Christian finished fourth last season and is seeking its first MHSAA title since 1965. 

Cranbrook Kingswood – The Cranes are seeded first at seven flights and second at the eighth. Marc Sable was No. 2 runner-up last season and is the top seed at No. 1, switching spots with Benji Jacobson, the reigning No. 1 singles runner-up and this time the top seed at No. 2. Michael Bian is the top seed at No. 3 after finishing runner-up last season, and top-seeded No. 1 doubles pair Nolan Trepeck and Matthew Gerard were part of runners-up at Nos. 2 and 1, respectively. Brandon Kerr and Colin Petzold are top-seeded at No. 3 after finishing runner-up at No. 4.

Country Day – The Yellowjackets have the other top seed and seven second seeds, although three of those second seeds were flight champions last season and are seeded second after falling to Cranbrook Kingswood players at the Regional. Noah Karoub will be looking to repeat at No. 1, while Jakob Gahn moved from No. 2 after winning No. 3 and Michael Khaghany moved to No. 3 after winning No. 4. Damian Runkle and Adam Junn are teamed up as the second seed at No. 1 doubles after Runkle won with a different partner last year and Junn was part of the title-winning pair at No. 2. They, Karoub and Gahn are all seeking their third MHSAA flight championships. No. 4 singles Alex Mettler is the team’s lone top seed.

Holland Christian – The Maroons are seeded at every flight with third seeds at six flights. Ryan Rhoades made the semifinals at No. 3 last season and is second-seeded at No. 2, and Mark Glover and Johan Buurma were semifinalists at No. 3 doubles in 2014 and are part of seeded pairs at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

LP Division 4 at Kalamazoo College

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

Greenhills has won seven straight LPD4 titles and eight of the last nine, and cleared the field by 11 points a year ago. University Liggett was runner-up and St. Francis finished third at 22 and 21 points, respectively. Liggett last won a title in 2002, and St. Francis is seeking its first top-two finish. 

Greenhills – The Gryphons' recent success has been based in doubles, with the team winning 11 of 12 flight championships over the last three seasons. Greenhills has a top seed and three second seeds at doubles this time, but also three top seeds in singles – No. 2 Sam Talsma, No. 3 Gage Feldeisen and No. 4 Andy Xie. Feldeisen was the champion at No. 3 in 2014, while Talsma was part of the champ at No. 1 doubles and Xie part of the No. 2 doubles winner. Brandon Johnson was Talsma’s partner and this season is part of the second-seeded No. 1 pair with Jack Harris.

University Liggett – The Knights are seeded at every flight, led by top seeds Casey Scoggin and Alec Azar at No. 3 doubles and Kester Stefani and Craig Buhler at No. 4. Alex Dow and Dave Sekhon were the runner-up last season at No. 2; Sekhon is teaming with Will Gersch to form the second-seeded pair at No. 2, and Dow and Thomas Van Pelt are third-seeded at No. 1. Second-seeded Christian Illitch at No. 2 has the team’s highest singles position.

St. Francis – Seven seeded flights will lead the Gladiators’ pursuit of its top finish ever, led by second seeds Tyler Spigarelli at No. 3 singles and Victor Casler at No. 4. Ryan Navin was part of the No. 4 doubles runner-up last season and teams with Joe Primeau as the third-seeded pair at No. 2.

Otsego’s Luke Ford – He’s the top seed at No. 1 singles after making the semifinals as the second seed last season.

Williamston’s Oliver Weaver – A quarterfinalist as an unseeded player last season, he was eliminated by Ford and enters as the second seed at No. 1.

Kalamazoo Hackett’s Henry Hedeman – Last season’s champion at No. 2 singles moves up a flight and enters as the third seed. 

Whitehall’s Eric Butzer and Alec Milliron – The top-seeded pair at No. 1 doubles is made up of a No. 2 singles player from last season in Butzer and a No. 2 doubles player in Milliron. 

PHOTO: Northville’s Connor Johnston returns a volley during last season’s No. 1 singles championship match in Lower Peninsula Division 1. (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.)