Rain Can't Soak Olivier, Negaunee 3-Peats

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 30, 2018


KINGSFORD — What rain delay?

A pause in the action due to the elements for more than two hours failed to slow down Marquette junior Alec Olivier on Wednesday as he earned his third consecutive No. 1 singles tennis title in a 6-0, 6-0 conquest of Negaunee senior Luke Skewis at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals at Kingsford High School.

“I guess I just played well,” said Olivier, who also went undefeated for the third straight season. “I’ve had rain delays in other matches. It’s not that big of a problem. I just drank a lot of water, did some stretching (exercises) and walked around and stayed loose during the break.

“I’m glad we got it finished today. I was willing to stay here as long as it took.”

Negaunee, which won six of eight flights, was crowned champion for the third straight season with 22 points. The Miners were followed by Escanaba with 14 and Kingsford with eight among top finishers.

“We knew there was potential to be pushed by Kingsford and Escanaba,” said Miners’ coach Kyle Saari. “The unique thing about this group is they’re coachable. They buy into everything we tell them and push each other to be better.

“It feels great to win three in a row. This all started for us in 2010, and we’ve since won seven of nine. Every group wants to build upon the success of the previous.”

Olivier went right back to work after the rain delay, placing many of his overhand shots with near pinpoint accuracy. The match ended when Skewis was unable to return one of Olivier’s serves.

“I’ve been around (high school tennis) since 1971,” said Marquette coach Charlie Drury. “Without any question, he’s the best player I’ve seen at the high school level within that span. He’s a very dedicated player.”

Among Negaunee’s champions were juniors Peyton Anderson and Jake Larson, who rallied past Escanaba seniors Alex Valentine and Soren Thompson (4-6, 6-2, 6-1) in No. 2 doubles.

“We started playing with more energy after the first set,” said Larson, a U.P. champion at No. 4 doubles a year ago. “It took us a little while to get back in the flow after the rain delay. Then, we understood what was happening. There’s a lot of difference between No. 2 and No. 4 doubles. “I’ve learned not to get mad at myself, which didn’t work today in the first set. It’s nice seeing everybody happy with the results. Kingsford and Escanaba are always good. We know they’re always going to give us a match.”

Senior Josh Grassel became the first Escanaba player since 2012 to win a flight in the U.P. Finals, taking a 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 decision from Negaunee sophomore Chas Kumpula at No. 2 singles.

Grassel forced the tie-breaker in the second set by overcoming a 5-2 deficit. Kumpula, however, was able to hang on and force the third. Grassel responded by taking a 3-0 lead in the finale.

“When it went to 3-0, I felt my chances were pretty good,” said Grassel. “I think I may have caught him by surprise in the third set. I felt I had a lot of momentum at the end of the second set, even though he won it. I thought (Kumpula) played well. He’s a good player for being as young as he is.”

Also among Negaunee’s champions was Tom Sertich, who blanked Escanaba senior Nathan Pascoe 6-0, 6-0 in No. 3 singles. Freshman Will Luke dispatched Escanaba’s Cody Stevens 6-0, 6-0 at No. 4 singles. Sophomores Jakson Sager and Drew Lindberg outlasted Kingsford juniors Duante Fortner and Tyler Beauchamp (7-5, 1-6, 6-2) in No. 1 doubles, and senior Evan Hassell and junior Tom Kinjorski defeated Escanaba’s Garrett LaMarch and Tom Mayville (6-2, 7-5) at No. 4.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee’s Jakson Sager and Drew Lindberg volley with an opponent on the way to winning the No. 1 doubles title Wednesday at Kingsford. (Middle) Marquette’s Alec Olivier returns a shot during one of his matches; he claimed his third MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)