Szabo, Kingsford: Kings of Court Again

May 28, 2015

By Keith Shelton
Special for Second Half

KINGSFORD — Kingsford's Adam Szabo considers himself a hockey player first and a tennis player second.

Yet, one look at the swing of the reigning Upper Peninsula Division 1 No. 1 singles champ reveals a talent above and beyond the rest of the field. A powerful "flick of the wrist" as he would call it, that most players would envy.

Szabo had it all working for him again Wednesday at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Tennis Finals at Kingsford High School, leading his team to its second U.P. championship in the last three years.

"Adam had it going the whole season. He never let up once," said Szabo's head coach Mark Shanks.

Szabo wrapped up a dominant season, capped by his 6-0, 6-0 victory over Josh Downs of Marquette in the No. 1 singles final. Not only did Szabo go undefeated this season, he didn't drop a set. Szabo has only one loss over the last three seasons; Downs has the distinction of putting the lone blemish on Szabo's outstanding career at Kingsford.

It's a loss the Kingsford senior wishes he had back.

"That was a pretty rough match on my part. An off day, you could say," Szabo said of his loss to Downs last season. "I wish I could have that match last year back, but this was a great end to the road. I couldn't have asked for anything better."

Szabo said he holds scholarship offers from several Division II and III colleges to continue his tennis career, but isn't sure that's where his heart is.

"There's some schools talking, but I don't know if I want to," Szabo said. "I don't put a lot of time into this. I might go to college, enlist in the National Guard. I could play; I'm just not sure I want to."

Shanks is certain Szabo was a key part to the Flivvers' resurgence in tennis.

"I've known Adam since he was a second-grader, hanging out at the courts all the time near my house," he said. "I can't take credit for everything he's got; God gave him a lot of gifts, but I was out there to throw him a lot of balls.

"He's one of my top players,” Shanks added. “His brother who is four years apart was also a U.P. champ all four years. They're both good hockey players. Their father (Tony Szabo) gave them good genetics. He played on Northern Michigan University's national championship team in 1991."

Kingsford won the title with 16 points, winning five of eight flights. They were followed by Negaunee at 12, Marquette 10, Menominee 10, Gladstone 1, and Escanaba 1.

Also winning titles for the Flivvers were Chris Roell at No. 3 singles, Alek Shanks at No. 4 singles, Dan Harrington and Joe Gregory at No. 1 doubles, and Noah Voss and Austin VanPembrook at No. 3 doubles.

Harrington and Gregory won the No. 1 doubles title for the second straight year, battling out a heavily contested match against Karl Bittner and Alex Roth of Negaunee 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

"We had our ups and downs today," said Harrington. "It was a little shakier than the last time we played them. They gave us a tough time."

Added Gregory, "We dropped the second set because we weren't playing aggressive enough. We picked it up at the end though."

Shanks was especially proud of his No. 3 doubles team that finished undefeated despite a switch of partners midway through the season. His son, Alek, won at No. 4 singles, defeating Negaunee's Ben Luke 7-6 (8), 6-2.

"That's the reason I'm still here, truthfully," Shanks said of the opportunity to coach his son. "I would have seen this group of kids through, but he'll keep me around a couple more years. It's always fun to see your own blood and kin out there playing. He lost three times to Luke this season. Last year, it was just the opposite. Alek beat Luke three times and then lost to him in the finals. They reversed roles this year."

The champions certainly earned it on this sporadic weather day. The start of the tournament was delayed three hours due to morning rain. There were further rain delays caused by brief downpours later on. Coaches squeegeed the courts in an effort to dry them faster, while players rested up. Most seemed to think the delays were a welcome reprieve.

"The rain delays actually helped," said Marquette's Noah Gannon, who won the No. 2 singles flight. "I was pretty tired after my semifinal match with Ryan Syrjala (a 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-1 victory). The rain delays gave me a break to re-focus myself and get the job done."

Gannon fought off Menominee's Nathan Nowack in the final 6-3, 7-5, overcoming Nowack's powerful serve.

"It got pretty intense toward the end," said Gannon. "His serve was really hard to return. Eventually, I just pulled it out. I really felt confident in this match. I could feel the momentum coming through after I beat Syrjala"

Negaunee captured the No. 2 doubles flight, and Menominee won the No. 4 doubles flight.

Gladstone and Escanaba each advanced one flight to the semifinals before bowing out. Gladstone head coach Dan Williams had to tip his hat to the champions from Kingsford, who eliminated the Braves' No. 1 doubles team of Tyler Wells and Jeremy Kadish.

"Kingsford is the No. 1 team, so if you're going to lose to any team, you want to go out playing the best," Williams said.

The U.P. title is the third in Kingsford boys tennis history. Prior to the 2013 title, the first came back in 1953. Shanks said the team has had fun trying to compare the 2013 and 2015 teams, but he leans toward the 2015 team.

"This team will go down as the best team record-wise in the history of Kingsford school," he said. "We were 14-0 in dual meets; eight of those were 8-0 shutouts. We were 5-0 in tournaments. This is the first Kingsford team to go undefeated and sweep all five tournaments."

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kingsford's Adam Szabo returns a shot on the way to repeating as U.P. Division 1 champion at No. 1 singles. (Middle) Marquette's Noah Gannon earned the No. 2 singles flight championship. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 9, 2024

The Girls & Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium for the first time, one of the most notable changes for this season as sports ramp up for more than 100,000 athletes anticipated to participate this spring for Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools.

The MHSAA sponsors postseason competition each spring in baseball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, girls and boys track & field, boys golf (Lower and Upper Peninsula) and girls golf (UP), and girls (LP) and boys (UP) tennis.

The U-M Lacrosse Stadium opened for competition in 2018 and seats 2,000 spectators. The Girls Lacrosse Finals will be played Friday, June 7, with Division 1 at 4 p.m. and Division 2 at 7 p.m. The Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played the following day, June 8, with Division 2 at 11 a.m. and Division 1 at 2 p.m.

Girls lacrosse also has a significant format adjustment this season, as games will be played with four 12-minutes quarters instead of the previous two halves, in part to allow coaches more opportunities to provide direct instruction during a game. Two more rules changes are expected to improve flow of play – players awarded a free position outside of the critical scoring area no longer must come to a stop and settled stance before self-starting, and false start penalties outside the critical scoring area have been eliminated.

Several more rules changes will be noticeable this spring:

In boys lacrosse, a change was made to enhance player safety. Play will stop immediately any time a player’s helmet comes off, and that player may not return until the next dead ball after play continues.

Fair and legal starts are a continued emphasis for track & field, and a rule change will allow for movement before the start of the race as long as a competitor does not leave their mark with a hand or a foot after the “set” command, or make forward motion before the starting device is activated.

A significant rule change in softball alters pitch delivery mechanics. The pitcher may now have both feet off the ground at the same time when releasing the ball as long as both feet remain within the 24-inch width of a pitching plate and the pitcher does not replant the pivot foot before delivering the pitch.

Another change in softball requires that a playbook/playcard be worn on the wrist or kept in a back pocket to reduce distractions. If worn by the pitcher, the equipment must be worn on the non-pitching arm. Similarly in baseball, a wristband with plays or instructions will be permitted but must be a single, solid color, and for pitchers may not contain the colors white or gray or be otherwise distracting. Baseball players must wear this wristband on the wrist or forearm, and pitchers may wear one only on their non-pitching arm.

Also in baseball, a rule change allows for one-way communication devices worn by the catcher to receive instructions from the dugout while on defense, for the purpose of calling pitches. The coach must be inside the dugout/bench area to use the communication device.

Golfers now are required to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that school team in an MHSAA Regional or Final. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hole events.

In tennis, for the first time in Lower Peninsula play, a No. 1 doubles flight from a non-qualifying team will be able to advance from its Regional to Finals competition. To do so, that No. 1 doubles flight must finish first or second at its Regional, and the No. 1 singles player from that team also must have qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play.

On the soccer pitch, two officiating-related changes will be especially noticeable. Officials now may stop the clock to check on an injured player without that player being required to leave the match – previously that player would have to sub out. Also, categories for fouls have been redefined: careless (which is a foul but does not receive a card), reckless (a foul with a yellow card) and excessive force (foul with red card). 

The 2023-24 Spring campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Golf and Boys Tennis Finals during the week of May 27 and wraps up with Girls Soccer, Baseball and Softball Finals on June 15. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regional Semifinals – June 5
Regional Finals, Quarterfinals – June 8
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Boys Regionals – May 28-June 1
UP Girls & Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Boys Finals – June 7-8

Boys Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 10-15
Regionals – May 16-29
Quarterfinals – May 31 or June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 8

Girls Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 16-18, or May 20
Regionals – May 22-June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 7

Girls Soccer
Districts – May 22-June 1
Regionals – June 4-8
Semifinals – June 11-12
Finals – June 14-15

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regionals – June 8
Quarterfinals – June 11
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Girls Regionals – May 15-18
UP Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Girls Finals – May 31-June 1

Track & Field
Regionals – May 16-18
Finals – June 1