West Iron Erases Memory of Near-Miss

May 30, 2013

By Steve Brownlee
Special to Second Half

ISHPEMING — Something had been gnawing at the West Iron County High School boys tennis team for a full year.

Like an itch that’s hard to reach or a pebble stuck in your shoe while running a race, the Wykons could do little about it.

Until the end of the spring season, that is. That’s when WIC nearly doubled up the rest of the field to easily win the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys tennis championship Thursday at Westwood High School in Ishpeming.

The Iron County school lost last year’s D2 title by a single point to Westwood when its top-seeded No. 1 doubles team was upset in its first match. As the only tandem in that flight to receive a first-round bye, the Wykons lost two points with that loss, turning what would’ve been a one-point win in the meet into a loss of the same margin.

This year, however, WIC scored 21 points, nearly twice runner-up Iron Mountain’s 11. Munising, the only Class D school in the U.P. to field a team, was third with nine, followed by Ishpeming with seven, host Westwood four, Gwinn two and Norway one.

The Wykons not only won five of the meet’s eight flights, but had a representative in every championship match.

That gave the Wykons their sixth U.P. title in the past nine years. And they’ve finished worse than second only once during that stretch.

“The guys were determined that they were going to put last year behind them,” said Wykons coach Joe Serbentas, who has guided them to all six of those titles. “Everybody suffered this year (in the offseason).

“But we have a veteran team with a lot of juniors, and for plenty of them this is their third year playing varsity.”

Fully half of their players on Thursday also played for the Wykons during their 2011 championship run, a one-point victory over Iron Mountain.

In a spring that started like winter and stayed that way for far too long, in an odd way it made sense the final tennis match of the season would be played on a sweltering day.

With temperatures heading well past 80 degrees and closer to 90, the Wykons wrapped up their title not long before a typical summer afternoon thunderstorm hit the Ishpeming area.

The meet ended when WIC’s No. 1 doubles tandem of junior Andrew Peterson and senior Sean Gustafson completed a 6-0, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Iron Mountain’s Gerry Pirkola and Max Frorenza.

They were playing at the No. 1 flight, the same one that proved pivotal in the Wykons losing the title a year earlier.

“I think they had to wait awhile before they played us,” Peterson said about his opponents’ slow start. “Then in the second set, I think we started worrying about what we were doing instead of just playing.

“But we both played well in the third (set).”

The tournament wasn’t really the blowout that the final score would indicate, since Iron Mountain made five championship matches.

The problem? The Mountaineers not only lost all five, but lost each to WIC.

“I definitely thought we had a shot (at winning the title),” Iron Mountain coach Greg Stegall said. “We just came up short here and there, and West Iron didn’t.”

The Wykons also collected titles at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles, along with Nos. 3 and 4 singles, again each over a Mountaineers’ opponent in the title match.

The other three flights were claimed by the northern tier of schools at these finals, two by Munising, which has never played a home match due to a lack of playable courts anywhere in Alger County.

That was actually a factor that may have helped Munising, according to Ian McInnis, who joined fellow freshman Trevor Witty in winning the No. 4 doubles title.

“It was just like any other match, since we never play at our own place,” McInnis said about traveling to Westwood.

The biggest upset of the day may have been pulled off by Mustangs sophomore Noah Ackerman, who defeated WIC senior Austin Waara at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

Though Ackerman was the top seed, Waara was gunning for his fourth straight U.P. singles title, including his third in a row at No. 1. He won a U.P. title at No. 3 as a freshman.

Ackerman, though, is a rising star in U.P. tennis and didn’t lose a match all spring. Thursday marked the first time the pair had ever squared off in high school. They came close at last year’s U.P. Finals, when as a freshman, Ackerman was knocked out one match short of facing Waara for the No. 1 singles championship.

“He was coming up to the net a whole lot today,” Ackerman said about Waara.

His coach echoed that. “You could see that Waara had a game plan, but Noah was able to figure it out,” Munising coach Rod Gendron said. “Noah was down 2-1 in the third set and then he won the last five games. That was when he really put the pedal to the metal.”

The other champion was Ishpeming sophomore Guillermo Ansede, an exchange student, who won the No. 2 singles title with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) victory over WIC’s Ryan Rogers in the final.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County's Andrew Peterson returns a shot during a No. 1 doubles match; he and Sean Gustafson won the flight. (Middle) Iron Mountain's Danny Willman reaches for a shot during a No. 2 doubles match. (Photos by Steve Brownlee.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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