By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half
KINGSFORD — Ishpeming Westwood coach Chris Jackson knew his team had to keep it simple to win the Upper Peninsula Division 2 title Wednesday.
The Patriots came out and did exactly that, winning six of eight flights for their fourth straight U.P. title.
“It feels awesome. Coming in, we knew it was going to be a real tight battle between us and West Iron,” Jackson said. “At the end, it turned into a virtual dual meet. We both had seven or eight finals. The difference was we won six of them.
“We were trying to find four wins in the finals,” Jackson added. “We had two that we felt pretty good about, and then there were a whole bunch of close ones. I think that’s exactly how it played out.”
Westwood’s 21 points was enough to clear Iron River West Iron County (16), which also put six flights in the finals. Iron Mountain placed third with seven points.
Jacob Kerkela’s win in No. 2 singles sealed the team win for the Patriots.
Iron Mountain’s Tysen Wadge beat West Iron’s Neil Tomasoski in No. 1 singles (6-1, 6-2) for his third U.P. individual title.
West Iron County’s lone finals win came at No. 1 doubles when Brandon Henschel and Kevin Ballinger beat Westwood’s Austin Pierpont and Dylan Willey, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. The Patriots swept the rest of the finals.
Jackson said there was no secret weapon in terms of performance. The players just had to stay in the moment.
“It’s hard in these situations. Everybody thinks you have to play your best tennis, you have to do all this, but the question is how do you get there? We keep things simple; there’s not a lot of pressure on these kids,” Jackson said. “Everybody wants to do well on a day like this. I think it’s doing the simple things, taking care of things that you have control over.
“A day like this can really get away from you when you start worrying about things that are going on on a different court, or a different site than just focusing on what you need to do.”
Iron Mountain coach Sharon Ducat said she expected West Iron County and Westwood to square off for the U.P. title. Her team, meanwhile, was steady but not as solid.
“We did OK. We are kind of a middle-of-the-pack team,” Ducat said. “We had a win at No. 1 singles, which was great. I’m really happy for Tysen for that.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming Westwood poses with its trophy after winning its fourth straight MHSAA Finals title. (Middle) Iron Mountain’s Tysen Wadge returns a volley during his championship match at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)
Owen Jackson ♦ Traverse City St. Francis
Junior ♦ Tennis
Playing his first season at No. 1 singles, Jackson won matches at that flight over Traverse City Central and Petoskey. St. Francis plays in Lower Peninsula Division 4 and is ranked No. 2 this fall, while Central plays in LP Division 2 and Petoskey is ranked No. 8 in LP Division 3. Jackson is 16-3 this season.
The top-flight standout has been climbing the lineup throughout his career with the Gladiators. Jackson finished 39-4 as a freshman and won the No. 3 flight at the LPD4 Finals as St. Francis won the team championship. He moved up to No. 2 singles as a sophomore, finishing 34-9 and also winning his flight at the Finals. Jackson also plays golf and was part of the lineup that finished 14th in LPD3 this spring.
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(PHOTOS courtesy of Owen Jackson.)