Westwood Reaches Every Flight Final in Retaking UPD2 Championship

By Travis Nelson
Special for Second Half

June 2, 2022

ISHPEMING – On its home courts, the host Westwood boys tennis team claimed the Upper Peninsula Division 2 title by winning four flights and making the finals in all eight Thursday afternoon.

Westwood won the tournament going away with 20 points, while second place Munising’s 12 and third place Iron Mountain’s 10 provided the most turbulence. The Mustangs and Mountaineers both had two winners and four finalists. West Iron County came in fourth with six points, Ishpeming had three and Gwinn rounded out the six teams with one point.

Westwood had last won the Finals title in 2019 and finished runner-up to West Iron last season.

“We were lucky that we had everybody in the finals, which is half of the battle at UPs – getting there,” Westwood coach Sarah Massie said. “We’re happy to see everybody be able to make it there even though we weren’t necessarily favored once we were in the finals in all of the spots. Everybody played hard today, and there were some close matches that we had to get through.”

The Patriots scored victories in No. 3 and No. 4 singles, along with No. 3 and No. 4 doubles. In one of the knockout, drag-out matches that Massie referenced, Patrick Klumpp had to survive his semifinal before advancing and winning the No. 3 singles flight. Klumpp defeated Ethan Isaacson of West Iron County with the help of a tiebreaker in the second set before cruising for the title in a 6-0, 6-1 win over Munising’s Cole Whitehead.

“It’s been a rough season here and there, but today I felt great,” Klumpp said. “I love this sport, it’s fun, there’s always good competition, and it’s fun to be a part of a team.”

Westwood’s other singles winner Mason Hietikko had a bit of a different path on the way to his No. 4 singles victory. After starting the season at doubles and struggling, he made the move to singles and didn’t look back. In the final, Hietikko scooted past Iron Mountain’s Reece Kangas for the 6-1, 6-2 win.

“I think it’s amazing,” Hietikko said. “Coming out here and winning my flight is an amazing feeling. Being consistent, and not making stupid mistakes and getting in my head, was a perfect way to win.”

John Thomsen and Nick Salzwedel pulled out the No. 3 doubles win for Westwood after knocking off Munising’s Danny Goss and Aidan Gumz in the only three-set finals match 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Rounding out the Patriots’ four victories, Jayce Patron and Mitchell Ford defeated Iron Mountain’s Dylan Kingren and Carter Kassin in No. 4 doubles 6-4, 7-5. 

Westwood won both girls and boys tennis titles this school year, dating back to the girls’ Division 1 victory in September. The success of the program as of late hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it’s furthermore setting things up for the Patriots in the future.

Iron Mountain tennis“It’s fun to see, and it’s good for our community, and just tennis as a whole for the girls and boys to see success,” Massie said. “We just started a middle school program, so for those kids to see the high schoolers and the kids that they look up to, is just good for our tennis program and for the game of tennis.”

Munising galloped to win the other two doubles flights on the way to their second-place finish. The No. 1 doubles team for the Mustangs of Alex Vandzandt and Lucas Westcomb defeated Westwood’s Ryan LaFountain and Chase Prophet 6-2, 6-3. The pair are good friends and graduating together this year, and also won a U.P. Finals championship after not having a team for the past two seasons.

“It feels great honestly just coming out here after two years of not playing. Becoming U.P. champions is a great feeling,” Vandzandt said. “We had to search and search for a coach. Abbie Hayes came out. She’s only 20 years old, she’s still going to college, she worked hard to get to all of our practices. I’m glad we could be here, and I’m glad that a couple of our teammates could be U.P. champions.”

Munising’s No. 2 doubles team of Jesse Duran and Carson Kienitz also prevailed with a tight 6-4, 7-5 win over Westwood’s Gabe Tossava and Zak Senske. With a new core of players on the team, especially for those seniors who haven’t played in two years, the Mustangs did more than show up at U.P. Finals.

“It was very nerve-racking, but we tried to keep our cool, and keep the ball in,” Westcomb said. “We just had to get back in our groove and get back those skills from our freshman year, and get the hang of everything.”

Iron Mountain also produced a pair of winners atop of the singles flights. David Juul ended his strong season with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Westwood’s Andrew Niemi in the No. 1 singles finale. The senior’s search for that elusive U.P. championship came to a close after falling short in his previous tries.

“I thought my backhand was on; I had a lot of kill shots with my backhand,” Juul said. “My first serve was going in a lot, so I was very happy. It feels good to get the win. Andrew (Niemi) played really well, and it was a fun match to play in.”

Brenden LaPoint was victorious at No. 2 singles for the Mountaineers with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Westwood’s Bryce Markham. LaPoint had been out most of the season with a foot injury, and he doubted that he would be able to play at all this season. With the injury still nagging him in recent weeks before getting fully healed a week ago, LaPoint’s win wasn’t as ordinary as others.

“I really wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to UPs this season with my foot injury,” LaPoint said. “It was good to be able to get back for UPs and take home the championship.”

PHOTOS (Top) Ishpeming Westwood's Bryce Markham returns a volley during a No. 2 singles match Thursday. (Middle) Iron Mountain's David Juul sends a shot at No. 1 singles on the way to winning his flight. (Photos by Travis Nelson.)

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.)