Westwood Runs Reign to 3 Straight

June 2, 2016

By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half

KINGSFORD — Ishpeming Westwood coach Chris Jackson knew his team had to appear in the finals during the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys tennis tournament Thursday.

They did, and won all six of their title match appearances to win the overall championship with 20 points. Iron River West Iron County was runner-up with 15.

“I think a lot of it was about redemption,” said Westwood coach Chris Jackson. “We have six seniors. A number of them had disappointments last year, and we still were able to win. A lot of those kids came back and fought through some tough moments today and got an extra point or two.”

Westwood’s No. 2 singles Jacob Kerkela defeated West Iron’s Erick Upperstrom, 6-1, 6-3, as he team claimed the second, third and fourth singles and second, third and fourth doubles flights.

Westwood shared the championship in 2015 in Iron Mountain, but now has won MHSAA titles to finish three straight seasons and four of the last five.

West Iron County coach Joe Serbentas said he was happy with the way his team performed in finishing second to the more experienced Patriots.

The Wykons advanced to championship matches in six flights as it sought its first team title since 2013.

“We knew coming in that it was going to be a tight match with Westwood,” Serbentas said. “I was just happy that our team had an opportunity at the very end to try and take a championship as a team. We know they have a nice team. I was proud of the way our boys fought.”

West Iron County had trouble converting on its opportunities to win championship matches. The day’s longest was No. 3 singles between James Swanson and Adam Hyttinen, which lasted more than an hour. The two traded tiebreakers in the first two sets before Hyttinen won the last set, 6-2, and finished Westwood’s championship.

Serbentas was optimistic and said with a young team including just three seniors, the sky is the limit next year.

“I thought the whole team improved as the season went along,” Serbentas said. “That’s all you can ask as a coach is to give your team an opportunity to win at the end, and we did. We’re going to be back next year, and we’re going to have to learn how to finish some of these flights and win some championships next year. That was the critical point of the day: we could not win at the end.”

Third-place Iron Mountain played a bit of a spoiler role against West Iron County. No. 1 singles Tysen Wadge beat Neil Tomasoski, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. Jordan Wadge and Luke Truscott beat Zane Sarafiny and Brandon Henschel in No. 1 doubles, 6-4, 6-2.

Mountaineers coach Greg Stegall said his team did OK, but its depth didn’t match up.

“We’re still producing the best players at the top flights — one singles and doubles,” Stegall said. “Overall, team depth, we just don’t have the numbers. These schools, they have entire JV squads, which means they have over 30 kids to develop. We’ve got 16 at the most.”

Ishpeming placed fourth with four points, followed by Munising (three) and Gwinn (one).

Click for championship match results.

PHOTOS: (Top) An Ishpeming Westwood doubles player returns a shot during Thursday's Division 2 Final. (Middle) Iron Mountain's Tysen Wadge prepares to send back a shot on the way to winning the No. 1 singles title. (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.)