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).
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.)
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.)