6 Flight Champs Key Westwood 4-Peat

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

October 2, 2019

KINGSFORD — Ishpeming Westwood continued its stranglehold on the Upper Peninsula Division 2 girls tennis championship Wednesday, winning for the fourth straight season.

Westwood, which gained at least a share of title for also the 10th time in 11 years, posted 22 points and was followed by West Iron County with 15 and Iron Mountain with 11.

“This is an exciting day for the girls,” said Westwood coach Sarah Massie. “One of our goals was definitely to win the M-PCs (Mid-Peninsula Conference). After a big win over Negaunee, we were ready to go. We didn’t have a dual meet with West Iron because it got rained out. We didn’t play them until today. The girls just had to play their game, and it worked out for them.”

The Patriots won 6-of-8 flights, including all four singles on this cloudy, chilly and windy day.

Senior Madelyn Koski became a two-time Finals champion by taking a 6-1, 6-0 decision from Iron Mountain’s Macy McCormick at No. 1 singles. She previously was part of a No. 3 doubles winner in 2016 and was runner-up at No. 1 singles in 2018.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Koski. “Every team I’ve been on worked pretty hard. It has really been fun to be on these teams. I’m pretty sad to see it end.

“This is probably the best I played in the U.P. Finals. I just learned as I went on. It was definitely a little windy, and I had to adjust my game – although, I’m used to the wind.”

Classmate Tessa Leece won for the fourth consecutive Finals, topping Iron Mountain’s Claire Mongrain 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Leece teamed with Koski in 2016, won No. 4 singles as a sophomore and No. 2 also as a junior. 

“I just focused on hitting good shots and tried to be patient,” said Leece, who also runs on the school’s cross country team. “I knew what to expect, which comes with experience.

“This feels so good. We worked so hard for it. We wanted to end on a good note.”

Jillian Koski added a 6-0, 6-4 triumph over Iron Mountain junior Arianna Morel in No. 3 singles, and Jenna Wealton defeated West Iron’s Olivia Mazurek 6-1, 6-4 at No. 4. Koski had won No. 4 singles last season. 

“I was excited to get to the finals,” said Morel. “She was very consistent, and her groundstrokes were working pretty well. She hit the ball right to me, and I had to play it on the run.”

Westwood juniors Avery Mariuzzo and Emily Nelson outlasted West Iron sophomores Madison Berutti and Aurora Dahl 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-0 for their first No. 3 doubles championship.

“It feels like it was a reset,” said Mariuzzo, who helped the Patriots’ duo regain control with three quick overhand taps in the third set. “I think those shots set the tone. Those definitely gave us a lot of momentum. We just had to refocus.”

Nelson also had some success with overhand taps.

“Once we hit the reset button, we didn’t want to lose again,” she said. “We work real well together. We had been competing with Negaunee and Marquette all year, which prepared us well.”

Westwood junior Claire Gilles and sophomore Natalie Prophet won No. 4 doubles in a 6-0, 6-2 finales over West Iron’s Alyssa Dominicci and Katarina Hemeleski.

“Natalie finishes every play at the net,” said Gilles, who became a two-time champion. “Communication is key. We made sure we switched when the ball went to the other side of the court. We felt we had everything pretty much under control. I definitely wanted to win again. There was a lot of pressure coming in.”

West Iron took the remaining flights, with junior Tori Bociek and senior Eden Golliher defeating Westwood’s Katelyn Antilla and Karlie Patron 6-4, 6-3 to repeat at No. 1 doubles. Emily Nelson and Anna Malmquist dispatched Ellie Miller and Meghan Johnson 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2.

“We hit the angles pretty good,” said Bociek. “Our overhand shots were working pretty good. This is the third U.P. title for both of us. We just tried to play this like any other match. I think this will be a pretty big motivator for next year.”

Iron Mountain matched expectations, according to coach Sharon Ducat.

“We took third place today, and that’s about where I expected we would be,” she said. “Macy, Claire and Arianna made to the finals in singles and played well. Our doubles teams improved upon their results from earlier in the year, and I was happy with their performance. It was a fun and enjoyable season, one which the girls should be proud of.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Westwood's Madelyn Koski returns a volley during her championship match at No. 1 singles Wednesday. (Middle) West Iron's Livea Mazurek returns a shot during a match also at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Matt McCarthy.)

Reigning UPD1 Champ Negaunee Setting Pace Again as Finals Approach

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

September 21, 2023

ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.

Upper PeninsulaNegaunee, which came into this season as reigning Division 1 champion, has taken the U.P. crown seven of the past nine years. Ishpeming Westwood took the title in 2021.

Negaunee is 11-0-1 after a win over Gwinn on Tuesday. The tie came last week against Escanaba.

"We knew we were going to have a target on our backs," said Miners coach Kyle Saari. "We told the girls they have to be ready for every meet. The target is pretty huge, and I think we were sluggish out of the gate. I don't think we finished particularly well at the net. I think our tradition helps us for sure, although it can be a double-edged sword. We want to keep striving to reach benchmarks and make sure we don't get lackadaisical."

Sophomore Liliana Saunders is 12-0 at No. 2 singles. She was the UPD1 No. 4 single champion as a freshman.

"I'm starting to play my game," Saunders said after her 6-0, 6-1 victory over Escanaba’s Molly VanDamme. "I think I'm controlling the ball pretty well, but I need to work on my net play and improve my serving a little.

“Overall, we have a real strong team. We're pretty close-knit and play a lot over the summer. I think our tradition gives us a lot of confidence going into matches."

Saunders' summer work included a trip in early August to Escanaba, where she earned the age 16-18 title in the 76th Annual Michigan-Wisconsin Open with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Escanaba senior Sophia Derkos.

"I think that really helped me," she said. "She's really a good player. My toughest match this season was against the Westwood girl (sophomore Samantha Ruby). The Gladstone girl (Addy Trombley) is also pretty good."

Derkos – last season’s UPD1 No. 1 singles champion – remained undefeated in five matches after taking a 6-0, 6-1 decision from Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson at No. 1 singles last week.

"She's a good player, and they're a good team," Derkos said after the match. "This is a big win. I've been waiting to play them and Westwood. Those are the two toughest teams. This is a big confidence boost."

Johnson, last season’s UPD1 runner-up at No. 2 singles, bounced back with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Munising's Bailey Corcoran on Thursday and also won Tuesday, and gave Derkos her due after the Escanaba match.

"Sophia knows what she wants to do," said Johnson. "She plays at a pretty fast pace, and I didn't get to the net as much as I'd like. She's very patient. You can tell she's an experienced player. I can learn from playing against her."

The Miners, as they did in singles, split their four matches with Escanaba in doubles.

Seniors Sage Juntti and Olivia Lumseth are the reigning UPD1 champs at No. 2 doubles, and Kallen Schultz was part of the No. 3 champion last season and is playing No. 1 this fall with Madison Frustaglio, who was part of the 2022 runner-up at their flight.

“We have a very good coach. He always challenges us, so we can get better,” Juntti said. “We do our usual stuff. If it's not good, he just makes us work on it until it is good."

Except for the Escanaba tie and a 5-3 triumph over Westwood, all of the Miners' victories have been shutouts (8-0).

"The biggest part of our success is the girls are supportive of each other," Saari said. "They're all quality kids."

Negaunee's success also has made Escanaba coach Chris Ogren take notice.

"Kyle has been there a long time," he said. "They have one of the most athletic teams, and they're very disciplined. You always have to be ready when you play them.

“We have some good teams up here. You always have to be mentally prepared."

Negaunee hosts Gwinn, Menominee and Marquette before also hosting the Mid-Peninsula Conference tournament Sept. 27.

The U.P. Division 1 Finals will take place Oct. 4 in Marquette.

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson serves during her match against Escanaba’s Sophia Derkos on Sept. 13. (Photo by Mitch Vosburg/Escanaba Daily Press.)