After Rain, Westwood Reigns Again

October 1, 2014

By Dennis Grall
Special to Second Half

NEGAUNEE - Pflat! Phlop! Ping! Pitter-patter of early rain drops. 30-love! Out!

Those were the sounds of tennis on this chilly, windy fall Wednesday in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at the MHSAA Division 2 Girls Tennis Finals.

Appropriately the sun finally peaked through the overcast skies as Iron Mountain's Katie Brule outlasted Iron River West Iron County's Maddie Waara for her second straight singles title at No. 1. Only a small handful of spectators were still around for the day's only three-set match to feel the little warmth provided by those rays, including the entire Ishpeming Westwood team that was waiting for a championship trophy presentation for a record sixth straight year.

The Patriots amassed 19 points and collected six of the eight flight titles. Westwood has nine U.P. Finals championships since 2004.

Iron Mountain, the 2008 champ, was second with 15 points, followed by West Iron County with 13, Munising with seven, Ironwood and Ishpeming with one apiece, and Gwinn.

Nine seniors helped Westwood retain title honors, with doubles again playing a major role in the success.

"That is how we win most of our matches, with our doubles," said Westwood's Faith LeRoy, who teamed with Olivia Derocha to secure No. 2 and conclude an unbeaten season.

Derocha said, "Our doubles are really important. It is also important to be undefeated. We challenged ourselves to reach that goal."

They beat Kathryn Brown and Hannah Hakamaki of Iron Mountain 7-5, 6-0 in the finale. "It was definitely a challenge to get started. It was cold," said LeRoy. "Our first sets have always been closer."

To which Derocha added, "Once we get going, it is good. We need a little warm-up."

The temperature was barely 50 degrees when the tournament began about an hour late because of rain that slicked the dazzling new courts at Negaunee High School, and the wind from the south made it feel chillier. Even the multi-hued trees above Teal Lake in the background didn't do much to warm up anyone.

Westwood coach Chris Jackson said depth is a key reason for the success in doubles and as a team. "The depth comes from our numbers," he said of a team that fields 30-40 players each fall.

"We feel like we offer a great student-athlete opportunity, the players enjoy themselves, and winning certainly doesn't hurt. Everyone likes to be a part of the program. We offer something for everyone."

While the Patriots dominated, Brule struggled to repeat. She won the final set 6-0, but that followed a 6-2, 5-7 opener against the gritty Waara.

With frustration showing several times after lost points in the second set, Brule said, "I tried to calm down and just tried to remember how I played and to play my game and not get upset. I tried to forget my mistakes."

Waara, who missed last season with an knee ligament injury incurred during basketball season as a sophomore, had trouble with Brule's powerful opening serve but was able to put the second serve in play and gather numerous points in her upset bid.

"You couldn't do a lot with her serve," said Waara, who also runs cross country this fall for the Wykons. "And it probably didn't help to take a year off from tennis."

Brule said relying on her second serve wasn't a problem, but noted "I wanted my first serve to have more power and make it more difficult for her."

Additional flight champions for Westwood including Gabby Hebert at No. 2 singles, Rachel Anderson at No. 3 and Lauren Fairley at No. 4; Lacey Pietro and Jamee Ferris at No. 3 doubles and Emily Carlson and Madysen Mattias at No. 4 also won flight titles. Katie and Emily Bugni combined to win No. 1 doubles for Iron Mountain. 

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Katie Brule of Iron Mountain darts into the corner to return a shot Wednesday at the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals at Negaunee High School. Brule defeat Maddie Waara of West Iron County 6-2, 5-7, 6-0 for her second straight title at No. 1 singles. (Middle) Rachel Anderson of Westwood reaches to retrieve a ball that bounced high during her No. 3 singles final against Iron Mountain's Emily Chang. (Photos by Dennis Grall.)

Elk Rapids' Schulte Sisters Splitting Finals Weekend Between Tennis, Track

By Tom Spencer
Special for

June 2, 2023

Today began with a bye for Elk Rapids’ Jaida and Brynne Schulte as the Elks returned to the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Tennis Finals in Kalamazoo.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey’re planning to say bye to their tennis teammates, though, when the first day of competition is over. The Elks will have to advance to Saturday without them.

That goodbye is just fine with tennis coach Keith Schulte. And, it will be more than fine with the Elk Rapids track & field team – which will be happy to say hello to the sister pair as they head to their LPD3 Finals in Kent City.

Regardless of how they fare today, the Schulte sisters will run Saturday.

Coach Schulte, who teaches strength and conditioning at Elk Rapids, is also the father of Jaida and Brynne. Today’s he’s beaming with pride, and not just for his tennis team’s success. He’s proud of all the student-athletes and their successes this spring, including the girls soccer team moving on to Regionals with a 2-0 win Thursday over Boyne City.

And while all this is going on, he should have a moment or two to just be Dad. Jaida and Brynne teamed up to win the No. 2 doubles title at their Regional as the Elks tied for first place with Traverse City St. Francis two weeks ago. Then the Schulte girls captured first place in the Regional track meet to qualify for Saturday’s Finals. Brynne won the 1,600 and 3,200, and Jaida’s 3,200 relay team took first to move on.

Brynne Schulte sets to start a track relay. Coach Schulte hasn’t had much time to pause and soak in the moment of his daughters’ qualifying for two Finals competitions during the same season.

“I didn’t think much of it until now,” the fourth-year coach said. “I’ve always just challenged my kids to do something difficult and not be scared to fail.  

“They’ve just kind of found the balance on making this stuff happen,” he continued. “It is a pretty cool opportunity if you can go to two state championships.”

Getting to today’s Tennis Finals is a story full of success. The Elks’ first year under Schulte was halted after a week of practice due to the pandemic. The second year saw the team looking at a season with just nine potential players, but recruitment efforts resulted in the 2021 Elks managing to qualify for the  Finals for the first time in their history.

Elk Rapids went on to win the Regional championship in 2022. And then, after graduating six athletes, the Elks were able to repeat this spring with a valiant effort resulting in the co-championship with their conference rival St. Francis.

Dual-sport standouts, while rare, aren’t entirely unheard of – especially at the state’s smaller schools where athletes frequently are needed to fill rosters in multiple sports during the same season. In fact, the Schultes aren’t even alone on their tennis team – sisters Ryleigh and Haleigh Yocum also are playing doubles today but softball on Saturday.

The Yocums won the Regional title at No. 2 doubles and also are slated to be the Elks’ first two batters as they take on Mancelona as one of the favorites to win a Division 3 District title on the softball diamond.

“I do feel bad for them – it’s states,” said 14-year veteran softball coach Erin Merchant. “I do want them to have that opportunity. 

“I hope they go far,” she continued. “But then deep down, I’m like, ‘We need them Saturday.’”

Tim Nance and Jesse Way are in their first year co-coaching the boys and girls track teams at ER. They’re pleased the Schultes are prioritizing track while enjoying tennis.

he Schultes helped the Elks to their first two Regional titles in tennis, including their second straight this spring.“I think it is remarkable how resilient, laid back and casual the girls are about their success,” Nance said. “I would say it hasn’t compromised their talent, hard work and success.

“I think it has worked out great,” he continued. “I am selfish and I want them to myself only, but I am happy they can have two successes.”

The Elks will have Ayva Johnstone at No. 1 singles, Kelly Minidis and No. 2, Morgan Bergquist at No. 3 and Jasmine King at No. 4 this weekend. They also will have No. 1 doubles Chloe Taylor and Caroline Best and No. 4 doubles Tessa Nico and Portia Beebe, in addition to the Yokums and Schultes.

Jaida Schulte is a junior. She’s one of the recruits who joined to help the Elks get to their first Tennis Finals in 2021. Bergquist and Beebe were recruits in 2022.

Tennis is the favorite sport today for those three, but track and cross country are right up there for Jaida thanks to the opportunity to run with her freshman sister Brynne.

Jaida is hoping to at least match her personal-record split of 2:36 in the 3,200 relay Saturday. But her goal was first to win all of her doubles matches Friday and see the tennis team finish top-five in its division.

“Brynne loves track, and I love the challenge of running,” Jaida said. “I don’t think I would have the experience of running track or cross country without Brynne.”

Coaches saw very little disruption, if any, with their track, softball and tennis teams this spring with the Yocums and Schultes dual-sporting. The Schultes were able to get track and tennis practice or competition most every day.

“I prioritized track,” Brynne said.  “I also got a lot of hitting time in for tennis.

“I would go to track practice first, and as soon as I would be done I would run over to the tennis courts and hit with my sister for a half an hour before going home,” she continued. “It has been worth it.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Elk Rapids sisters Brynne (left) and Jaida Schulte have teamed up at No. 3 doubles for the tennis team this season. (Middle) Brynne Schulte sets to start a track relay. (Below) The Schultes helped the Elks to their first two Regional titles in tennis, including their second straight this spring. (Photos courtesy of Jaclyn Schulte.)