Munising's 'Road Warriors' Claim 1st Title

By John Vrancic
Special for

September 30, 2015

KINGSFORD — They call themselves the road warriors, and for good reason. 

The Munising girls don’t play any of their tennis meets at home because they don’t have enough courts in their community. Playing on the road is nothing new to them. 

The Mustangs were rewarded for their efforts Wednesday as they squeezed past Iron Mountain 16-15 for their first MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 title. Six-time defending champion Westwood slipped to third this time with 12 points.

“We started our program nine years ago on two courts,” said Munising coach Rod Gendron. “We still have two courts. This is very challenging because there’s definitely a home court advantage for our opponents. 

“We’ve had great individual players in the past, but this is the first year we’ve had a very solid team. A lot of these girls play two sports. They’ve given a great effort and have great attitudes.”

Junior Sydney McInnis and senior Morgan Flynn put the finishing touches to Munising’s championship run with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Westwood’s Cayla Ostola and Sierra Laitinen in the No. 4 doubles final on this sunny and seasonably cool day at Kingsford High School. 

“This hasn’t been much of a change for us,” McInnis said. “We’re used to playing away from home. We get used to it. It’s just kind of habit for us. We were beating ourselves in the second set, but kind of settled down in the third set. I think our whole team really worked hard for this.”

How does a tennis team practice with just two courts available? 

“We practice two hours a day before school starts,” said junior Frankie Mattson. “Once school starts we practice 1½ hours each day. We practice in shifts and do some match play, but we’ve never hosted a meet.”

Juniors Bailey Downs and Marissa Immel captured the No. 2 doubles title in a 6-0, 6-3 conquest of West Iron County’s Allie Schive and Sydney Schram. 

“We were down 3-0 in the second set,” said Downs. “We told each other, ‘We’re going to get this.’ We got some good shots and that got us excited. We were strong at the net.”

Immel had similar thoughts. 

“We stayed positive and fed off each other,” she said. “Our groundstrokes worked pretty well and our volleys went well. We had a lot of momentum carry over from the semifinals (from a 6-0, 6-3 triumph over Iron Mountain’s Grace Hansen and Lindsay Morel). We’ve been best friends since we were little. We know each other pretty well.”

Sophomore Kelsea Ackerman added a fourth title for Munising at No. 4 singles, taking a 6-2, 6-0 decision from Westwood’s Karlie Kargela. 

“The first set was kind of slow, but I had a lot of momentum for the second set,” Ackerman said. “I slowed down my racket and got the ball in. I tried to win points rather than counting on my opponents’ mistakes. I just tried to be patient and it worked well. My groundstrokes worked in certain situations, and I went for angle shots when I got closer to the net.

“I think this means a lot to the team. We have a strong junior class and appreciate our seniors stepping up. I thought we did great.” 

Iron Mountain captured the most flight championships, four, including the top three singles and No. 1 doubles.

Senior Katie Brule was crowned champion for the fourth straight year, gaining a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Mattson at No. 1 singles. 

“That’s the best I’ve been all season,” Brule said. “My coach (Greg Stegall) keeps telling me to relax and play like I do in practice. I knew my serves had to be good and did better with those in the second set. Frankie is a good player. She’s very consistent. I worked on shot placement and kept coming to the net.”

Senior sisters Emily and Katie Bugni also collected their fourth championship with a 6-2, 6-0 triumph over Ishpeming seniors Libbie Doney and Hailly Thompson at No. 1 doubles. 

“We were hitting real well and worked together well,” said Emily. “We’ve been playing together for a long time. The Ishpeming girls are good players. It was a little nerve-wracking at first because there were a few teams here we hadn’t played. It was really a nice day for the Finals. It was a perfect day for tennis.”

Katie said the Finals were little emotional for them. 

“It’s kind of sad because we’re not going to be playing high school tennis again,” she added. “This is real special to us. We have a lot of nice memories.”

Olivia Truscott provided the Mountaineers with a title at No. 2 singles, which she topped Munising’s Marissa Ackerman 7-6 (7-5). She then won the second set by default. 

At No. 3 singles, Iron Mountain’s Emily Chang beat West Iron’s Katarina Serbentas 6-3, 6-3.


Westwood won No. 3 doubles, as Averie Kangas and Rachel Hunt beat Munising's Taylor Kahlstorf and Abi Brown for that title.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Munising's Frankie Mattson connects on a shot during her No. 1 singles championship match Wednesday. (Middle) Katie Brule of Iron Mountain returns a shot to Mattson during their final; Brule defeated Mattson 6-2, 6-1. (Below) Emily Bugni of Iron Mountain unloads a backhand during the No. 1 doubles final. She and sister Kate Bugni defeated Ishpeming's Libbie Doney and Hailly Thompson 6-2, 6-0. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

Adams' Fu Hoping to Write Championship Headline After Repeat Finalist Finishes

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

May 23, 2024

ROCHESTER HILLS — An editor for her school newspaper the last two years, Nicole Fu is one who loves to tell good stories and write good headlines. 

Greater DetroitA junior at Adams, Fu enjoys getting to know people around the school and giving them a moment in the sun, so to speak.

“I love being able to talk with so many people and learn the stories behind their accomplishments,” Fu said.

It’s ironic, because come the end of next Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Tennis Finals, Fu hopes professional media outlets around the state will talk about her own story of accomplishment, possibly with headlines such as “Redemption Feels Sweet for Fu” or “Third Time is Charm for Adams Tennis Star.”

Both the last two years, Fu has advanced to the championship match at No. 1 singles in Division 1. 

But while quite an accomplishment to do so as a freshman and sophomore, she also left somewhat unsatisfied, losing in 2022 to Reese Miller of Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-1, 6-1) and last spring to Sari Woo of Ann Arbor Skyline (6-3, 6-4). 

“Being in the final both my freshman and sophomore years has shown me that I have what it takes to win a state championship even when it gets tough,” Fu said. “Last year especially has shown me that I’m not far from the title, and staying strong both mentally and physically is going to be crucial to hopefully winning a state title.”

No doubt, Fu should be one of the top contenders, if not the favorite.

She enters with an 18-0 record and has brilliantly handled opponents attempting to give her their best performances.

“Her ability to handle the pressure has improved a lot,” Adams head coach Greg Burks said. “She has matured as a top-level player and competes as well as any player I’ve ever had.”

Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match.Fu actually said she got her start in tennis a little later than most. After dabbling in soccer and swimming, Fu started playing tennis at age 10 when one of her mom’s co-workers gave her a foam ball and a kids racquet. 

“Then I started hitting against our living room wall, and one day my mom asked if I wanted to take an actual tennis lesson,” Fu said. 

From there, Fu started playing in tournaments, and the tennis bug bit her.

“I really loved competing in matches, so I didn’t stop and it ended up being very rewarding,” she said.

Fu also has an accomplished hitting partner in twin sister Katie, who lost in the championship match at No. 2 singles last year. 

“She’s always a great hitting partner, and it’s really nice to have someone who understands the sport and what it takes to balance that out with everything else,” Nicole Fu said. “She’s basically my second brain too, so having her around during the season is super fun and helpful for keeping me in check.”

Fu has a collegiate future in the sport, having committed in November to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

“Obviously the education is extraordinary, and attending a service academy builds your character both physically and mentally and sets you up to make an impact on the nation,” Fu said. 

When it comes to next week’s MHSAA Tournament, Fu obviously is aiming to make another impact at the championship level – but this time finish the quest she fell short of the last two years. 

“This year as a back-to-back finalist and a strong favorite has put a lot of pressure on me to win my matches,” she said. “So there’s definitely a lot of expectations for this season, and managing that was a little bit tough in the beginning of the season. But over time I’ve kind of learned to embrace it, and it’s given me more confidence in my matches knowing I’m the player people are aiming to beat.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams' Nicole Fu returns a volley during last season's No. 1 singles championship match at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Fu, left, congratulates Ann Arbor Skyline's Sari Woo after their match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)