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.)

Preview: Favorites Own Impressive Streaks, but Challengers Await

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 1, 2023

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern is playing for a fourth-straight Lower Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals championship this weekend, with Ann Arbor Pioneer seeking a third straight in Division 1, Ann Arbor Greenhills going for the repeat in Division 4 and Detroit Country Day looking to rebound for a sixth Division 3 title over the last seven seasons.

But full brackets of contenders are seeking to stand in the way – including another reigning champion and No. 2-ranked teams either seeking their first Finals title or first in two decades.

All four divisions again will be played Friday and Saturday over multiple locations, with semifinals and finals to be played at the first sites listed below in each division.

Below is a glance at the highest-ranked teams in each division and additional No. 1 singles players expected to be in contention. Click for full brackets and more from

LP Division 1 at Hope College and Holland Christian High School

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2. Troy, 3. Bloomfield Hills.

Ann Arbor Pioneer: The Pioneers have won two straight LPD1 championships, claiming last year’s outright after sharing with Bloomfield Hills in 2021. Those two titles came with sweeps of singles flight titles, and that’s a possibility again with junior Elsie Van Wieren seeded second at No. 1 and junior Bridgette Kelly, senior Juliana Pullen and freshman Sophia Liang seeded first at Nos. 2-4, respectively. Van Wieren won No. 2 the last two seasons, and Kelly won No. 4 the last two years. All four doubles pairs are seeded fourth or higher as well, with top seeds at No. 2 with juniors Eleanor Vogel and Casey Roe and No. 3 with sophomores Elita You and Arella He. Vogel was part of the No. 3 runner-up last season.

Troy: The Colts are seeking their first team championship since 2003 and finished third a year ago with three doubles pairs earning runner-up finishes. This weekend senior Grace Zhu and junior Nika Tanako are seeded first at No. 1, and junior Marin Fox and freshman Nainika Jasti are seeded first at No. 4, with the Nos. 2 and 3 pairs also earning top-three seeds. Zhu was part of last season’s No. 1 runner-up, and Tanako was part of the No. 2 runner-up pair, while 2022 No. 4 runners-up Vienna Thieu and Michelle Baik are playing this time at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, with other partners. Two singles flights also are seeded, with senior Stephanie Ochoa fourth at No. 3 after playing doubles last season with Zhu.

Bloomfield Hills: After tying with Pioneer in 2021, Bloomfield Hills missed doing the same last season by one point. Three singles flights and one doubles pair are seeded this weekend, led by second-seeded junior Julia Yousif at No. 3 singles after she was runner-up at No. 4 last spring. Seniors Natalie Raab and Colleen Pettengill are seeded third at No. 1 doubles after Raab was part of the No. 2 champion and Pettengill part of the No. 4 winner a year ago. Freshman Prisha Lingam will debut as the fourth seed at No. 1 singles.

Sari Woo, Ann Arbor Skyline junior: She’s 15-1 this spring, with more than half of her wins by 6-0, 6-0 scores and the only loss a default. Woo finished No. 1 runner-up as a sixth-seeded freshman in 2021.

Nicole Fu, Rochester Adams sophomore: She’s the third seed at No. 1 singles for the second-straight season and after finishing runner-up a year ago.

LP Division 2 at Midland Tennis Center and Midland High School

Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 2. Birmingham Seaholm, 3. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: The Huskies’ championship streak reached three last spring as they edged Seaholm by four points, and they enter this weekend with all eight flights seeded third or higher. Freshman Harriet Ogilvie will play her first Finals as the top seed at No. 4 singles, while juniors Ryan Morey and Paige McKenzie earned the top seed at No. 1 doubles and senior Maria Jacobs and sophomore Morgan McKenzie are top-seeded at No. 3. The team’s other three singles flights all are seeded third after moving up one flight coming off runner-up finishes in 2022 – junior Nathalie Lanne now at No. 1, sophomore Andrea Wang now at No. 2 and senior Miriam Ogilvie now at No. 3 after finishing second at No. 4 a year ago. Morey was part of last year’s No. 2 doubles champion and Paige McKenzie part of the runner-up at No. 4 with Ava Hamilton, who is part of this weekend’s third-seeded pair at No. 2.

Birmingham Seaholm: The runner-up last season and in 2019 is seeking its first title since 2018 with seven seeded flights including top-seeded juniors Katie Slazinski and Jenna Ting at No. 2 doubles and top-seeded junior Stella North and freshman Lucy Jen at No. 4. Slazinski was part of last season’s No. 2 doubles runner-up and Ting was part of the No. 4 champion. Seniors Tatum Hirsch and Ellie Wyzykowski are teaming up for the third seed at No. 1 doubles after Hirsch was part of last year’s No. 3 champion and Wyzykowski partnered with Slazinski at No. 2, and senior Sydney Fong is part of the third seed at No. 3 after teaming with Ting for that No. 4 title in 2022. Senior Madeleine Leo has moved to No. 1 singles after finishing as part of the No. 1 doubles runner-up last season.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central: The Rangers are expected to jump after finishing seventh last season, and all eight flights are seeded fifth or higher. Leading are junior Lily Ohlman with a second seed at No. 1 singles, sophomore Maggie Moog and freshman Clare Knoester with the second seed at No. 4 doubles, and freshman Chloe Cox as the third seed at No. 4 singles. Ohlman made the No. 2 singles quarterfinals last season.

Helaina Pietrowsky, Grosse Pointe North senior: She’s the top seed at No. 1 singles in her third season playing that flight, and she’s 14-3 with two losses to Division 1 players and the third by default. She made the quarterfinals last season as a sixth seed.

Allison Wootton, Portage Northern senior: She’s also in her third season at the top flight and the No. 4 seed this time, entering this weekend 24-2.

LP Division 3 at University of Michigan and Dexter High School

Top-ranked: 1. Detroit Country Day, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Grand Rapids Christian.

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets moved up to the top spot in the rankings this week after tying Cranbrook for the Regional title. They finished fifth at the Final a year ago coming off five straight LPD3 championships, and will be back in the hunt with all four singles flights second-seeded and three top seeds and a third seed at doubles. Juniors Peja Liles and Marin Norlander are the top seed at No. 1 doubles – Liles was part of the champion at that flight last year and Norlander part of the runner-up at No. 2 – while senior Alyssa Rahmani and freshman Noor Mahmoud are the top seed at No. 3 and senior Josie Pachla and freshman Jiya Gill are the top seed at No. 4. Norlander’s partner last year, senior Aryasai Radhakrishnan, is part of the third seed at No. 2 and she and Norlander won No. 2 in 2021, while Rahmani was part of the champion at No. 3 in 2021. Sophomore Sophia Grzesiak is the second seed at No. 1 singles after also playing that flight as a freshman.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The reigning champion won last season with 37 points – 16 more than the field – and will try to withstand challenges this time with eight seeded flights including three tops seeds and two flights seeded second. Junior Sienna Ilitch is the top seed at No. 3 singles after winning that flight last season and finishing runner-up as a freshman, and junior Olivia Zhang is the top seed at No. 4 also as the reigning champion and runner-up in 2021. Junior Grace Zhang and sophomore Sophia Kouza are top-seeded at No. 2 doubles, Zhang coming off last season’s championship at No. 3 with sophomore Ava Clogg, the fifth seed this time at No. 1 singles. Juniors Daryn Krause and Kayli Lala – who teamed for the No. 4 doubles title last year – are seeded second this time at No. 1

Grand Rapids Christian: The Eagles are seeking their first championship and also looking to break back into the top two for the first time since a third-straight runner-up finish in 2017. They’ve been bolstered substantially by freshman Brynn Uchman, who enters as the top seed at No. 1 singles and 26-0 without reaching a third set this spring. Junior Natalie Poortenga is the top seed at No. 2 for the second-straight season and reached the semifinals a year ago. Five other flights are seeded as well.

Julia Gurne, Portland Notre Dame Prep junior: The third seed at No. 1 singles made the quarterfinals as the third seed last season and was the No. 1 runner-up as a freshman.

Aly Aldrich, Otsego junior: She’s up to the fourth seed at No. 1 singles this weekend after finishing runner-up a year ago as the sixth seed.

LP Division 4 at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan

Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Greenhills, 2. Traverse City St. Francis, 3. Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard.

Ann Arbor Greenhills: The Gryphons were champions for the first time since 2017 last season, distancing themselves from the field by nine points, and are in position to repeat with all eight flights seeded first or second and most experienced at the Finals level. Sophomore Maddie Morgan made the semifinals at No. 1 singles last season as a third seed and moves to the top line this weekend, while sophomore Shangyang Xia is the top seed at No. 2 after winning that flight a year ago. Freshman Danica Rakic-Dennis is the top seed at No. 3, and senior Manassa Golapalli is the second seed at No. 4 after finishing runner-up at that flight in 2022. Reigning No. 3 singles champion Sophie Chen has moved to No. 1 doubles as a sophomore and is paired with freshman Lauren Ye as the top seed. Sophomore Sophia Kleer and junior Parini Rao are second-seeded at No. 2 doubles after both were part of runner-up pairs a year ago at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Second-seeded No. 3 pair Meera Tewari and Meera Pandey, both sophomores, are a combo of a reigning No. 4 doubles champ and Rio’s partner at No. 3 last season, respectively, and freshmen Arya Prabhakar and Aoife Tang are debuting at the Finals as the second seed at No. 4.

Traverse City St. Francis: The Gladiators tied for 11th last season but have finished runner-up four times over the last eight years. They’ll make their run this time with four seeded flights including senior Audrey Lee on the top line at No. 4 singles. Only three of 12 starters are seniors, so St. Francis should remain in the hunt moving forward as well.

Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard: The Irish went from unranked to No. 3 in the final poll, and should jump after tying for 13th last season. FGR has only one senior among its starters, but all four singles players are seeded including three in second slots – freshman Jenny Florea at No. 1, senior Vivian Heegan at No. 2 and freshman Kenna Trost at No. 3. Heegan made the quarterfinals last season at No. 1 while unseeded.

Maggie Page, Jackson Lumen Christi senior: She’s returning as the third seed at No. 1 singles after winning a match at that flight last season while unseeded and going 21-1 this season with her only loss to Florea.

Ayva Johnstone, Elk Rapids junior: She’s also back at the top singles flight, this time as the fourth seed after entering as the fifth seed a year ago.

Jadyn Koenes, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian senior: She’s the fifth seed at No. 1 singles after reaching the quarterfinals last season as a sixth seed.

PHOTO Otsego’s Aly Aldrich returns a volley during a match day this spring. (Photo by Gary Shook.)