Next Negaunee Standouts Take Title Turn

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 5, 2018

KINGSFORD — The Negaunee girls continued their winning ways at Thursday’s Upper Peninsula Division 1 Tennis Finals, earning their fifth straight championship with 15 points.

They were followed by Marquette with 13, Menominee nine, Kingsford eight, Gladstone six and Escanaba with two.

“We knew coming in that Marquette and Menominee would push us,” said Negaunee coach Kyle Saari. “We needed to get a number of our flights into the finals, and we got 6-of-8, which put us in good position. You just have to focus on the job ahead of you once you get in.”

The Miners clinched the title with senior Maci Aho’s 6-4, 6-1 victory over Marquette’s Mollie Kilpela in No. 2 singles. 

“I didn’t know our match was going to decide it,” said Aho, who won at No. 4 singles the past two seasons. “I tried not to worry about the team standings and focused on doing my job. I just sprinted to every ball, and Mollie did the same. She’s a very good player. I don’t have a special shot. I just do what I do.”

Negaunee sophomores Morgan Carlson and Katelyn Lammi completed a perfect season (21-0) with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Menominee’s Abbie Anglehart and Meghan Francour in No. 3 doubles for their first title on a sunny and seasonably cool day in Dickinson County.

“I think it went pretty well,” said Lammi. “We didn’t play at our best, but we did well at the net. Winning here for the first time is a pretty big confidence boost.”

Both girls believe Thursday’s championship will be a major motivator going forward. 

“We know where our strengths are and what we need to work on,” said Carlson. “I felt we moved around pretty well, which is what our coaches wanted us to do. Only, you have to know when to attack and when to back off.”

The Miners were facing the possibility of rebuilding after graduating seven from last year’s team. 

“We’re pretty sophomore heavy, but every girl stepped up,” said Saari. “We just hope to keep it going as long as we can. This has been a fun year in the U.P. Each team presented a different challenge. The most important thing is the girls didn’t get complacent. They were able to stay focused.”

Marquette junior Elysa Olivier won No. 1 singles with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) triumph over Gladstone junior Andie Belanger. 

“She’s a real good player,” said Olivier, who won at No. 2 singles a year ago. “Andie has gotten so much better since the first time I played her. I was real nervous coming into the finals. There were times when I lost my focus. We both hit some great shots. 

“The other players really stay on their game (in No. 1 singles). Next year won’t be a picnic, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’m definitely going to play over the summer.”

Olivier was also happy with how the season went overall. 

“ I’m really proud of our team,” she added. “We’re losing a lot of good players and friends, but I’m looking forward to playing with the new girls next year.”

Negaunee, Marquette and Menominee won two flights apiece. Gladstone and Kingsford took one each.

Click for finals results

PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee won its fifth straight MHSAA Finals championship Thursday. (Middle) Marquette’s Elysa Olivier returns a volley on the way to claiming the No. 1 singles title. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

Senior-Dominated Iron Mountain Soars to UPD2 Finals Repeat

By Steve Brownlee
Special for

September 30, 2022

ISHPEMING — There was both a single reason and a singles reason why Iron Mountain won the championship at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Girls Tennis Finals played at Westwood High School on Thursday.

The difference is subtle — just a single letter “s” — but rings true both ways.

It was easy to see what the Mountaineers’ secret was — sweep the titles at every singles flight while adding one more in doubles just to be on the safe side.

IM finished with 19 points, while Ishpeming outdueled West Iron County in several late finals to eke out second place by one point, 14 to 13.

Gwinn posted five points to take fourth, while Munising had four, Norway one and Ironwood did not score.

Mountaineers coach Marcus Celello credited senior leadership for the team’s repeat championship.

“We have eight seniors on our team, including all four of our regular singles players and both our No. 1 doubles players, along with one each on Nos. 3 and 4 doubles,” the IM coach said.

He noted that all those singles flights were winners with the team’s championship in doubles also coming with the pair of seniors at No. 1.

“We won this last year and returned our core, so I knew we would at least be very competitive this year,” Celello said. “We won or tied every dual meet this season.”

He said that included a 4-4 tie against eventual U.P. Division 1 champion Negaunee to give the Miners the only blemish on their dual-meet record this fall.

“But sometimes when you haven’t faced adversity, it can be scary,” the coach continued. “You don’t always know how you’re going to react.”

The Iron Mountain and Ishpeming No. 2 doubles pairs face off during a semifinal. No. 2 singles player Aziza Burgoon — of course, a senior — completed an undefeated season by winning a marathon final over WIC’s Seanna Stine,  7-5, 7-5.

IM also got singles titles from No. 3 Natalia Brown and No. 4 Rediet Husing, along with a doubles championship from No. 1 Elle Lofholm and Anja Kleiman.

But the biggest cheers and shrieks came after IM finished its singles sweep when No. 1 Callie Bianco pulled off a 6-4, 6-4 win over Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel.

Schiefel led 4-2 in the second set looking to force a deciding third before Bianco won the final four games.

“I just was trying to stay focused, work the ball and follow through,” Bianco said. “And maybe the most important thing was to be patient, not panic.

“I’m known for being an impatient player. When I’m on, I like to be aggressive, but I know that when I’m not on, I have to focus on being patient.”

Asked if she was “on” Thursday, she was emphatic with her “Yes I was!”

One coach trying to be patient but excited for next season is Ishpeming’s Kaitlin Rich, who watched her junior-laden team set the groundwork for a big season next fall.

“We’ve already made a big improvement from last year,” she said. “I’m proud of how hard our girls have worked to make that improvement.

“Half of our players are dual-sport athletes, which means they’re playing another sport this fall, too, so they really have to balance their workload.”

The Hematites carted off one championship, one of the last finishing finals matches at No. 3 doubles when Kaitlyn VanDeuren and Paige Palomaki had to win a third-set tiebreaker to defeat WIC’s Bailey Hoffart and Aubrey Richardson 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1).

That result decided the runner-up position team-wise as a Wykons’ win would’ve reversed their point totals and places in the standings.

“We had five finalists, at Nos. 3 and 4 singles and Nos. 1, 2 and 3 doubles,” Rich said. “We return nine of our juniors next year, so I’m really looking forward to next year. I think we should be ready to make a run at the U.P.’s (title) next year.

“Kaitlyn and Paige, those two by far are the most improved players from last year,” the Ishpeming coach added.

Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel returns a volley at No. 1 singles. WIC veteran coach Joe Serbentas was philosophical after his players won a pair of doubles titles, at No. 2 with sisters Autumn Smith and Kaitlyn Smith and at No. 4 with Destiny Lemery and Olivia Lamay.

“We’ve played well at the U.P.’s the last five or six years, but we also seemed to come up that point short,” he said. “Iron Mountain is so senior-loaded, you just knew that they were the big favorites today.

“We had a 5-7-1 record in dual meets, but we play a lot of the best teams in the U.P., so I still think that’s pretty good.”

Gwinn made a run at a U.P. flight championship for the first time in a number of years with Schiefel at No. 1 singles, much to her coach’s delight.

“She has such a passion for the sport, and she’s such an avid athlete,” Modeltowners coach Darcia Mattson said. “She runs track and is a phenomenal basketball player. She trains at AdvantEdge (athletic training facility in Marquette).

“She used to play tennis against her brother, Jared Rolland.

“And she’s not a big girl at all, but her heart is twice as big as she is.”

PHOTOS (Top) The Iron Mountain and Ishpeming No. 2 doubles pairs face off during a semifinal. (Middle) Anja Kleiman gets a racket on the ball during her and partner Elle Lofholm’s match at No. 1 doubles. (Below) Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel returns a volley at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Steve Brownlee.)