Past D2 Champs Share This Season's Title

By John Vrancic
Special for

September 29, 2016

KINGSFORD — Prior to 2015, Ishpeming Westwood was enjoying a six-year championship reign in the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Girls Tennis Finals.

Then it was Munising’s turn to celebrate its first championship a year ago.

Both schools were celebrating on a mostly sunny and cool Wednesday as they shared this season’s title with 16 points apiece. Iron River West Iron County placed third with 14.

“The last one is always the best one,” said Westwood coach Chris Jackson. “You never know when you’re going to win it again. We went into this season with what we thought would be a solid lineup, then about 3-4 girls moved out of the district. We needed some younger kids to step in and do some things. We’ve been building all year. Our lineup had to be moved around. We had to ask our depth to step up.”

Munising also had to overcome a few things to maintain a share of the title, as coach Rod Gendron explained.

“We don’t have enough courts to host a meet,” he said. “All the girls had to practice on what we had, although I think that made our team even closer. Our team chemistry has been good. We’re always supporting each other. Westwood is a tough team, no doubt about it. We’re very happy with our performance.”

Munising secured its share in No. 3 singles where Kelsea Ackerman posted a 6-3, 6-3 victory over West Iron’s Isabelle Hoogenboom.

Westwood clinched its share a short time earlier in No. 1 doubles, with seniors Mady Mattson and Averie Kangas gaining a 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Munising seniors Marissa Immel and Bailey Downs during a match that endured a half-hour rain delay.

“We really wanted this one,” said Mattson. “We were on top of our game. It felt like we had good energy, then it took a little while for us to get that back (after the delay).”

Immel and Downs, who edged the Westwood duo on a tie-breaker during the regular season, returned to the court with plenty of energy after the showers moved through the area. By then, however, they were trailing 3-1 in the second set and didn’t seem to have an answer for Mattson and Kangas’ lobs over the net.

“We felt if we moved around a lot and communicated, we could find the holes,” said Kangas. “They’re a good team, but I think the rain delay helped us refocus.”

Gendron was impressed with Westwood’s performance at No. 1 doubles.

“Their overhand shots and soft lobs over the net were very effective, and they made very few errors,” he said. “Marissa and Bailey gave us two great years. They won a lot of matches.”

Munising senior Frankie Mattson dispatched West Iron sophomore Katarina Serbentas 6-1, 6-1 for her first title at No. 1 singles.

“I thought my serving was pretty consistent,” Mattson said. “I think I got to her a little mentally. Being a senior, there’s a lot of pressure on you, especially when you’re the No. 1 seed. I was runner-up here last year, which I think motivated me. I’m happy with how things ended. Katarina is a good player. She has two good years of tennis ahead of her.”

Munising junior Marissa Ackerman also was crowned champion for the first time after taking a 6-2, 6-0 decision from Westwood’s Marissa Carello.

Both players appeared to follow a conservative approach in the first set. Ackerman then took charge in the second after gaining the first point on a lob over the net.

“I think that kind of set the tone,” she said. “I always try to hit the ball short when my opponent is on the back line. I started going more for angles and hitting the ball harder in the second set. There’s a lot of pressure, but this is definitely worth it. I think losing in the finals last year had a great impact on today. I was able to learn some things from that. I had a better attitude than I did in last year’s finals.”

Gendron was happy with the performance by the Mustangs’ singles.

“Frankie played lights out in the finals,” he said. “Everybody at No. 1 singles is a good player. Marissa and Kelsea (Ackerman) hadn’t lost a set all year. I’m looking forward to them stepping up to No. 1 and 2 next year.”

Westwood grabbed the top three flights in doubles, including Madelyn Koski-Tessa Leece’s 7-6, 6-3 conquest of Munising’s Talatha Witty-Keira Stamply at No. 3

“The key to our lineup is all six of our seniors played their best tennis all year,” said Jackson. “They wanted to be leaders. They did what they had to do. It all started with the (Mid-Peninsula) conference meet when Negaunee beat us by just one point (39-38). I think that was a confidence builder for our girls.”

West Iron earned a victory at No. 4 doubles as Aly Pangrazzi-Eden Golliher topped Westwood’s Erin Paavo-Aubrie Magnuson 6-3, 6-2.

“We told our girls it would be within 1-2 points (for the title), and we came up a little short today,” said Wykons’ coach Joe Serbentas. “We’re a young team. We had three sophomores in the singles finals. Yet, we were right there. Last year, we weren’t in the mix. We came a long way this year and were 9-2 in dual meets. We had a very nice season. The future looks good.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Munising's Frankie Mattson follows through on a swing during Wednesday's Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on the way to winning No. 1 singles. (Middle) Ishpeming Westwood's Paige Rivard and Cayla Ostola also were among flight champions, at No. 2 doubles. (Photos by Adam Niemi)

Cranbrook Enjoys Slight Edge This Time in Rematch of Frequent Contenders

By Tim Robinson
Special for

June 3, 2023

ANN ARBOR — There’s not a lot of difference between the tennis teams from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Detroit Country Day.

Certainly not on the scoreboard; the teams tied for the Regional title last month, and Cranbrook edged Country Day 33-31 on Saturday to repeat as Lower Peninsula Division 3 champion at the University of Michigan.

And there’s also little difference in the minds of Cranbrook coach Grant Asher and Country Day mentor Jessica Stencel.

“We deserved second today," Stencel said. “They were definitely the mentally-tougher team. And maybe if the tournament was held tomorrow, it might have been different. But it really came down to if we would have taken one different flight, then it would have been a tie. We just had too many loose spots we couldn’t figure out.”

Division 3 tennisAnd the Cranes made the most of those opportunities.

“We knew it was going to be really tough,” Asher said. “We were evenly matched, but the girls played the big points really well and handled the pressure of the state championship really well.”

Among the flight winners for Cranbrook were Sienna Ilitch and Olivia Zhang, who repeated as champions at Nos. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively.

“I think it had to be a little harder (to repeat),” said Ilitch, who was the top seed going into the tournament. “I had a tough match in the semifinals, and I had another tough match in the finals against (Melanie Bandara of) Country Day. She really stepped up and played hard. It was a good, competitive match.”

Ilitch and Zhang, both juniors, were in finals for the third consecutive year. For Ilitch, her victory Saturday helped ease the pain of her loss at the 2021 tournament.

“It might have been more exciting because my freshman year I lost in the final match of the day and we finished second,” she said. “This year, I ended up (clinching) the title for us.”

Division 3 tennis - WilliamstonFor one of Cranbrook’s seniors, Saturday’s final was all about nerves and keeping her teammates focused.

Inijie Gazayerli, one of Cranbrook’s co-captains, cheered on her team despite being sidelined by a recent case of mononucleosis.

“It’s surreal,” she said. “I mean, last season seems like yesterday, and I’m so proud of this team and what we've been able to accomplish.”

Grand Rapids Christian finished third with 23 points, led by Brynn Uchmann, who defeated Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Julia Gurne 6-1, 6-1 to take the No. 1 singles title.

Saturday’s Final marked the 12th year in a row either Cranbrook or Country Day hoisted the championship trophy.

In the end, it came down to the mental aspect.

“I’m usually able to keep calm, and I think that really helps me through really tough matches,” Zhang said.

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PHOTOS by High School Sports Scene