KINGSFORD – Ishpeming coach Kaitlin Rich said she had a call to make after Wednesday’s Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals.
The school never needed a girls tennis banner before, but they do now.
The Hematites won their first U.P. title Wednesday at Kingsford, edging West Iron County 19-18 on a warm, windy day in Dickinson County.
It’s been their goal since finishing runner-up to Iron Mountain last year. Rich was reminded of that earlier this week in her Facebook memories – her team of mostly seniors were juniors then, and their goal was, “U.P. ’23.”
“They set that goal, and they crushed it,” Rich said. “They showed up every day. They worked hard.”
Munising was third with seven points. Gwinn, Iron Mountain, Ironwood and Norway all had three.
After the longest event of the day finally wrapped up, the Ishpeming players went to the scoring area and confirmed their victory. They celebrated with their trophy and looked forward to their fire truck escort into Ishpeming later that evening.
Ten of the 12 Ishpeming players were seniors. One of the two sophomores is Rich’s sister.
“I have been connected to these seniors since I taught them in third grade, and as a coach, there’s not a greater moment that I think I’ve had or will ever have than this moment right now,” Rich said. “These girls work so hard every day. Most of them dual sport. They are the definition of athlete: They have commitment to each other, they have true grit and there’s nothing that will top this day for me as a coach – going forward, in the past, nothing.”
West Iron County, which won all four singles flights, came up just short of a first U.P. title since 2020.
“Overall a very good day for the team,” WIC coach Jen Schive said. “They are a team of seniors, so we were coming out and we were ready to compete against them. I think the girls overall did pretty well this year. I’m excited for next year because I have a good group of incoming juniors.”
Ishpeming won on the strength of its doubles teams, all four of which won Wednesday.
Addison Morton and Payton Manninen defeated West Iron County’s Destiny Lemery and Olivia LaMay 6-2, 6-0 in the No. 1 doubles final.
The No. 1 seeds started slow in their semifinal win over Ironwood after a first-round bye. They had to wait again to play the final, and they overcame a slow start once again.
“But we were able to bring the energy and play how we know we can play,” Morton said. “It was really good to be able to take the championship.”
She said the team title was “really important for us,” with all the seniors they had this season.
Rich said it’d be hard to find a more athletic doubles team than her No. 1 pair.
“They are just so athletic,” she said. “And I’ll tell you, those two have a fire in them that you can’t coach and they are just mentally tough.”
Ishpeming’s No. 2 doubles team of Jenna Maki and Emma LaFave defeated West Iron’s Aubrey Richardson and Kaycee Ingram 6-2, 6-0.
“I think this is the best me and Emma have ever played together,” Maki said. “We were pretty nervous going into it. Last time we played, we played about two weeks ago in Ishpeming, and it was tiebreaker each set, so we thought it was going to be a lot more of a challenge. But we played really great and swept them.”
They complement each other well, Rich said.
“Jenna Maki is just a beast at the net and Emma has just beautiful placement. She can get the other team running. She sees the gaps and hits them all the time,” Rich said.
The No. 3 duo of Ciara Schaffer and Kadie Kaukola downed Munising’s Tessa Salo and Emmy Crisp 6-1, 6-4.
“It feels really good to finally see our work pay off, all the practice we’ve put in, and also being our senior year, getting the title,” Kaukola said.
They work well together also, Rich said.
“The growth they’ve shown from the beginning of the season to now is just amazing,” she said. “And I’ll tell you, Katie Kaukola is just an athlete and she can get to any ball on that court. Ciara is a competitor, and she loves the game more than anybody.”
Rich’s sister, Ava Jo Hares, and Kaitlyn VanDeuren defeated Munising’s Tamryn Nolan and Lauren Nelson 6-2, 6-0, for the No. 4 doubles win. Hares said they did well battling the strong wind.
They’d lost only to Negaunee in what was a dominant season.
“They again are very well-balanced,” Rich said. “Kaitlyn is phenomenal at the net. She’s very intimidating up there. She’s very tall, and she gets a lot of the balls down. And then Ava hustles and she has very good placement and she also has a really good serve, especially for a sophomore.”
West Iron County swept the singles championships.
The Wykons’ Aubrey Bice defeated Gwinn’s Miaha Schiefel 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in No. 1 singles.
“It shows me that all my hard work finally paid off and at least I can go out with a bang in my last year,” Bice said.
Coach Schive said Bice is a phenomenal player.
“She’s a very focused player; she is a true No. 1,” Schive said. “I am glad that she won today, she fully deserves it. She’s been fighting all season and working every little bit, everything that she knows that she needs to win.”
Seanna Stine swept Ishpeming’s Emily DeMarois 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
“I stayed confident, and I hit well,” Stine said.
Schive said Stine showed her senior athleticism all season.
“She hits the ball well, and she strives to really work on her placement as a strategy,” she said.
Kaitlyn Smith took No. 3 singles 6-3, 6-1, over Ishpeming’s Lilly Swanson.
“What a competitor,” Schive said. “All year long, she strives to do well, she works and puts a lot of time in. You can see it paid off today.”
Erin Kolbas defeated Ishpeming’s Lilly Ryan 6-1, 6-0, at No. 4 singles. It was the final match of the day and all of the remaining players were able to watch.
“At first it was just me and the other team, and my team wasn’t over there. I was a little bit worried, I was scared. But then my team came over and they were cheering me on, so I felt a lot better,” Kolbas said. “I genuinely didn’t expect to get this far because this is my first year.”
Schieve said the sophomore has improved “leaps and bounds” this year.
“She has put her time in,” Schive said.
PHOTOS (Top) Ishpeming's Emily DeMarois finished second at No. 2 singles at Wednesday's UP Division 2 Finals in Kingsford. (Middle) West Iron County's Aubrey Bice won No. 1 singles. (Below) Gwinn's Miaha Schiefel finished runner-up at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Jason Juno.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Tennis Spin - Listen
Today’s "You Make the Call" takes us to the tennis court.
We’re in the middle of a volley when I hit a shot with a ton of spin on it. It goes over the net, bounces and then spins back over the net towards me, without being hit by my opponent.
What’s the call?
My opponent never hit the ball, so I win the point. The same rule applies if it’s wind, not spin, blowing the ball back over the net.
My opponent could have returned my shot, even if they had to reach over the net to do so, as long as they didn’t touch the net while returning. If my opponent hits the net in the process of returning my shot, it’s also my point.
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