KINGSFORD — The West Iron County girls couldn’t have had a better ending to their tennis season Thursday as they earned their first Upper Peninsula Division 2 championship since 2006.
West Iron scored 13 points, followed by Munising with 12, Iron Mountain 11, Ishpeming nine, Gwinn five, and Norway and Ironwood with one apiece. The Wykons had finished runners-up the last three seasons.
Junior Kali Applin secured the title by taking a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 decision from Iron Mountain senior Arianna Morel at No. 2 singles on a chilly and windy day.
“It was a good match,” said Applin. “Coach (Joe Serbentas) told me we could share the title or be selfish and win it for ourselves. This is a big accomplishment for our team, and it feels great to win it for myself and the team. Dropping the second set was kind of a letdown, but I just tried to stay calm and play one point at a time.”
West Iron senior Tori Bociek became a four-time U.P. champion as she teamed with junior Madison Berutti in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Iron Mountain sophomore Aziza Burgoon and junior Bella Brown in No. 1 doubles.
“It feels great to be a four-time U.P. champion,” said Bociek, who will be attending classes at Northern Michigan University next fall. “I was confident coming in, knowing we had beaten every team here pretty easily during the regular season. The season went real well. We improved a lot.”
Berutti kept an eye at the net while Bociek was hitting her shots.
“I was playing mostly at the net and let Tori hit the ball,” Berutti said. “Although, I hit some lobs over the net.
“The wind and cold didn’t bother us. We practiced in that every day. There was no need for us to adjust.”
Wykons junior Aurora Dahl was crowned champion in No. 3 singles following a 6-3, 6-0 triumph over Munising’s Jenna Mattson.
“I just wanted to make sure to get most of my shots in,” said Dahl. “I tried to angle my shots and leave the court open which gave me a few more options. The wind affected some of my serves. Otherwise, it wasn’t much of a factor.
“This is my first year playing singles. It was kind of a big adjustment. It was hard to get used to singles at first, but now I enjoy singles more.”
Munising’s lone flight title came at No. 3 doubles where Madeline Cole-Elizabeth Holloway topped Ishpeming’s Ashley Stille-Hailey Hyttinen 6-3, 6-2.
Iron Mountain senior Claire Mongrain gained her first U.P. title with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over West Iron senior Olivia Mazurek at No. 1 singles.
“I was definitely surprised by the margin of victory,” said Mongrain, who plans to attend Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay to major in dental hygiene. “We battled all season and had really close scores. I just tried to play one point at a time.
“The weather seemed to change every five minutes, typical of U.P. weather. I hit the ball long all the time. For that reason I prefer to hit into the wind. I couldn’t think of a better ending. I played great players this year. There were different rules because of the virus (Covid-19), but everybody was real good about it.”
Although disappointed in the outcome, Mazurek was gracious in defeat.
“I just had my head down, although I’m happy with the season we had,” she said. “I’m glad I made it to the championship match. She came out on fire. She was really good. I’m glad we at least got to play. Covid-19 affected everybody.”
Serbentas said the title was a long time coming.
“We had real good senior leaders,” he added. “Olivia has been a great asset to our program, somebody the girls look up to. Even though she didn’t win a championship today, Olivia was a great leader. Our No. 1 doubles were outstanding all season and Aurora made the transition from doubles to singles beautifully. The girls truly deserve to win it. This was a hard year with Covid-19.”
Iron Mountain also won No. 2 doubles with junior Danika Juul and sophomore Natalia Brown taking a 7-5, 6-3 decision from Munising’s Lori Mattson-Peyton Cotey.
“The girls did a great job,” said first-year Mountaineers’ coach Marcus Celello. “We have a lot of sophomores and I was happy to have the senior leadership. It was nice to see Claire come through and get a U.P. title. I didn’t play tennis in high school so this was a big learning experience for me. We can’t overlook how helpful our seniors were in my first year.”
Ishpeming took the remaining championships with Lily Thompson topping Gwinn’s Emma Clairmont 6-3, 6-2 in No. 4 singles and Addison Morton-Jenna Maki defeating West Iron’s Haille Bradshaw-Bailey Hoffart 6-4, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles.
“We had some girls who did very well,” said Gwinn coach Darcia Mattson. “This is the first time we’ve had one of our girls in the finals. Hopefully, we can build on this, and I really think we will. Having new courts in Gwinn and an assistant coach really helps.”
PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County’s Olivia Mazurek fires a backhand during a No. 1 singles match Thursday. (Middle) Iron Mountain’s Claire Mongrain sends back a volley at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Theresa Proudfit.)
ESCANABA — The Negaunee Miners have been the measuring stick in Upper Peninsula girls tennis for nearly a decade.
Negaunee, which came into this season as reigning Division 1 champion, has taken the U.P. crown seven of the past nine years. Ishpeming Westwood took the title in 2021.
Negaunee is 11-0-1 after a win over Gwinn on Tuesday. The tie came last week against Escanaba.
"We knew we were going to have a target on our backs," said Miners coach Kyle Saari. "We told the girls they have to be ready for every meet. The target is pretty huge, and I think we were sluggish out of the gate. I don't think we finished particularly well at the net. I think our tradition helps us for sure, although it can be a double-edged sword. We want to keep striving to reach benchmarks and make sure we don't get lackadaisical."
Sophomore Liliana Saunders is 12-0 at No. 2 singles. She was the UPD1 No. 4 single champion as a freshman.
"I'm starting to play my game," Saunders said after her 6-0, 6-1 victory over Escanaba’s Molly VanDamme. "I think I'm controlling the ball pretty well, but I need to work on my net play and improve my serving a little.
“Overall, we have a real strong team. We're pretty close-knit and play a lot over the summer. I think our tradition gives us a lot of confidence going into matches."
Saunders' summer work included a trip in early August to Escanaba, where she earned the age 16-18 title in the 76th Annual Michigan-Wisconsin Open with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Escanaba senior Sophia Derkos.
"I think that really helped me," she said. "She's really a good player. My toughest match this season was against the Westwood girl (sophomore Samantha Ruby). The Gladstone girl (Addy Trombley) is also pretty good."
Derkos – last season’s UPD1 No. 1 singles champion – remained undefeated in five matches after taking a 6-0, 6-1 decision from Negaunee junior Aubrey Johnson at No. 1 singles last week.
"She's a good player, and they're a good team," Derkos said after the match. "This is a big win. I've been waiting to play them and Westwood. Those are the two toughest teams. This is a big confidence boost."
Johnson, last season’s UPD1 runner-up at No. 2 singles, bounced back with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Munising's Bailey Corcoran on Thursday and also won Tuesday, and gave Derkos her due after the Escanaba match.
"Sophia knows what she wants to do," said Johnson. "She plays at a pretty fast pace, and I didn't get to the net as much as I'd like. She's very patient. You can tell she's an experienced player. I can learn from playing against her."
The Miners, as they did in singles, split their four matches with Escanaba in doubles.
Seniors Sage Juntti and Olivia Lumseth are the reigning UPD1 champs at No. 2 doubles, and Kallen Schultz was part of the No. 3 champion last season and is playing No. 1 this fall with Madison Frustaglio, who was part of the 2022 runner-up at their flight.
“We have a very good coach. He always challenges us, so we can get better,” Juntti said. “We do our usual stuff. If it's not good, he just makes us work on it until it is good."
Except for the Escanaba tie and a 5-3 triumph over Westwood, all of the Miners' victories have been shutouts (8-0).
"The biggest part of our success is the girls are supportive of each other," Saari said. "They're all quality kids."
Negaunee's success also has made Escanaba coach Chris Ogren take notice.
"Kyle has been there a long time," he said. "They have one of the most athletic teams, and they're very disciplined. You always have to be ready when you play them.
“We have some good teams up here. You always have to be mentally prepared."
Negaunee hosts Gwinn, Menominee and Marquette before also hosting the Mid-Peninsula Conference tournament Sept. 27.
The U.P. Division 1 Finals will take place Oct. 4 in Marquette.
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTO Negaunee’s Aubrey Johnson serves during her match against Escanaba’s Sophia Derkos on Sept. 13. (Photo by Mitch Vosburg/Escanaba Daily Press.)