MARQUETTE - They could hardly complain about too much good spring weather, but tennis players at the Negaunee-at-Marquette boys high school match were a little tired Friday afternoon after finally getting a busy week in on the courts.
"You can see both teams are a little sluggish today, just by how quiet it is," MSHS coach Charlie Drury said. "Usuall, there's quite a bit of chatter and cheering when we play each other."
Both teams were coming off their respective conference meets a day earlier, dual matches on Monday and Tuesday and the Negaunee Invitational last Saturday.
Negaunee High School's Ryan Syrjala streches to hit the ball back to his Marquette Senior High School No. 2 singles opponent on Friday at the Shiras Courts in Marquette. Negaunee won, 5-3. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We always have this match on this day," said Negaunee coach Kyle Saari, whose team held on for a 5-3 win Friday to finish the dual-match season at 10-0-1. "To play tennis right after the conference (meets), it's a battle of wills and a good sign of our mental toughness that we were able to win.
"Right now, it's important to grind out a tough match and learn how to win when your body may not be feeling so good."
The busy week comes after a terrible spring weather-wise, when both meets and practices were canceled left and right.
"I feel like I'm starting to play really well now," said Negaunee sophomore Micah Johnson, who won his No. 4 singles match over Patrick Bulinski, 6-0, 6-1.
He was a parttime JV, parttime varsity player as a freshman, and said he has had to toughen up his mental game the most now that he's full-time on varsity.
As far as the physical aspect, he's got a secret weapon to help him bring his game around.
"I've spent some time on weekends practicing," Johnson said. "I play against my sister."
She's Negaunee senior Jessa Johnson, a stalwart on several Miners sports teams, including the softball squad in the spring.
For both teams, it was one last chance to get a match in before Wednesday's MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 finals to be held in Kingsford.
"I'm just getting into the swing of things, pardon the pun," said Marquette junior Dakota Riopelle.
He and Redmen freshman Kees Gray held off Kolton Klein and Jacob Godfrey, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 4 doubles.
The day's longest match time-wise came at No. 1 singles where Marquette junior Josh Downs came back for a 4-6, 6-3, 10-1 victory over Negaunee sophomore Parker Bowman, the final set a super tiebreaker.
"If it was my choice, I don't think I would've played today," an exhausted Downs said minutes after his match was over. "It's all right, though, you just keep pushing and working through the match."
Despite Kingsford being the U.P. Finals favorite, Drury says MSHS, Negaunee and Menominee have a chance vs. the Flivvers.
"If you lose early, there's no making up those points," Drury said about each flight in the tournament. "And with all the different strengths each of us have, anything could happen."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.