Marquette natives Girard, Elysa Olivier win titles at Michigan-Wisconsin tournament

ESCANABA – The 71st edition of the Michigan-Wisconsin tennis tournament had its annual champions crowned in all divisions and the competition was outstanding.

The weekend of tennis in Delta County was celebrated by both young and old players and spectators from around the Midwest.

The unique stories and traditions of the long-standing tournament were the real winners and 83-year old tennis coach and long-time Mich-Wis participant Bill Simon from Green Bay summed up the thoughts of many.

“I have been coming to the tournament here since the late 1970’s and enjoy it every year,” said Simon.

“I traveled the U.P. with my job for over 20 years and we use to take a family motor home here for the tennis weekend and I am still enjoying it now.”

Simon was among the spectators watching the tournaments’ longest match of the weekend with play in the mens’ (40/55 and over combined) singles that saw 70-year old Earl Lepisto of Wallace beat Esky’s Tom Penegor, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.

Lepisto winning the three hour and 45 minute marathon match in a tie-breaker in the 80-degree heat and humidity Saturday for the two veteran players.

“First weekend of August every year for years, we are here playing tennis in the Michigan-Wisconsin tournament,” said Lepisto.

“This is part of Summer that we look forward to and we enjoy it,” said Lepisto who will compete this weekend in the Michigan Senior Olympics 70 and over tennis doubles with his partner Denny Kreuser.

The 2018 men’s class A champion Brett Girard of Marquette, age 31, said he has been coming to the tournament for over 20 years.

“I started coming here and playing in the 12 and under division,” said Girard a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 champion winner over Marquette’s three-time U.P, high school champion, teenager Alec Olivier.

Olivier will be a senior at MSHS going for four U.P. # 1 singles championships in 2019.

“This is a good tournament and you meet a lot of great people and make a lot of friends here in all the years coming to Esky,” said Girard.

Girard the runner-up last year in the men’s open A division losing to Miami, Florida resident and former Cuba Davis Cup player Mario Tabaras who was visiting the U.P.

Tabaras was not back to defend his title and Girard beat Olivier in an entertaining three-set final.

“Alec is a good player and getting better and better and he played well. I lost my legs for a little (in the second set) and played a lot of tennis today. I made enough shots in the third set and it was good to win on a beautiful day to play tennis,” said Girard.

Girard played four years of college tennis for Michigan Tech University and a long-time tournament participant with his 40 year old brother Andy Girard, who did not compete this year.

The Olivier tennis family from Marquette also contributed the girls’ division champion Elysa Olivier beating Green Bay’s Emma Klug 6-0, 6-0 in the final played at Ludington Park.

“This is my third year playing here and I played well,” said Olivier.

“She (Emma) was a good player and she got a lot of balls back. I was able to get a couple more balls back.”

Another tourney participant and former Mich-Wis open men’s A winner and winner of multiple championships in the 35/over singles and open doubles divisions Mark Stinski of Appleton, Wisconsin has been playing the tournament for over 25 years.

“We come up here as a family and enjoy eating in Escanaba and Gladstone restaurants and have a great time every year spending the weekend. We love it up here” said Stinski.

Stinski age 54, lost in the men’s A division semi-finals to Olivier, falling in three sets 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

“I play a lot of high school players and they obviously have more speed and agility than me. I have fun and enjoy the competition. He (Alec) is a good, young player and played well,” said Stinski.

Other division champions from Saturday’s singles were Iron River’s Holden Ross beating Esky’s Crister Carne 6-1, 6-2 to win the boys’ age 16-18 title.

Appleton’s Jacob Stinski beat Marquette’s Nick Olivier for the boys’ ages 12-15 title to wrap up Saturday’s action.

Sunday’s doubles competition crowned more division champions before the afternoon rains washed out some of the doubles finals.

Winning championships in the men’s 40/55 and over doubles were Stinski and Mike Nobbefeldt both from Appleton, beating Josh Kitto of Marquette and Pete Kurtz of Menominee 7-6,3-6, 6-1. The ladies’ “B” division doubles had co-champions with Cam Laurich-Mary Taylor and the team of Amber Lippold and Judy Wise sharing honors.

Tournament co-director Denny Lueneberg has been directing the tournament for years and he said the players and the families are the reasons for the success.

“I know the players well and they want to be playing different people and to make them happy is what it is all about,” said Lueneberg.

“Many have been coming here for years and years and it is a special time of year each August for everybody.”