Putting up a fight: Westwood reaches every championship match, but Negaunee Miners prevail in 6 of them to keep Mid-Peninsula Conference boys tennis title
“You know you’re going to get teams’ best shots and you have to be able to respond.” — Kyle Saari, Negaunee head coach, about being undefeated this spring in boys tennis
ISHPEMING — The final result was in doubt till the last couple of matches Thursday at the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet, but the Negaunee boys tennis team finished on top once again.
The Miners won the meet with 44 points as host Westwood was a close second with 36. Iron Mountain took third with 23 followed by Gwinn with 11 and Ishpeming with 6.
Negaunee faced Westwood in all eight of the championship matches and got quite a battle from the Patriots.
“All the way throughout, our dual meet scores, there’s been several 7-1s and 8-0s and that sort of thing,” Miners head coach Kyle Saari said. “But we know that Westwood has a good program and that there’s several other good programs throughout the (Upper Peninsula) as well.
“We’ve been lucky to respond in those dual-meet situations and once the tournaments roll around, everything is magnified a little more, too. You know you’re going to get teams’ best shots and you have to be able to respond to them in some ways.
“Westwood gave us a great shot today and I’m proud that the kids were able to, as a whole, end up responding once again.”
Negaunee won three of the four singles titles, getting two-set victories from Will Luke at No. 2 and Peyton Anderson at No. 3, with Luke defeating the Patriots’ Anthony Couveau and Anderson topping Westwood’s Chad Pohlman.
“Will had a great day,” Saari said. “He’s hitting the ball really well and keeping it deep in the court and adding a lot of pace to his shots.
“Peyton is a senior (who) moved from doubles into our singles lineup this year and he’s pretty much done that seamlessly at (No.) 3.
“So that’s given us a good option there, too. As a whole, I’m pleased with how we’ve played as a team and we hope that that will lead into the U.P.s next week.”
Negaunee will participate in the MHSAA U.P. Division 1 finals in Kingsford on Wednesday, with the balance of the M-PC field playing in Division 2 at Westwood that same day.
On Thursday, the Miners’ other singles win came at No. 1 as Chas Kumpula outlasted Westwood’s Adam Hyttinen in three sets, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.
“Chas has really kind of come into his own this last week and he’s had some big wins over the last 10 days,” Saari said. “He’s played some really good tennis.”
Negaunee’s only singles defeat in the finals came at No. 4, where Westwood’s Matt Paavo earned a hard-fought, three-set win over the Miners’ Jordon Mason, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The Miners also performed well in doubles, winning three of four championships, with the finals loss coming at No. 2. Saari said doubles has been Negaunee’s strongest point this year.
“The doubles portion of our lineup has probably been our strength if we’re going to pinpoint something throughout the course of the year,” he said. “All four of those teams, they’ve been undefeated throughout this entire year and that (No.) 2 doubles match, that was the first time they had gotten beat, too.
“They’ve done a tremendous job. Jakson (Sager) and Drew (Lindberg) at the top of our lineup, they’re two athletes that have been incredibly consistent. They’ve kind of led the way. We’ve had depth voids fill in nicely to kind of just round out our lineup.”
The Miners’ lone doubles defeat came at the rackets of Westwood’s Hudson Uren and Connor Traver, who defeated Negaunee’s Jacob Larson and Ander Sorenson, 6-1, 7-5, to prevent the sweep.
Patriots head coach Chris Jackson was pleased with his No. 2 tandem and as well as his whole team for giving the Miners a good battle with the finals approaching.
“They’ve (Uren and Traver) been trending upward the last week and a half,” Jackson said. “It’s a short season, but they’ve been trending upward. They expected a lot of themselves today, but you don’t know how they’re going to respond until they get into these situations.
“It seemed like every one of these finals, it felt like I looked out there and every scorecard, we were down by three. It was kind of like ‘OK, here we go,’ but everybody responded well. Even the losses, they were good losses.
“This is kind of what we needed. It’s been a difficult spring trying become consistent. We haven’t really put it together all year, but I’ve always felt confident in these kids as far as how they would respond in a tournament format. Hopefully, this is something we can build off for next week for U.P.’s.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.