Long on the drama: Negaunee Miners, Escanaba Eskymos share Negaunee Invitational high school boys tennis title, Marquette Redmen just 2 points back
NEGAUNEE — Fighting tooth and nail, the host Miners, Marquette Redmen and Escanaba Eskymos all went down to the wire for the Negaunee Invitational tennis title on Saturday afternoon.
With the difference coming in several of the finals, Negaunee and Escanaba finished tied for the championship with 35 points apiece, while Marquette was right behind them with 33.
Westwood came in fourth with 13, Kingsford was fifth with 8, and West Iron County rounded out the six-team tournament with 4 points.
Winning the finals of a flight was worth six points and a runner-up finish was four. Those points became crucial since Marquette actually had the most finals appearances with six compared to five each for Negaunee and Escanaba.
However, the Miners and Eskymos both won three flight championships while the Redmen only won two.
The meet came down to the last match of the day in the No. 3 doubles final between Negaunee’s Zack Brundage and Gavin Jacobson and Escanaba’s Troy Delvaux and Connor Smale. In a three-set thriller, the Miners came back and defeated the Eskymos, 2-6, 7-6, 6-3 to earn that victory and a share of the team title for the Miners. Had the Eskymos won, they would’ve won the outright team title and Negaunee would’ve tied for second with Marquette.
“I would honestly say the one that we’re the most proud of is Zack and Gavin at No. 3 doubles,” Negaunee coach Kyle Saari said. “They know that they had some matches earlier in the year that were pretty sluggish, and maybe they weren’t moving their feet as well.
“Today was the complete opposite, and everything clicked for them. They grew up and matured on the court, and that was the best tennis that I’ve seen them play. For them to reward our entire team by them winning that last match, it prepares you well for the U.P.’s (Finals) as well.”
The previous Saturday at the Kingsford Invite, Negaunee and Escanaba made all eight finals with the Eskymos closing out strong with seven victories. In the week between these tournaments, the Negaunee team made some strides in practice and they grew up in this tournament, according to Saari.
Negaunee’s only champion last weekend, Tyler Lajimodiere at No. 3 singles, followed up his win in Kingsford with another title this weekend. In a battle against Marquette’s Chase Thomsen, Lajimodiere prevailed with a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“Tyler was a little bit under the weather during the week,” Saari said. “He knew he had a long day of tennis ahead of him (Saturday), and he didn’t complain and never flinched. On every change, he had a smile on his face and just kept running to every ball.”
Negaunee’s third winner was Mick Kumpula at No. 4 singles. Kumpula rolled to his title, defeating Marquette’s Brian Belkowski in the finals, 6-0, 6-1.
“Mick at No. 4 singles, he’s quiet, he seems relatively unassuming,” Saari said. “But his game has taken a huge jump this year, he’s hit the ball with more pace, and he just seems more comfortable and in control. It’s just awesome to win in the fashion that he did.”
Escanaba also showed its mettle in its three victories in the finals. In the other three-set final, Nate Howes took down Marquette’s Matt Barsch for the No. 2 singles win.
The Eskymos’ No. 1 doubles team of Isaac Maki and Dawson Williams continued to roll with a quick 6-2, 6-0 win over Marquette’s Jason Andary and William Olivier in the championship.
Esky claimed its third victory in No. 2 doubles, where Joe Hubert and Josep Montal defeated Negaunee’s Gavin Downey and Bryce Storms, 6-1, 6-3.
“I was really happy with our guys,” Escanaba coach Tom Penegor said. “It was fun, Marquette is a very good team, and we knew that Negaunee was.
“We’re holding our end, too, and I knew it was going to be close, but I didn’t know how close. I was proud of the guys, they fought hard. It’s a good learning experience playing in this tournament, especially coming into the GNC’s (Great Northern Conference meet) next week and the U.P. Finals the week after.”
Despite coming in third, Marquette also had a strong day. The Redmen might not have won as many finals as Escanaba or Negaunee, but still came away with two victories in dominant fashion.
Nick Olivier was the No. 1 singles champion with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Negaunee’s Luke Syrjala. In No. 4 doubles, MSHS also got a win from brothers Seppi Camilli and Toby Camilli with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Escanaba’s Evan St. Peter and Parker LaFond.
“This is a total litmus test for the U.P.’s, and I love seeing where we’re at,” Marquette coach Karl Thomsen said. “Six flights in the finals is fabulous.
“I think we’re in a good spot, there’s some minor improvements that we can work on with some of our singles players and doubles teams. If we coach them up right, they have a chance to improve on where they were today.
“Nick just has great strokes, he’s pieced it together both mentally and on the court, and it’s showing right now. For the Camilli brothers, they’re just hitting the center of the racket, and they have a lot of fight in them.”
Marquette and Negaunee have a short turnaround, as the Redmen host the Miners at 3:30 p.m. today in a dual meet.
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at email@example.com.