Despite a few hiccups, Negaunee Miners solidly Mid-Peninsula Conference girls tennis champs

The Negaunee High School girls tennis team, led by head coach Kyle Saari, top left, won the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet title on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Kyle Saari)

NEGAUNEE — It wasn’t a perfect day for the Negaunee High School girls tennis team and yet it was the perfect outcome for the Miners at the Mid-Peninsula Conference Meet held at their home courts on Wednesday.

Negaunee won the conference title for the fourth year in a row by winning six of the eight flights and finishing runner-up in the other two.

The Miners scored 44 points to easily outdistance second-place Westwood with 33. Ishpeming was third with 24, while Iron Mountain came in fourth with 13, followed by Norway with 10 and Gwinn 9.

The Patriots and Hematites each won a flight as Westwood made seven finals, Ishpeming placed third five times and Gwinn picked up a third-place finish.

“We played some of our best tennis of the year (Wednesday), so it was great to see their work over the last two weeks pay off,” Negaunee head coach Kyle Saari said in an email detailing the results. “Most years we prepare the same way, but we were stuck kind of treading water in the middle of the season and had to change some preparation up.”

After rolling to a near-perfect 13-0-1 record in dual meets, the Miners might’ve looked like the favorites to win championships in all eight flights.

But Westwood was able to pull off a title at No. 3 doubles when Niila Nurmi and Eliisa Doney knocked off the Miners’ Autumn Ring and Maija Rourke 6-3, 6-4 in their final.

“We had Maija Rourke step into the lineup today with Autumn, and she didn’t miss a beat,” Saari said. “We’re proud of how she played on short notice.”

Ishpeming’s championship came at No. 4 doubles when Kaitlyn VanDeuren and Ava Jo Hares outlasted Negaunee’s Emma Wills and Halle Palomaki 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 for the title.

But Negaunee prevailed in every other flight, though it wasn’t without some stomach acid churning for Saari watching several of his players having to pull off comebacks after dropping the first set of the finals.

At No. 1 singles, the Miners’ Aubrey Johnson pulled off her comeback against Westwood’s Lexi Olson, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

“Aubrey did a phenomenal job in her second set to swing things in her favor,” Saari said. “After doing so she never looked back.”

Then at No. 2 doubles, Negaunee’s Sage Juntti and Olivia Lunseth actually pulled off the exact same set scores against the Patriots’ Kaylin Doney and Nolia Dawson, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

“Olivia and Sage were in a similar situation as Aubrey, and those flights matches mirrored each other,” Saari said. “Olivia and Sage really challenged themselves to step up in a tough moment, and as seniors they met the challenge.”

Even one of the Miners’ straight-sets victors had to shake off a tough Westwood challenge as NHS’ No. 1 doubles team of Maddie Frustaglio and Kallen Schultz won 6-4, 7-5 over WHS’ Izzie Marta and Alyssa Couveau.

“Kallen and Maddie were impressive to close out their sets,” Saari said. “They rely on one another when needed, and both have been solid in crucial moments.”

Negaunee’s other three champions came with scoring more reminiscent of the domination the Miners held throughout the season that began in mid-August.

Miners No. 2 singles player Lili Saunders scored a 6-3, 6-4 win over Westwood’s Sami Ruby, No. 3 singles player Rheanna Nelson won 6-1, 6-1 over the Pats’ Emersyn Nelson and No. 4 singles player Madalynn Peters took a 6-0, 6-4 victory over WHS’ Morgan Schneider.

Westwood’s third-place finish was recorded by Kaya Etelamaki and Taylor Jackovich at No. 4 doubles, while Gwinn’s came via No. 1 singles player Miaha Schiefel.

Ishpeming’s quintet of third places came by way of No. 3 singles player Lilly Swanson, No. 4 singles player Lilly Ryan, No. 1 doubles tandem of Addison Morton and Payton Manninen, No. 2 doubles pair of Jenna Maki and Emma LaFave and No. 3 doubles duo of Ciara Schaffer and Kadie Kaukola.

Iron Mountain also picked up a third place by Alysia Wood at No. 2 singles, while Norway’s best finish was fourth by No. 2 singles player Jordyn Moln and the No. 4 doubles tandem of Caitlyn Mohr and Kimberly Proctor.

Next week, Negaunee and Westwood go to the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals in Marquette, with the rest of the M-PC going to the Division 2 Finals in Kingsford. Both tournaments start at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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