Miners boys can hardly be slowed, let alone stopped

By Journal Sports Staff

NEGAUNEE — Don’t step in front of the Mack truck known as the Negaunee High School boys tennis team.

The Miners continued to roll on without a whole lot of resistance after driving past Westwood 8-0 on Monday afternoon.

Negaunee (10-0) didn’t drop a set and lost just 19 games in the eight flights, something that pleased head coach Kyle Saari.

“The first meet of a week can be a good test of focus, especially following a tournament,” he said in an email detailing the result.

The Miners just wrapped up another impressive performance by capturing the championship at the five-team Kingsford Invitational on Saturday.

He was particularly pleased with some of his veteran players who man the top flights — singles players Gavin Saunders at No. 1, Tyler Lajimodiere at No. 2 and Mick Kumpula at No. 3, along with the top doubles tandem of James Thomson and Brady Johnson at No. 1.

“We were pretty locked in and it seemed our leadership flights of Gavin, Tyler, Mick, along with Brady and James, really played well,” Saari said. “The rest of our lineup has followed their lead, and it’s made a huge difference so far.

“Tyler might be playing the best tennis of his career right now, while Mick is doing an incredible job driving the ball with a ton of pace. It’s a great 1-2 punch in the middle of our singles lineup.”

Each of those Miners won by identical 6-1, 6-0 scores, Lajimodiere over Westwood’s Patrick Klumpp and Kumpula over the Patriots’ Mason Hietikko.

Negaunee has a dual match at home against Iron Mountain at 4 p.m. Thursday before hosting its Negaunee Invitational against seven other Upper Peninsula schools, including Marquette, Westwood and Munising, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Escanaba 5, Marquette 3

On Monday at Escanaba, the host team won three doubles matches after the teams split singles matches 2-2.

Two matches went to three sets, with each team winning one.

At No. 2 doubles, the Sentinels’ Abe Kentala and Connor Stade prevailed 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 over the Eskymos’ Dave Romps and Alex Morgan.

“I thought our youth and experience was evident today against a solid Escanaba team,” MSHS head coach Karl Thomsen said in an email detailing the result. “Our No. 2 doubles team of Abe Kentala and Connor Stade have been through a couple of battles this year and last.

“I believe it was their ability to stay calm in the big moments that allowed them to prevail in a three-set thriller.

“Speaking of experience, Matt Barsch continued playing smart and solid tennis at No. 1 singles. It was pretty amazing to watch him use the wind to his advantage.”

Barsch pulled off a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Esky’s Connor Howes.

The other three-setter occurred at No. 4 doubles, where EHS’ Nick Garcia and Brandon Gardner prevailed 6-1, 6-7 (9-11), 6-3 over Marquette’s Cameron Mileski and Conner Henry.

“The match of the day had to be at No. 4 doubles,” Thomsen said. “Unfortunately, we did not come out on top, but Cam and Conner made a heckuva run at winning the match.

“They showed a lot of guts digging out of a 0-5 deficit in the second set to win an incredible tiebreaker. I’m hoping this kind of experience will help them in future matches.”

The Sentinels’ coach was also pleased with the play of Bode Helman, who lost a tough 7-5, 7-5 decision to Escanaba’s Jackson Cousineau at No. 2 singles.

“I also have to give a huge shout-out to Bode Helman,” Thomsen said. “Bode stepped in at No. 2 singles … played a whale of a match, and almost pulled off the upset of the year.

“Once again, I hope this kind of experience pays dividends in Bode’s bright future.”

Marquette has matches the next two days before taking part in the Negaunee Invite on Saturday morning. The Sentinels host West Iron County at 3:30 p.m. today in a recently added meet, then travel to Westwood for a 3:30 p.m. meet Thursday.

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


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