Nearing perfection: Negaunee Miners win 7 of 8 flights to capture Mid-Peninsula Conference boys tennis crown

The Negaunee High School boys tennis team won the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet championship for the 13th consecutive year in Iron Mountain on Thursday. The Miners won seven of the eight flights while scoring 45 of a possible 48 points. In the front row from left are Carson Lajimodiere, Brady Johnson, James Thomson, Nolan O’Dovero, Ethan Harris and Tyler Lajimodiere. Top row from left, assistant coach Cody Scanlon, Blake Holmgren, Quinn Walters, Mick Kumpula, Kolten Store, Easton Guenette, Gavin Saunders, head coach Kyle Saari and assistant coach Jace Turri. (Photo courtesy Kyle Saari)

IRON MOUNTAIN — It ain’t broke, so why would Negaunee High School tennis coach Kyle Saari want to fix it?

But while the veteran Miners mentor knows each year is different with a changing cast of players, his formula for success hasn’t changed in at least 13 years as Negaunee put up its lucky 13th consecutive Mid-Peninsula Conference meet boys title on Thursday afternoon at Iron Mountain High School.

The Miners not only won, but dominated by scoring 45 of a possible 48 points in winning seven of the eight flights.

Westwood was a distant second with 27, while Ishpeming was right behind the Patriots in third with 25 and the host Mountaineers not far behind WHS in fourth with 23. Gwinn was also present but didn’t score.

“Thirteen in a row is a great accomplishment for our current program, as well as for the many who played a part in this in the past,” Saari said in an email detailing some of the results. “Each year you have to learn how to win, and perhaps we’ve had to find that quicker this year than ever before.

“The leadership’s been good and that’s important to motivate again for next week.”

Next week — specifically Wednesday morning at Marquette Senior High School — will be the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 finals that the Negaunee boys will battle against the biggest tennis-playing schools in the peninsula.

“This is always one of the goals early in the year, and we were able to leap that bar,” Saari said about the conference tournament. “This spring has brought a little of everything weather-wise, and today the wind was unpredictable, so it’s great we had to overcome that part of it, too.

“We didn’t particularly play the cleanest today, so it’ll be great to practice prior to the U.P.’s and refocus.”

He was particularly pleased with No. 4 singles player Ethan Harris and the No. 3 doubles tandem of Nolan O’Dovero and Easton Guenette.

“One person who has made huge strides is Ethan Harris,” Saari said about this spring season. “He loves tennis more than anyone on this team, and he’s always looking for ways to get better.

“He’s simplified his game, his movement is so much better, and he’s capable of hitting every shot. That’s rare for a (No.) 4 singles player.

“Easton and Nolan were focused and played smart today, too. They controlled both of their matches and they’re beginning to realize what they’re capable of when they use their athleticism and commit to playing consistent.”

Harris posted a 6-2, 6-1 victory over IM’s Malakai Broesma in his championship match, while O’Dovero and Guenette were 6-3, 6-2 winners over Westwood’s Xavier Grondz and Damian Grondz in their final.

Negaunee had a clean sweep in singles, which included No. 1 Gavin Saunders whipping past IM’s Tyler Winch 6-0, 6-0 for his championship.

At No. 2, the Miners’ Tyler Lajimodiere pounded Westwood’s Mason Heitikko 6-1, 6-1 in that final, while at No. 3, Negaunee’s Mick Kumpula had the exact same score in his championship win over the Patriots’ Jaxson Alderton.

In doubles, NHS’ No. 1 duo of James Thomson and Brady Johnson eased past Hunter Smith and Caden Luoma of Ishpeming 6-4, 6-2 for that title, while at No. 4, the Miners’ Kolten Store and Quinn Walters were pushed before scoring a 6-4, 6-4 win over the Hematites’ Adam Maki and Ethan Corp.

Ishpeming and Westwood prevented Negaunee from making a clean sweep of it as pairings from those first two schools met for the championship at No. 2 doubles. The Hematites’ Hayden Hares and Tramon Gauthier prevailed 6-3, 7-5 over the Pats’ Jayce Patron and Mitchell Ford, while the Miners’ Blake Holmgren and Carson Lajimodiere finished third.

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


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