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Back on top again: Negaunee girls win U.P. Division 1 tennis title

Westwood's Mallory Leece returns a serve during a Division 1 U.P. Finals No. 4 singles championship match Monday at Negaunee. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

NEGAUNEE — Last year, the Negaunee girls tennis dynasty came to an end at the Division 1 Upper Peninsula Finals.

On Monday, the Miners began what could be a new dynasty as they avenged last year’s loss with a convincing victory at this year’s D1 final. Negaunee finished with 21 points in what was supposed to be a seven-team meet, but Escanaba didn’t compete.

Even though he had a mask on, it was obvious that Negaunee head coach Kyle Saari was smiling brightly after watching his team bounce back from last season’s defeat.

“I think we’re most happy for the girls above anything else,” he said. “It was a group that went through last year and they were hungry. But I think it became a leaning experience for many of them and it’s a close-knit senior group that I think also made sure to kind of take the juniors underneath their wing too.

“This group, they overcame a lot in spite of the COVID situation and then they’ve had a lot thrown at them throughout the course of the year too. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot. As the year goes on, the more you win, the bigger the target gets. It was nice that they were able to respond on the last day.”

Negaunee's Lexi Mason returns a shot during a Division 1 U.P. Finals No. 3 singles championship match Monday at Negaunee. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

Lexi Mason and Annika Tervo both won singles titles for the Miners at the No. 3 and 4 spots respectively. Mason defeated Marquette’s Ruth Hummell in two sets, while Tervo took down Westwood’s Mallory Leece in two sets. Negaunee also won three of the four doubles championships with the lone loss coming at No. 4 to Westwood.

Saari had a lot of praise for Mason, who quietly breezed through her day on her way to an undefeated season, as well as two of his doubles players.

“Lexi ended up finishing the season off 19-0 and it’s a really quiet 19-0,” Saari said. “And it shouldn’t be because she truly just lets her game kind of talk for her. She doesn’t say much, she’s quiet. So I’m tremendously proud of her and the effort she put forth. The other unique one is Morgan Carlson and Katelyn Lammi at one doubles. They went through all three of their years undefeated as a doubles team. They’re good friends and they’re both good athletes. For them to end their careers 19-0 this year too, it’s a unique mark to hit.”

Menominee took second with 14 points and the Patriots finished third with 10 as they moved up a division after winning four straight Division 2 championships. Jenna Nolde (No. 1) and Josie Hofer (No. 2) both won singles titles for the Maroons.

For Marquette, who took fourth overall with eight points, it was a kind of a disappointing day after the Redettes ended the Miners’ dynasty last season. However, head coach Derek Sandstrom was happy with his team’s effort after a year where the Redettes wondered if they’d even be able to compete.

The Negaunee team celebrates its championship. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

“We had a good year of tennis,” he said. “I guess we were just hoping we’d get a season or part of a season in. Then as we got closer to have school, ‘Well, maybe we’ll finish the season’ and now, we’re here. So yeah, the result is disappointing, but I guess the path we took together as a team and the time we had together as a team is a success.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-288-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

Marquette’s Julianna Golisek returns a long serve during a No. 4 singles quarterfinal match. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

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