Mustangs take third at tennis finals

Munising had a strong performance at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 State Finals on Tuesday, May 30 in Westwood, finishing tied for third. Three Mustangs took individual state championships for winning their respective flights.

“Overall I’m pleased with how we competed, especially for all the guys who have just now picked up tennis rackets a few months ago, which is a good portion of our team,” said Munising Co-Coach Noah Ackerman. “We still had to show up and win those flights and some come up short, but I’m pleased with how we competed.”

The pair of Kane Nebel and Carson Kienitz was the top seed in the No. 1 doubles bracket. After defeating Matthew Dutcher and Colton Holm of West Iron County 7-5, 6-1, the Mustang duo advanced to the finals to take on Ishpeming pair Hayden Hares and Hunter Smith. Fresh off their own semifinal win over Menominee, the Hematites won the first set 7-6 over Nebel and Kienitz.

Playing in the warmer weather throughout the day, the Mustangs were able to right the ship and win the next two sets in decisive fashion, 6-2, 6-3.

Also winning an individual title was Ashton Wymer, who took home the No. 3 singles flight. Wymer advanced by default to the finals before dispatching top seed Drew Alexa 6-2, 6-7, 6-3. Wymer was the only singles player to advance to the finals for Munising.

Also scoring for the Mustangs was Danny Goss, who scored one point in the No. 1 singles flight, and the pair of Mike Robinson II and Logan Walsh, who were runners-up in No. 3 doubles.

Ishpeming won the Division 2 title with 12 points, mostly through their doubles play, as all four Hematite pairs made the finals. Iron Mountain was second with 11 while Munising and West Iron County finished in third with nine points each. Menominee rounded out the field in fifth.

Gwinn was also supposed to compete in the tournament, however the Modeltowners elected to not participate in the postseason. Without the school, confusion over bracketing, seeding and byes created confusion about the points awarded for each available victory. The fourth and fifth seeds were able to have another opportunity for scoring, while the second and third seeds could get two points or nothing.

According to the MHSAA, the points are not awarded for simply qualifying for the round, but based on which stage in the bracket the team wins.

“The difference that made this noticeable in UPD2 on Tuesday was that Gwinn opted out of the tournament; most years the UP tournaments have even numbers of teams, which means no byes in the flight brackets. But with an odd number of teams, flights had byes, and by our scoring system a singles player or doubles pair gets two points for winning their first match after a bye – but only by winning. No point is awarded by simply receiving a bye,” MHSAA Communications Director Geoff Kimmerly said in an email response.

According to MHSAA rules, a school may opt out of a postseason tournament with advanced notice. This is a common procedure for some smaller schools, even locally with Hannahville pulling out of girls District 100 basketball tournament in recent years. However, the tiered flight system used in tennis makes the lack of participation more noticeable. If teams that received the second and third-seeded bye were able to have one point due to a forfeit, Munising would have scored in three more flights and tied for a U.P. championship instead of tied for third.

Ackerman said the process was frustrating because it did not do a good job of rewarding better seeds.

“There was no benefit to be a two or even a three seed unless you made the finals,” Ackerman said. “We had 6 of 8 flights be a one seed or a two seed and if they don’t win their first match, they don’t get any points from it, so there was no benefit of getting a bye.”

Despite the outcome,Ackerman said the finish was a good step for the Munising tennis program.

“Hopefully, this set a good tone of what the Munising tennis program can be. At the beginning of the year, (co-coach) Chase (Nebel) and I were just talking about being competitive in matches. We played all our D1 schools, the scores would be close, but we would lose. When in our division, we beat everyone head to head besides West Iron County since we didn’t play them. We felt good going into U.P.’s, but fell short in just a few flights. Still proud of all the guys,” he said.