ISHPEMING - In a spring that started like winter and stayed that way for far too long, it made sense in a perverse way that the final tennis match of the season would be played on a sweltering day.
With temperatures heading well past 80 degrees and closer to 90, area high school boys teams claimed champions in three of the eight flights at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals headquartered at Westwood High School.
With additional matches at the Ishpeming Township Fire Department and Ishpeming city courts, Munising claimed two champions and Ishpeming a third just before summer-like late afternoon thunderstorms rolled into the area.
West Iron County junior Andrew Peterson returns a shot during the No. 1 doubles championship match at the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals tennis tournament hosted by Westwood High School on Thursday . This match was held at the courts at the Ishpeming Township Fire Department. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
But it was the visitors from the south who ran off with the team laurels. West Iron County made the championship match at every flight and won five of them to accumulate 21 points, far past runner-up Iron Mountain's 11.
The Mustangs, the only Class D school playing tennis in the U.P., was third with 9 points, followed by Ishpeming with 7, Westwood 4, Gwinn 2 and Norway 1.
These results weren't too unexpected, considering that last year's D2 champion Patriots lost a number of players this spring.
"We have a young lineup," Westwood coach Chris Jackson said about a regular lineup that features just one senior. "I'm hoping next year we can be a contender again, with a handful of freshmen and sophomores getting the experience they need to build for the future."
WIC was edged out for last year's D2 title by one point, so the Wykons had something to prove Thursday in winning their sixth title in the past nine years.
"The guys were determined that they were going to put last year behind them," said coach Joe Serbentas, who has guided the Wykons to all six of those titles. "Everybody suffered this year (in the offseason).
"But we have a veteran team with a lot of juniors, and for plenty of them this is their third year playing varsity."
Fully half of WIC's players on Thursday also played for the team in its 2011 championship run, a one-point victory over Iron Mountain.
The biggest upset of the day may have been one of the Wykons' losses, when senior Austin Waara was prevented from winning his fourth straight U.P. championship by Munising sophomore Noah Ackerman at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Ackerman, though, is a rising star in U.P. tennis and didn't lose a match all spring.
Thursday was the first time the pair had ever faced each other in a high school match. They came close at last year's U.P. finals, when Ackerman, as a freshman, was knocked out one match short of facing Waara for a championship.
Waara won the U.P. title at No. 3 singles as a freshman and at No. 1 singles the past two years.
"He was coming up to the net a whole lot today," Ackerman said about Waara.
His coach echoed that.
"You could see that Waara had a game plan, but Noah was able to figure it out," said Munising coach Rod Gendron. "Waara is a great athlete, but Noah played a good match, a tough match.
"Noah was down 2-1 in the third set and then he won the last five games. That was when he really put the pedal to the metal.
"He's just such a good player. He has a multitude of shots, and this year, Noah made the big mental leap to become a more elite player."
Freshman teammates Trevor Witty and Ian McInnis scored the Mustangs other title at No. 4 doubles.
"We just did what we we've been doing all season," said McInnis, who conceded that he and Witty were most nervous in their first match Thursday.
"We were just trying to hit the ball over the net and not lose focus."
He said the fact that the Mustangs never play a home match because of a lack of facilities might have helped them Thursday.
"It was just like any other match, since we never play at our own place," McInnis said.
The other local champion was Ishpeming sophomore Guillermo Ansede, an exchange student.
"He really bore down to win that title," Hematites coach Erl Langness said.
Ishpeming was the comeback team this spring, starting 0-4 before finishing with a dual record of 3-4-1.
"We finally got our lineup worked out and that made us a lot more consistent," said Langness, who added that the Hematites lose just one senior regular, plus two exchange students, for next year.
The three champions were the only ones to reach a finals match among the area's four schools, since IM was runner-up at every flight that WIC won.
"I definitely thought we had a shot (at winning the title)," IM coach Greg Stegall said. "We just came up short here and there, and West Iron didn't."
Three Munising doubles tandems each won a match, scoring a point for their team - senior Joe Paquette and junior Chase Nebel at No. 1, junior Jacob Schramm and his sophomore brother Joel Schramm at No. 2, and seniors Joe Brogan and Ryan Walther at No. 3.
Ishpeming and Westwood each had four single-match winners. For the Hematites, it was senior exchange student Jorge Muela at No. 3 singles, junior Kirk Guckenberg at No. 4 singles, sophomores Tom Bleau and Josh Penrose at No. 2 doubles, and sophomores Josh Kitto and Jordan Musser at No. 3 doubles.
The Pats' had junior Michael Ostlund at No. 2 singles, freshman Shawn McIntyre at No. 4 singles, junior Derek Wing and sophomore Andrew Duquette at No. 1 doubles, and sophomores Tristan Vitale and Andrew Airaudi at No. 4 doubles.
Gwinn had a pair of singles players win a match - senior Derek Reetz at No. 1 and junior Jesse Mottes at No. 2.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.