By STEVE BROWNLEE
For The Daily News
ISHPEMING - Something had been gnawing at the West Iron County High School boys tennis team for a full year.
Steve Brownlee/The Mining Journal Photo
The West Iron County boys tennis team celebrates a state championship following their dominating performance Thursday. The Wykons scored 21 points to 11 for runner-up Iron Mountain as WIC won five championships and reached the title match at all eight flights.
Like an itch that's hard to reach, or a pebble stuck in your shoe while running a race, the Wykons could do little about it.
Until the end of the spring season, that is. That's when WIC nearly doubled up the rest of the field to easily win the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys tennis championship on Thursday at Westwood High School in Ishpeming.
The Iron County school lost last year's D2 title by a single point to Westwood when its top-seeded No. 1 doubles team lost its first match. As the only tandem in that flight to receive a first-round bye, the Wykons lost two points with that loss, turning what would've been a one-point win into a loss of the same margin.
This year, however, WIC scored 21 points, nearly twice runner-up Iron Mountain's 11. Munising, the only Class D school in the U.P. to field a team, was third with 9, followed by Ishpeming with 7, host Westwood 4, Gwinn 2 and Norway 1.
The Wykons not only won five of the meet's eight flights, but had a representative in every championship match.
That gave the Wykons their sixth U.P. title in the past nine years. And they've only finished worse than second once in that stretch.
"The guys were determined that they were going to put last year behind them," said Wykons 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 their players on Thursday also played for Wykons during their 2011 championship run, a one-point victory over Iron Mountain.
"Fortunately for us, we have a veteran team, even with a lot of juniors," Serbentas said. "A lot of guys have been playing on the varsity since they were freshmen."
The meet ended when WIC's doubles tandem of junior Andrew Peterson and senior Sean Gustafson completed a 6-0, 5-7, 7-5 championship-match victory over IM's Gerry Pirkola and Max Frorenza.
They were playing at the No. 1 flight, the same one whose upset proved pivotal in the Wykons losing the title a year earlier.
"I think they had to wait awhile before they played us," Peterson said about his opponents' slow start. "Then in the second set, I think we started worrying about what we were doing instead of just playing.
"But we both played well in the third (set)."
The meet wasn't really the blowout that the final score would indicate, since Iron Mountain made five championship matches.
The problem? The Mountaineers not only lost all five, but lost each of them to WIC.
"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."
The Wykons also collected titles at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles, along with Nos. 3 and 4 singles, each over a Mountaineers' opponent in the title match.
At No. 2 doubles, Tyler Capadagli and Joey Pisoni collected a 6-4, 6-1 win over Danny Willman and Henry Hakamaki for the title; at No. 3 doubles, Aaren Newby and Max Maloney held off Nick Cecconi and Jacob Mongrain, 7-5, 6-1; at No. 3 singles, Adam Newby outlasted Luke Truscott, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1; and at No. 4 singles, Alex Ralston flew past Al Tomassoni, 6-0, 6-1.
The other three flights were claimed by Marquette and Alger County schools, two by Munising. One was by the freshmen duo of Ian McInnis and Trevor Witty, who defeated WIC's Connor O'Donnell and Zane Sarafing, 6-3, 6-2, for the title.
The biggest upset of the day may have been pulled off by Mustangs sophomore Noah Ackerman, who defeated WIC senior Austin Waara at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Though Ackerman was the top seed, Waara was gunning for his fourth straight U.P. singles title, including his third in a row at No. 1. He played and won a U.P. title at No. 3 as a freshman.
Ackerman, though, is a rising star in U.P. tennis and didn't lose a match all spring.
Thursday marked the first time the pair had ever squared off in high school. They came close at last year's U.P. finals, when as a freshman, Ackerman was knocked out one match short of facing Waara for the No. 1 singles championship.
"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," Munising coach Rod Gendron said. "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."
The other champion was Ishpeming sophomore Guillermo Ansede, an exchange student, who won the No. 2 singles title with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) victory over WIC's Ryan Rogers in the finals.
Norway had one player win a match - No. 1 singles player Randy Mueller.
MHSAA U.P. Division 2 finals
Team results:1. West Iron County, 21; 2. Iron Mountain, 11; 3. Munising, 9; 4. Ishpeming, 7; 5. Westwood, 4; 6. Gwinn, 2; 7. Norway, 1.
Championship matches and semifinalists
SINGLES - No. 1 - Noah Ackerman (M) def. Austin Waara (WIC), 6-2, 4-6, 6-2; Derek Reetz (G) and Randy Mueller (N); No. 2 - Guillermo Ansede (ISH) def. Ryan Rogers (WIC), 6-1, 7-6 (7-2); Jesse Mottes (G) and Michael Ostlund (WWD); No. 3 - Adam Newby (WIC) def. Luke Truscott (IM), 6-1, 2-6, 6-1; Jorge Muela (ISH) and Micah Heath (G); No. 4 - Alex Ralston (WIC) def. Al Tomassoni (IM), 6-0, 6-1; Shawn McIntyre (WWD) and Kirk Guckenberg (ISH).
DOUBLES - No. 1 - Andrew Peterson/Sean Gustafson (WIC) def. Gerry Pirkola/Max Frorenza (IM), 6-0, 5-7, 7-5; Derek Wing/Andrew Duquette (WWD) and Joe Paquette/Chase Nebel (M); No. 2 - Tyler Capadagli/Joey Pisoni (WIC) def. Danny Willman/Henry Hakamaki (IM), 6-4, 6-1; Tom Bleau/Josh Penrose (ISH) and Jacob Schramm/Joel Schramm (M); No. 3 - Aaren Newby/Max Maloney (WIC) def. Nick Cecconi/Jacob Mongrain (IM), 7-5, 6-1; Josh Kitto/Jordan Musser (ISH) and Joe Brogan/Ryan Walther (M); No. 4 - Ian McInnis/Trevor Witty (M) def. Connor O'Donnell/Zane Sarafing (WIC), 6-3, 6-2; Tristan Vitale/Andrew Airaudi (WWD) and Jordan Wadge/Trevor Schettler (IM).