By STEVE BROWNLEE
For the Daily News
ISHPEMING - The big bully who never lost a fight all season did what was expected on Wednesday afternoon.
Steve Brownlee/Mining Journal Photo
Iron Mountain’s Katheryn Brown hits a shot during the No. 3 doubles championship match at the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet held in Ishpeming on Wednesday afternoon. Brown and partner Cayla Carey lost a marathon match to Westwood’s Olivia Derocha and Lacey Pietro, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, as the Mountaineers placed third in the team competition.
But the Negaunee High School girls tennis team, that "bully" on the courts, had a hard-fought battle to defend its Mid-Peninsula Conference meet championship at west-end courts in Marquette County on Wednesday.
Twin sisters Kate and Emily Bugni claimed a title for Iron Mountain at No. 2 doubles, Olivia Truscott won for IM at No. 2 singles.
With the meet hosted by Ishpeming, all the championship matches were held at the Ishpeming Playgrounds as earlier rounds were spread around to Westwood and Negaunee, too.
The Miners haven't lost a dual meet during the past six weeks and are the only school among the five in the conference that will go on to play in Division 1 at next Wednesday's Upper Peninsula Finals in Kingsford.
The other four schools - Westwood, Ishpeming, Gwinn and Iron Mountain - will make up a majority of the field at the Division 2 finals that return to the same Ishpeming and neighboring courts next week. They'll be joined by Munising, West Iron County and Ironwood.
The conference meet was no cakewalk for Negaunee, which was tied with Westwood and trailed IM by four points after the first few championship matches were played, according to Miners coach Kyle Saari.
It was only a flurry of titles down the stretch that gave Negaunee a 38-point total, compared to 30 for runner-up Westwood and 29 for third-place IM. Ishpeming was next with 21 points, while Gwinn had 2.
Miners did no worse than third in every one of the eight flights, including taking half the championships.
Three titles came in singles, led by junior Allison Carlson taking the prestigious No. 1 crown with a 6-1, 6-2 championship match victory over IM's Katie Brule.
"She's a good player," Carlson said of Brule. "She's a tough kind of player for me because she comes up to the net a lot."
Westwood and IM split the remaining four championships, and even though the Patriots actually had one fewer finalist than the Mountaineers, IM took a zero in one flight that proved to be the difference between second and third place.
At No. 3, WHS junior Lacey Pietro and sophomore Olivia Derocha outlasted IM's Kathryn Brown and Cayle Carey, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The Patriots' No. 1 tandem of Katie Rankinen and Shana Caliguri posted a 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) win over the Mountaineers' Elli McCole and Emily Chang.
The Bugni sisters zipped past Negaunee's Kylee Taavola and Hanna Kantola, 6-1, 6-0, and No. 2 singles and Truscott held off the Miners' Abbi Kill, 6-2, 6-2.
"We have pretty good communication," Kate Bugni said.
"I would rather play doubles with her," Emily Bugni said pointing to her sister, "than play singles."
But that's what happened during a late-season stretch when Kate was sidelined with a knee injury.
"Doubles is better because you have somebody you can count on out there," Emily Bugni said.
And they should get their wish when Westwood and Iron Mountain should be installed as co-favorites at next week's Division 2 finals.
SCORES - 1. Negaunee, 38 points; 2. Westwood, 30; 3. Iron Mountain, 29; 4. Ishpeming, 21; 5. Gwinn, 2.
SINGLES - No. 1, Allison Carlson (N) def. Katie Brule (IM), 6-1, 6-2; Gabby Croley (ISH). No. 2, Olivia Truscott (IM) def. Abbi Kill (N), 6-2, 6-2; Jaime Olson (ISH). No. 3, Angela Ring (N) def. Jessica Penhale (ISH), 6-0, 6-0; Faith LeRoy (W). No. 4, Dana DeBretto (N) def. Rachel Anderson (W), 7-5, 6-2; Lindsey Thompson (ISH).
DOUBLES - No. 1, Katie Rankinen/Shana Caliguri (W) def. Elli McCole/Emily Chang (IM), 6-2, 7-6 (9-7); Amanda Washnock/Jessa Johnson (N). No. 2, Kate Bugni/Emily Bugni (IM) def. Kylee Taavola/Hanna Kantola (N), 6-1, 6-0; Gabrielle Hebert/Caitlin Hewitt (W). No. 3, Lacey Pietro/Olivia Derocha (W) def. Kathryn Brown/Cayla Carey (IM), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; Lauren Anderson/Elly Kantola (N). No. 4, April Walimaa/Kassy Harsila (N) def. Emily Carlson/Jamee Ferris (W), 6-1, 7-5; Hannah Hakamaki/Grace Hansen (IM).