MARINETTE - Shouts of "we've finally beat 'em" echoed through the Civic Center tennis dome after Menominee defeated Kingsford to win the first-ever Early Bird Yooper Classic title Friday afternoon.
After rolling up the top point total in round robin play against Kingsford, Escanaba and West Iron County in round robin play, the Maroons knocked off the reigning Division 1 U.P. champion Flivvers 5-3 in the championship match.
"What a great day of tennis," coach Troy Reuter said. "We've never beaten Kingsford since I've been coach. It's good to get the monkey off my back."
The Maroons rolled up 21 points in round robin competition, followed by the Flivvers (17), defending Division 2 U.P. champion West Iron County (5) and Escanaba (5).
Kingsford had a chance to share the tournament with a tie in the No. 1 doubles match, but Ryan Woods and Caleb Kleiman outlasted Dan Harrington and David McCole in a 10-7 third-set tiebreaker to clinch the title.
The rocket serves of Harrington powered the Flivvers to a 6-4 win in the opening set, but Woods and Kleiman battled back for a 6-1 win.
"We were pretty frustrated (in the first set) because some of our shots weren't going in," said Woods. "We had confidence. We worked through it.
"This means a lot. It sets the tone for the whole season. But we have to keep playing this way. If we do that we'll make a run at U.P's."
The Maroons claimed three of the four doubles matches against Kingsford.
Chad Schuelke and Nathan Nowack defeated Geno Bianco and Alex Wiitanen 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 and Colin Nerat and Jon Anttila turned back Peter Fornetti and Kevin Leclaire 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3.
Devon Barley scored a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Chris Roell at No. 3 singles and Nathan Gunderson controlled the court in a 6-2, 6-0 win over Alec Shanks at No. 4.
"Our young guys stepped up today," Reuter noted. "Nerat, Anttila, Kleiman and Nowack all played very well."
Davey Luplow went up against Adam Szabo, who won the No. 2 U.P. singles title last year, at No. 1 singles and lost 6-1, 6-1.
Sophomore Nate Anttila was matched against Brady Hicks at No. 2 singles and lost 6-1, 6-1. Hicks won the No. 4 U.P. singles title last season.
At No. 4 doubles, Kingsford's Noah Voss and Austin VanPembrook defeated Nick Cattani and Adam Nolde, 6-2, 6-3.
Kingsford coach Mark Shanks pointed out that the tournament marked the first time his team has been on a court.
"We lost nine of our top 14 players from last year," said Shanks. "We don't have our doubles teams established yet. We knew Menominee was going to be improved. They always get the jump on us with the weather. The nice thing is it's going to be close competition this year. Teams going to beat each other up."
Reuter, who played tennis for Kingsford, stressed that the Flivvers always come on strong during the season.
"They always get better as the season goes on," the coach explained. "Marquette's going to be good, too. We have to keep improving."
West Iron County defeated Escanaba in the third-place match.
Menominee plays at Norway Wednesday.
(Tom Kaeser is assistant sports editor of The EagleHerald)
Menominee 5, Kingsford 3
No.1 - Adam Szabo (K) def. Davey Luplow, 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 - Brady Hicks (K) def. Nathan Anttila, 6-1,6-1; No. 3 - Devon Barley (M) def. Chris Roell, 6-3, 6-4; No.4 - Nathan Gunderson (M) def. Alec Shanks, 6-2, 6-0.
No. 1 - Ryan Woods/Caleb Kleiman (M) def. Dan Harrington-David McCole, 4-6, 6-1, 10-7; No. 2 - Chad Schuelke/Nathan Nowack (M) def. Alex Wiitanen/Geno Bianco, 6-4, 6-2; No. 3 - Colin Nerat/Jon Anttila def. Peter Fornetti/Kevin Leclaire, 6-3, 6-1; No. 4 - Noah Voss/Austin Pembrook (K) def. Nick Cattani/Adam Nolde, 6-2, 6-3