NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – Whether Mother Nature is ready or not, tennis season has begun.
The Negaunee Boys Tennis team has yet to have a chance to practice outside, but they have been hard at work indoors, holding several practices at Negaunee Middle School.
“It’s definitely tennis in the U.P,” said Kyle Saari, head coach for the Miners. “It’s weird, we were joking that we haven’t been inside and in the gym in three years. We had the Covid year off and then last year it was a beautiful Spring. So, we kind of hit the ground running outside right away. It has been a little bit more of a learning curve again to get back inside a realize what type of groundwork we want to have in place when we do get out.”
While inside, the Miners have taken a focus on the fundamentals.
“There is some work that we can accomplish that is valuable,” said Saari. “When it comes down to the grip, when it comes down to the stance, foot-work, follow through. It’s cliche to hear every coach talk about fundamentals but in the same breath, it’s absolutely essential.”
That attention to detail has been a key to the success of the program. Since 2010, Negaunee has won 10 straight Mid-Peninsula Conference titles and 8 U.P. Championships.
“We have felt incredibly fortunate over the last decade and even the last 15 years just because we’ve been able to roll a large number of athletes through the program whether they’re basketball players or hockey players,” said Saari. “Anything that they compete in during the offseason helps you on the tennis court. I feel that as each group graduates there is a new group that wants to accomplish and step into those shoes.”
That’s no different this year. A new group is ready to continue that winning tradition.
“Luke Syrjala had an outstanding year at two singles for us last year and we hope that he’s able to continue taking a jump,” said Saari. “Then we have some people in the doubles lineup that we feel can step up and maybe play some singles, too. Gavin Saunders, a good athlete all the way around. Then we have some returning singles players such as Mick Kumpala. Then, some other doubles players such as James Thompson too, just to name a few.”
“I think we’re going to have another great season,” said Gavin Saunders, a sophomore on the team. “We lost U.P.’s last year, which we are trying to get back to. I think we could do that this year. I really want to be a U.P. champ from now until senior year. So, I got to work hard and keep up the good work.”
Come snow, rain, or shine, the Miners plan on being on the court by next week.
“We’re hoping to do a little bit of work outside tomorrow,” said Saari. “Just some short court stuff on Thursday. Then hopefully as we move into the weekend we can do some stuff too. But, it’s crunch time now. We’re within two weeks from our first meet. We have to get outside next week and start establishing our lineup.”
The Miners open up their season with a meet in Escanaba against the Eskymos and Menominee on April 28th.
“We know that there is a lot of competition out there this year,” said Saari. “We know Esky returns quite a bit and we know other teams are on the rise as well. But we know we can only worry about what we can and we can see where we land come June.”