BOYS TENNIS: Decades of dominance: Holly on voyage for unprecedented 20th straight league title
BY DAN STICKRADT
HOLLY — Streaks come in all lengths and sizes.
Holly’s boys tennis team has put together a streak that few schools, in any sport have been able match during the past two decades — and it come in quite the long variety.
And the Bronchos are on the voyage of adding to that total.
If Holly wins the Flint Metro League tournament Tuesday on the courts of Clio and Flint Kearsley high schools, the Bronchos will wrap up their 20th straight league title.
“It’s pretty incredible when you think about it,” admitted Holly co-coach Will Sopheia, who shares the coaching duties with Brennan Brown. “We haven’t lost the league in two decades. That just shows the hard work and dedication that we get each year. There is great pride in the program. It’s been close to 20 years since we’ve actually lost a dual meet in our league.”
Holly has not lost a dual match inside the league since 1994. Last season, the Bronchos tied Ortonville Brandon 4-4 in a dual match. At the league tourney, Holly edged Brandon 56-51 to earn the overall league title.
Holly is favorite for another repeat this season, having gone 6-0-0 in league duals in the FML, with wins over Brandon, Lapeer East, Clio, Kearsley, Fenton and Swartz Creek. (Linden and Lapeer West do not have boys tennis teams this year).
“This is always one of our goals — to win the league championship,” admitted No. 1 doubles player Craig Richards, a junior. “We don’t want to be the team that stops the streak. We take great pride in winning the league and making it (to the state finals).”
This year there are only two seniors in the top 12, Connor Bilkos and Gunner LaFave.
Ironically, Holly’s girls program had its league streak snapped at 29 years back in May, as the Bronchos still finished a fine second to Fenton’s sole two seniors. Holly’ boys are on their way to one day equaling that feat.
“We are still a very young team, so that makes it even more fun because we know we’ll have most our team back next year, too,” added Sophiea. “We lose one guy from our singles lineup (Bilkos) and one from our doubles lineup (LaFave). Everybody else should be back.”
Sophiea is a former player for Holly, as well as Brown. Sophiea played from 2004-07 and then joined the coaching staff after graduation. Brown graduated in 1994 and joined the staff the following school year.
Both fully understand the run of championships that spans three presidents and five terms.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment just to win a championship, not to mention being the position to win 20 in a row,” noted Sophiea. “I think we have a great chance.”
Holly would also like to qualify for the Division 2 state finals. The Bronchos have missed the state finals only one time since the MHSAA switched from classes to divisions back in 1998, and that one-year absence came in 2000. The Bronchos are shooting for their 13th straight state finals berth this season as well.
“We have high expectations at Holly every year,” said Richards. “We know it’s hard work. But we have the drive, hard work and the will to keep it all going.”
PREASEASON TEAM CAPSULES: http://northoaklandsports.com/2012/09/12/14347/
FOR MORE TENNIS COVERAGE: http://northoaklandsports.com/?s=Tennis&x=13&y=4
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)