BOYS TENNIS: Troy continues surprise run with regional title
BY DAN STICKRADT
GROSSE POINTE WOOODS — Playing in the state’s deepest league, Troy wasn’t favored to win a league and regional championship in boys tennis in 2012. Someone forgot to tell that to the Colts.
Troy, which has climbed to No. 5 in the Division 1 rankings, won its first regional crown Thursday since 2008, topping the field at Grosse Pointe South with 30 points. That was proceeded by a win at the OAA Red Division league meet one week earlier.
Troy, which is 9-3-0 overall, also won the overall OAA-Red crown thanks to a 7-0-0 dual match record within the eight-school league.
“With as many players as we lost, we weren’t favored to win it this year,” admitted Brian Miska, Troy’s first-year head coach who was an assistant last season. “We lost a lot of players off last year’s team. We had eight new guys on the team this year.”
With 14 varsity spots for dual matches and 12 slots for state tournament matches, Troy essentially had to replace over half of its lineup from a team that finished 11th at state with 10 points.
“I thought we could be competitive. But I didn’t expect winning a league and regional this year. This team keeps getting better and better,” added Miska. “We got Brett Foreman back, and that helped at No. 1 singles. And we have two good freshmen in the lioneup. But most of our team is junior varsity players from last year that just worked so hard to get better. They have all made an impact.”
Troy was nine points ahead of the rest of the field at the regional, as host Grosse Pointe South and Troy Athens both finished tied for second place with 21 points. Warren Cousino was fourth with 15 points, while Warren DeLaSalle (9), Fraser (4), Utica Ford II (4), Sterling Heights Stevenson (4), Royal Oak (3), Warren Mott (1) and Sterling Heights (0) rounded out the field.
The top two teams, additional teams scoring 18 or more points, and all finalists at No. 1 singles advance to the Lower Peninsula Division 1 state finals Oct. 19-20 at Midland Community Tennis Center.
Troy produced three regional singles champions plus had another playuer finish as the runner-up.
Brett Foreman, who missed more than a year due to a back injury, swept Athens’ Richard Zhang in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0, to win the No.1 singles crown. Troy teammate Vinnai Reddy followed with a title at No. 2 singles that included a 6-1, 6-1 sweep of Eric Flewelling of Athens in the finals.
At the No. 3 singles, it was Troy’s Michael Faber who prevailed in the finals over Athens’ Jason Potter, 6-2, 6-2.
Athens claimed the No. 4 singles champion, as Sheevam Naik downed Tarun Kalyanaraman in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
“Our singles lineup is very strong,” said Miska. “We have one of the state’s best players, and we have some other players that have really stepped up this season and made a difference.”
Troy also won doubles titles in three of the four flights, while the Colts finished second in another.
Saumil Shah and Pramod Mulabagula captured the No.1 crown, Raghav Prabhu and Andrae Ingram took home the No.3 flight crown and the No.4 duo of Kevin Fietsam and Sachinn Ketkar claimed the title.
Grosse Pointe South’s Jeff Flynn and Mike Dietz were victorious at No. 2 doubles, topping Troy Connor Dubay and Alex Balte.
“To win six of the eight flights and to finish second in another is an amazing performance for a regional, especially considering that we had so Many players that were playing in their first regional,” said Miska. “This team continues to (raise the bar).”
Troy Athens redeemed itself this season, after missing the cut at the regional with only 17 points last season. The Red Hawks had one regional champion and two regional runner-up performances, plus five semifinalists.
“This was one of our goals all season, considering we just missed last year,” noted Athens coach Andrew Shipp. “We felt with the lineup we had that we could have a very good chance this season. Plus we beat Grosse Pointe South this season.
“Last season Richard Zhang qualified for the state finals as a sophomore. He is much better than last season and we hope he can win a few matches this season (at state),” added Shipp. “the rest of the team is making its first trip, but I think if we can get some favorable draws, then we can win some matches.
DIVISION 1 REGIONAL
(Oct. 11 at Grosse Pointe South)
TEAM SCORES — 1. Troy, 30; 2. (tie) Troy Athens, 21; Grosse Pointe South, 21; 4. Warren Cousino, 15; 5. Warren DeLaSalle, 9; 6. (tie) Fraser, 4; Utica Ford, 4; Sterling Heights Stevenson, 4; 9. Royal Oak, 3; 10. Warren Mott, 1; 11. Sterling Heights 0.
SINGLES — 1. Brett Forman (Troy) d. Richard Zhang (Troy Athens) 6-4, 6-0; 2. Vinnai Reddy (Troy) d. Eric Flewelling (Troy Athens) 6-1, 6-1; 3. Michael Faber (Troy) d. Jason Potter (Troy Athens) 6-2, 6-2; 4. Sheevam Naik (Troy Athens) d. Tarun Kalyanaraman (Troy) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
DOUBLES — 1. Saumil Shah-Pramod Mulabagula (Troy) d. Rich Wittwer-Steve Schaller (Grosse Pointe South) NSC; 2. Jeff Flynn-Mike Dietz (Grosse Pointe South) d. Connor Dubay-Alex Balte (Troy) NSC; 3. Raghav Prabhu-Andrae Ingram (Troy) d. Van Richard Wallegham-Matt Culne (Grosse Pointe South) NSC; 4. Kevin Fietsam-Sachinn Ketkar (T) d. Jeff Champagne-Matt Norris (GPS) NSC.
TROY STATE FINALS PERFORMANCES IN PAST DECADE:
2011: 11th 10 points
2010: 5th 17 points
2009: 5th 16 points
2008: 12th Six points
2007 (fall): 3rd 20 points
2007 (spring): 9th Eight points
2006: 5th 16 points
2005: 6th 13 points
2004: 15th Four points
2003: 14th Three points
(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.)