Portage Central enters Division 2 finals on a tear, seeks first title since 2007
Portage – Peaking at the right time might be a vast understatement for the boys tennis team at Portage Central.
The Mustangs have been playing in a class all by itself the past few weeks. With the momentum of a giant swinging demolition ball and its eyes firmly on the prize, Central will cruise into this weekend’s Division 2 state finals at Holly as the clear favorite to win it all.
Top-ranked Central (13-0) is riding a rare hot streak as it prepares for the finals, which are set to begin Friday. The Mustangs haven’t lost a match nor a single set of tennis, in singles or doubles play, in almost a month.
The Mustangs’ hot streak began three weeks ago at the annual Greater Kalamazoo Tournament when the Mustangs became the first team in tournament history to sweep every flight. They didn’t drop a match or set in the eight total flights (four for singles, four for doubles).
They did it again the following week at the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference tournament, pulling off another flight, match and set sweep and bringing home another trophy. Central kept it rolling last weekend and matched its previous two spotless efforts with yet another clean sweep at the regionals.
“The kind of depth we have, what we’ve done these last few weeks, it’s pretty unheard of,” said Central co-coach Erik Anderson, who shares coaching duties with Pete Militzer. “This is an experienced group. They’re real hungry for success and that’s how they compete. Everything’s been coming together for us, we just want to keep it going, keep moving towards our final goal this weekend and complete that last leg of the journey with getting a state championship.”
Militzer guided the Mustangs to the Division 2 title in 2007, sharing it with Okemos that season. Central won the title outright in ’01.
“These guys want to do what that ’07 group was able to do and do it for themselves,” Anderson said. “We were close last year, but didn’t finish the job. Everyone wants to finally shut that door and finish the job this time around.”
Central placed third in the state last season as two singles players reaching the final round.
The Mustangs are loaded with gems on their roster this year, young and old. Underclassmen Bill Duo (sophomore) at No. 1 singles and Lucas Guy (freshman) at No. 3 are nationally-ranked prospects by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
At No. 2 singles is senior Ben Orwin, the squad’s captain and leader. Cameron Rabby and Kento Hirakawa are rated as the state’s No. 1 doubles team. Orwin and Duo lost in the state championship match in their respective flights last season.
Duo is the No. 2 ranked player in the state’s sophomore class, according to Head and the Tennis Recruiting Network, and No. 121 throughout all amateur age groups in the country by the USTA. He’s being heavily recruited by Michigan, Stanford, Notre Dame, Illinois and Harvard.
Guy checks in at No. 342 in the USTA rankings.
“Bill scores quick points, he knows how to close down opponents very efficiently,” said Anderson of Duo. “He’s an incredibly smart tennis player. From the first serve of a match, he’s identifying the other player’s strengths and weaknesses and figuring out how to use them best to his own advantage. His intelligence and aggressiveness set him apart. The second he smells blood, he goes after it. That’s been this whole team’s mentality this year really and so that drive, that focus, that closing ability Bill brings has trickled from the top of our roster on down.”