MHSAA Div. 1 boys tennis: Kingsfrod puts a stop to Negaunee’s U.P. championship streak

MARQUETTE – Cody Tossava closed out a brilliant high school career on a high note Wednesday during the MHSAA Division 1 Upper Peninsula boys tennis championships at the Shiras Courts in Marquette.

But while the Negaunee High School senior captured the No. 1 singles title – his third consecutive U.P. crown overall – the Miners saw their three-year reign as U.P. team champs come to an end. They placed second with Marquette.

Kingsford, placing seven of eight flights in the finals and winning six, claimed its first outright team crown since 1953. The Flivvers, who posted 21 points, had previously shared titles in 2008 with Marquette and 2010 with Negaunee.

“It has been a banner year,” Kingsford head coach Mark Shanks said in closing out his 13th season at the helm of the Flivvers. “We’ve been working on this (U.P. crown) for years.

“We had T-shirts made up with ‘1953’ on them. It’s the only goal Kingsford tennis has had for 6-7 years. It’s just a grand feeling.”

Kingsford senior Sean Ryan, part of his team’s winning No. 2 doubles unit with Ted Pietila, said winning the U.P. title had been on the Flivvers’ minds for “a long time.”

“After last year, we didn’t lose too many seniors, so we set this as a goal.” he said. “Every team skill session, we talked about the 60-year drought.

“It feels great to this being our year.”

Tossava, who had won a pair of U.P. No. 2 singles crowns prior to Wednesday, beat Kingsford’s Caleb Harrington 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1. Ironically, Tossava’s last loss came to Harrington in the 2010 U.P. Final his freshman season.

“I told myself afterwards he started it and I finished it,” the NHS netter said. “I thought I really played well today. I served with consistency, and my forehand and backhand were good.”

Tossava came from behind in both sets, trailing 1-0 in the first and 2-1 in the second before winning both despite committing some unforced errors.

“Unforced errors are part of the game,” the southpaw said. “But I know what I’m capable of doing.

“My goal was to put (Harrington) on his backhand and spread him out. I did that and it opened my forehand a lot.”

Negaunee head coach Kyle Saari noted Tossava lost only one set all season.

“In his tennis career, he has overcome a lot of adversity.” the coach said, adding the last time the Miners had a No. 1 U.P. singles winner was 2001 when Pablo Ramos turned the trick.

“Cody persevered and deep down, he’s a competitor, a tough kid. He’s one of the best in the U.P. and has helped set the stage for our program.”

Saari said his team’s runner-up finish “went as expected.”

“Kingsford’s a strong team. We needed a near-perfect day to keep our (title) run going,” said Saari, whose squad finished with nine points to tie Marquette.

“But today was good for us. Taking second is a good sign for our freshmen and sophomores. It will be a good learning experience and raise the bar for them.”

At No. 1 doubles, Escanaba’s Dave Fix and Justin Eastin – partners the last three seasons – toppled Marquette Senior High School’s Kyle King and Alex Shahbazi, 6-1, 7-6 (6).

“Marquette’s always tough, but we just stuck to our game plan,” Fix said. “We communicated well and both moved at the same time.”

Added Eastin: “Teamwork and rushing to the net were big. It’s pretty awesome (winning a U.P. title). It’s nice to get it our senior year.”

MSHS head coach Charlie Drury, who was without the services of No. 1 singles player Josh Downs due to a broken arm the Redman suffered a week ago, said his team’s No. 1 doubles unit “just came up shy.”

“I was hoping Escanaba was getting tired, but it was a good match,” he said, adding Wednesday might be the first time in several seasons MSHS had failed to have a U.P. singles and-or doubles champion.

“(The Escanaba duo) was experienced, sat back and let our guys make the mistakes.

“We’re young and what we did today bodes well for the future,” he added. “But we knew Kingsford had the horses.”

Sophomore Adam Szabo, son of former Northern Michigan University hockey player Tony Szabo (1990-92), helped lead Kingsford with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Negaunee’s Ryan Syrjala at No. 2 singles.

“It was a pretty good match with a lot of line points,” said Adam, who finished second last year at No. 2 singles. “My serve was on and I hit a lot of winners with my backhand.”

Shanks said his Flivvers’ team sported a group of special players.

“We have seven sensational seniors and these are the best kids I’ve had in my 26 total years as a tennis coach,” he said.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.