Prep boys tennis: Munising program continues to overcome challenges of playing every match on the road

MARQUETTE – Just once in his high school tennis career, Noah Ackerman of Munising would like to play a match at home.

“It would be nice,” said Ackerman, now in his fourth season of net play for the Mustangs.

The senior won’t get a chance again this season, however.

The MHS squads have the use of only one, two-court tennis facility located on city-owned property near the elementary school. That’s not enough to host any home meets or tournaments.

“It’s a struggle (playing on the road),” Ackerman said. “It would be nice to have some local fans, though a lot of our parents make it to road trips.”

Ackerman, the defending MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 champion at No. 1 singles and 2013 Player of the Year, said opponents have an advantage playing on their home courts.

“It’s not a major advantage, but a slight one,” he said. “They’re been practicing or playing on the same courts over and over. You get familiar with court cracks that may be there.”

Mustangs boys and girls head coach Rod Gendron would also like to see his teams have a home match some day.

“There’s a big advantage to having a home match,” said Gendron, now in his seventh season after starting the programs “But we try not to use not having any home matches as an excuse.”

He added his teams are “continually traveling” in order to play as many matches as they can during a season.

The only Class D school in the U.P. playing tennis, the Mustang boys have about 10 scheduled matches this season, including the U.P. Div. 2 finals. Two have already been postponed by poor weather.

With just the two city courts, the Mustangs are also unable to hold conventional practices.

“We have continual competitive drills, instead,” Gendron, 48, said. “Rarely do we have time for a traditional match.

“It’s a unique situation and draining.”

Nevertheless, Munising has turned out U.P. tennis champions: Meagan Grey (twice); Ackerman (undefeated last season); and the doubles tandem of Ian McInnis and Trevor Witty.

Gendron tries to get as many Mustangs to play tennis on the town’s two courts during the summer months, as well as at other area camps and tournaments around the U.P.

“We have to figure out our season lineup through kids playing tennis in the summer,” Gendron said. “Still, we’re fielding complete boys and girls’ teams.”

Gendron, a fourth grade elementary teacher, said the two local courts are in line to be resurfaced soon and hopes one day to see a four-court facility built in Munising.

“We have the land and some seed money,” said Gendron, who’s a member of the Munising Recreation Commission. “But it would cost $200,000 to build, and we’d need a grant to fund that much.”

The Mustangs’ tennis program is self-funded and Gendron is a volunteer coach.

“We have to raise money to support our programs,” he said, adding a large chunk of that financial support comes through the teams’ annual two-week summer camp.

The coach said he has “nice support” from the community when it comes to high school tennis.

“People see tennis as an opportunity for their kids to have something to do and decide to give it a go,” Gendron said.

“It’s a learning experience for me and a challenge that fits my personality.”