Ackerman goes back-to-back, wire-to-wire

ISHPEMING – Early in the first set of his No. 1 singles championship match against Inigo Cepeda of Gwinn, Munising’s Noah Ackerman decided to change his approach on the Westwood High School tennis courts Wednesday.

“I was shaky at the start and started slow,” Ackerman said. “(Cepeda) started approaching the net and I knew I couldn’t out-hit him because he’s a great player and hits good strokes.

“So it tipped (the ball) up and when he approached the net, I started to pass him down the line.”

It worked as Ackerman overcame a 2-2 start to win going away, 6-3, 6-0, to cap an unbeaten season and capture his second-straight MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 title.

Westwood claimed the team title with 13 points. Defending champion West Iron County collected 13 in the seven-team meet, while Gwinn and Munising tied for third with 10.

A senior, Ackerman said Cepeda started losing confidence midway through the first set, enabling the Mustang to “focus on what I was doing.”

“In the second set, he got down on himself. I took my chances at 40-love, but otherwise, I played very conservatively … and finished it off,” Ackerman said.

Cepeda might have been unsettled on the court. The exchange student from Madrid, Spain, broke the strings on his racket in the first set and had to use that of No. 2 singles teammate Micah Heat the rest of the match.

“Inigo is more of a clay player, too,” Gwinn coach Dan Turecky said. “He plays a European style with more power. But (Ackerman’s) control won today.”

Westwood won three flights to claim its second U.P. title in three years.

“It didn’t play out as we thought,” Patriots coach Chris Jackson said. “I thought we’d need more points to win. But there were more than two horses in the race and we got some help (from other teams).”

Westwood got wins from Brett Fredrickson at No. 4 singles; Mitch Messing and Tristan Vitale at No. 3 doubles; and Brandon Benda and Hunter Roose at No. 4 doubles.

“Quinn LeRoy at No. 1 singles wasn’t a seed, but still got a point for us,”Jackson said. “If he had lost his first match, we lose a point and West Iron picks up a point.”

Fredrickson said he was shaky in his first set of a 6-3, 6-0 win over Erick Upperstrom of WIC.

“But coach (Jackson) told me there were some things I needed to focus on, like hitting off my front foot and not my back, and not getting my hips into the shot” Fredrickson said. “I also let the other guy make some mistakes.”

Benda and Roose knocked off West Iron’s Ryan Peterson and Tristan Nelson, 6-2, 6-0.

“We were nervous at the start, but as time went on, we got better,” Roose said. “Our ball placement was really good.”

Added Benda: “After the fourth game (of the first set), we played with more confidence. We also tried to keep the ball in play.”

Gwinn placed four flights in the finals, but managed to win just one – a 6-2, 6-4 triumph at No. 2 doubles by Mason Bruce and Erik Asplund over Munising’s Joel Werner and Nick Cerone.

“Our serving was good today. We had a lot of aces,” said Bruce, who left the courts immediately afterward to play baseball Wednesday evening for the Channing American Legion baseball team. “Our net play was good, too.”

Said Asplund: “We lost the first game (in the first set), but then won the next three. That gave us some confidence.”

Turecky said he was “very pleased” with having four flights in the finals.

“But we only won one. We didn’t pull through those points,” he lamented. “We went up against some good players.”