Tennis: Pioneer, Huron finish as co-champs at Division 1 State Finals

Pioneer. Huron. Together – forever!

The two Ann Arbor schools went head to head, toe to toe and racket to racket on the biggest stage this past weekend and played in one of those matches where both teams deserved to win – and that’s exactly what happened.

Pioneer won its final three matches of the tournament to rack up enough points to finish tied with Huron atop the leaderboard at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Boys Tennis Championship on Saturday at the Midland Tennis Center. The Pioneers and River Rats both finished with 27 points and a share of the state title.

“I don’t care whether we win or lose,’’ Pioneer Coach Tom Pullen said to MHSAA Second Half writer Perry Farrell during the match. “This is a Cinderella group. We’re young. I’m losing three great net players, but it has been a long time since we’ve been in contention.”

Going into the semifinal matches, Pioneer trailed 21-20.

“This keeps me revitalized,” said Pullen, 75, now in his 28th year as head coach of the Pioneers. “We’ve had a great year. We knew Huron would be here. They’re a powerful team. We’ve beaten them a few times, and they’ve beaten us. We don’t really care about rankings. The kids have beaten teams ranked higher than them, so it doesn’t matter.”

The River Rats were state champions in 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2008. The Pioneers won state titles six consecutive years (2002-2007) after sharing the title with Brother Rice in 2001.

The two rivals met in two championship flights during the day with Pioneer winning at three doubles and Huron winning at two doubles.

The swing match was between top-seeded Huron duo Sammy Clyde and Jacob Hejazi against Pioneer’s Drake Malcolm and Evan Roopas at No. 3 doubles in their fourth meeting of the season. Malcolm and Roopas pulled off a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 win for the Pioneers in the championship match.

Huron’s No. 2 doubles team of Nick Grosh and Tj Bai defeated Pioneer’s team of Aditya Abbaraju and Brendan Kersch 6-1, 6-2 in the championship match. It was a much tougher 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 win in the Regional final.

In four doubles, Huron’s team of Nikhil Gandikota and Vincent Tremonti finished first after defeating Northville 6-3, 6-4 in the finals. Pioneer’s team of Shankrith Chandru and Corin Tang lost to Northville 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in a semifinal match.

Pioneer’s Isaac Herrenkohl won at three singles after knocking off Clarkston’s Noah Fasczewski in the finals 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. Herrenkohl defeated Huron’s Michael Shi 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in a semifinal match.

Pioneer’s Noah Vogel won at four singles after defeating Grand Blanc’s Daniel Rubin 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match. Huron’s Derek Zhu reached the semifinals before falling to Rubin 6-2, 6-3.

Huron’s No. 1 doubles team of Max Brodkey and Anvit Rao reached the finals before losing to Okemos 6-1, 6-3. They won a thrilling semifinal match 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 over Bloomfield Hills. Pioneer’s team of Jack Archibald and Sam Berkooz lost in the second round to Brother Rice.

At one singles, Huron’s Owen Kelley reached the quarterfinals before falling to Troy 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Pioneer’s Niki Zakarian also reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Luke Baylis of Clarkston 6-0, 6-3.

At two singles, Pioneer’s Stanley Rhodes reached the quarterfinals before losing to Okemos 7-6 (4). Huron’s Andy Andrea lost a second-round match to Troy Athens 6-4, 6-3.   

“No matter what, it has been a great year,’’ Pullen said during the match.

It was indeed a great year – for two great tennis programs.