The Armada boys tennis team has returned this fall with the majority of last year’s conference-winning roster – and the experience shows.
Each of the top four singles players currently stands 7-0 with wins most recently over the Croswell-Lexington Pioneers from last night’s BWAC match. Even the four doubles teams combine for a 24-3 season record.
“I think we're pretty good. I think we have a shot at state, so we’ll just see,” Armada senior Nolan Hill said. “Marine City had a lot of seniors, so we got third [at the regional] I think last year.”
The Tigers missed out on a chance at the Division 4 State Finals last year after taking third to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Marine City, but with a talented, senior-led team this year, they’re more determined than ever.
So far Armada has faced Cros-Lex and Imlay City in conference play and the Tigers have swept each opponent without dropping a single set. Hill is leading the way from the No. 1 singles spot, winning last night’s match 6-0, 6-1.
“I was pretty good on consistency, and for second serves the sun was kind of in my eyes, but that still wasn't too bad,” Hill said. “I’m just trying to be quicker on my feet.”
And at No. 1 doubles, senior Colton Smith and junior Jack Davis return as the reigning conference champions. The two first formed their team midway through the 2020 season and they haven’t looked back since. They finished last year 16-5 overall and undefeated in BWAC play.
“We argue a little bit, but it’s a lot less this year,” Smith said. “We get each other through it.”
“Yeah, we’ve always had that brotherly kind of vibe. We work well together but we do argue, but we get over it,” Davis added.
They said that last night’s match was a bit of a breakthrough, finally finding confidence amid the pressure of maintaining their spot at the top of the league.
“I feel like I had been playing pretty bad this season, kind of a rough start, but we kind of turned it around today,” Smith said. “I was naturally playing better and naturally focusing more.”
“I was playing with more confidence,” Davis said. “I’ve been struggling this season, I don’t know why.”
And they’ll look to carry that confidence forward into Thursday’s match against Almont (1-0-1 BWAC).
As for the Pioneers, this year’s squad has a wide range in age, talent, and experience. With a mix of four seniors, five freshmen, and several sophomores and juniors in between, this year will bring a lot of growth, according to head coach Scott Cummings.
“I knew it was gonna be tough. I knew Armada was going to be a strong team. My guess is they're probably the top team in the BWAC,” Cummings said. “But I'm seeing that some of our younger kids are coming along slowly. It's just going to take time. We just have to be patient with it because we’re going to take our lumps when we play teams that have a lot of seniors like Armada.”
Senior Trey Kolakovich is playing at the No. 1 singles spot for the Pioneers, which Cummings said his positive attitude has made a large impact on the team.
“He's obviously a basketball player first, so tennis has always been a second sport…but he's had a great attitude about it,” Cummings said. “Being in the No. 1 singles spot, you could very easily beat yourself up because you're playing against the best player every single match and it's very tough when you're getting beat up and taking losses like today, but he has a really good attitude.”
Next on the Pioneers’ schedule is Imlay City (0-1 BWAC) on the road Thursday afternoon.
No. 1 - Nolan Hill (ARM) def. Trey Kolakovich (CL), 6-0, 6-1
No. 2 - Parker Westfall (ARM) def. Jimmy Krampits (CL), 6-0, 6-2
No. 3 - Jim Burns (ARM) def. Tyler Chisholm (CL), 6-0, 6-2
No. 4 - Jaret Hill (ARM) def. Matthew Cummings (CL), 6-1, 6-1
No. 1 - Colton Smith, Jack Davis (ARM) def. Mitchell Geiger, Donovan McDonald (CL), 6-0, 6-0
No. 2 - Ty Vanlerberghe, Jacob Meerschaert (ARM) def. Elijah Steenbergh, Ian McKay (CL), 6-0, 6-0
No. 3 - Drew Blake, Jacob Dean (ARM) def. Blake Newton, Zachariah Thornton (CL), 6-0, 6-1
No. 4 - Nathan Merzlak, Colten Germundson (ARM) def. Owen Iseler, Logan Mifsud (CL), 6-1, 6-2