One piece of advice has stuck with Michael Sienko since beginning his career at the United States Military Academy.
“Be in the right place at the right time in the right uniform.”
Saturday he was back home in Michigan, an hour before taking the court against Michigan State University in an Army West Point tennis uniform.
In front of friends and family, the Williamston graduate played in one doubles match Saturday afternoon. Sienko and teammate David Mitchell fell 6-3 to Brett Forman and Alexander Kim, and the Black Knights dropped the overall match to the Spartans, 6-1.
It wasn’t an ideal homecoming, but Sienko said he had this date circled on the calendar since the day the schedule came out. Plus, Sienko and his Army teammates got out of town with a 4-1 win over rival Air Force Sunday at the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I already saw a lot of people I know. It’s great to see everyone. It’s cool that we are all here and playing against MSU.”
Nearly 20 supporters were in the stands Saturday to see Sienko play in his first match on his home turf since capping an undefeated season and winning a state title his senior year of high school in 2013. The three-star recruit also won a state championship his freshman season in Williamston and finished runner-up twice.
Sienko had other college offers, but said marching to West Point was always his goal. His father, Dean Sienko, is a retired two-star major general in the Army and his brother Peter was a captain on the Black Knights’ tennis team in 2014 and is now a first lieutenant with a Ranger qualification. He is currently a paratrooper and field artillery officer in Germany. His sister Carolyn is a member of the U.S. Navy.
Michael wasn’t the only one who had this date circled on the schedule. His parents flew in from Atlanta to take in the weekend matches. Dean and Mary Jean Sienko still own a house in Williamston, but live in Georgia where Dean works at the Carter Center for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
“They knew what life in the military is like,” Dean Sienko said about his children courtside Saturday. “I am really proud of them. They have done really well. Not only athletically, but academically and in their character building.”
Watching her son warm up for his lone match against the Spartans, Mary Jean Sienko said she was excited to see Michael doing what he loves.
“I am really proud of him,” she said. “He is doing so good in school and in tennis.”
Michael Sienko will be an officer in the Army after graduation. He said it’s a daunting task being a student-athlete at West Point. These road trips for games help break up the strict day-to-day regimen.
“The days are long but weeks fly by,” Sienko laughed. “It seems like I just started yesterday and now I am in my fifth semester.”
His coach described him as “a great kid, a hard worker and a leader on our team.”
“He has a great family, and we love having him,” Army head coach Jim Poling said. “He’s a high emotion guy for the team and gets us all revved up.”
During his sophomore season, Sienko finished 9-4 overall in singles matches, including a 5-2 record in dual competition. Sienko sits 4-4 overall in singles matches this year and holds a 5-4-1 mark in doubles play. Army is 4-6 on the season.
“It’s very special,” Sienko said of playing at West Point. “It’s something you don’t take for granted. A lot of people before me have done some really special things (at Army) and I am just really honored to wear this uniform.”
Contact Cody Tucker at (517) 377-1070 or firstname.lastname@example.org