The Lakeview boys’ tennis team wrapped up another decade of dominance, winning their 20th consecutive All-City title on Thursday at Battle Creek Central.
Another victory of sorts was the host Bearcats playing in the 41st annual tournament. Boys’ tennis was among the sports the Battle Creek Public Schools board voted to cut this summer in a budget-saving effort, but some anonymous donors stepped in and saved tennis and others from the chopping block.
Thursday marked the first time the Bearcats had hosted the All-City Tournament at their new home court, installed on campus in 2010. And with the Cereal City skyline serving as a backdrop, Lakeview ran away with the title by sweeping all eight flights.
“We didn’t lose a match all day, and I think that’s because all of them wanted to win so bad,” said Lakeview head coach Mike McGinnis. “We talked about the importance of the city tournament. I know next year is going to be really tough. We have a senior-loaded team so we had a lot of experience today. Next year could be different, but I’m really happy with them.”
Harper Creek finished second in the tournament, placing second in every flight, followed by Pennfield and Battle Creek Central.
Lakeview senior Hans Lee earned his fourth career All-City title. His first came as a freshman at No. 4 singles, his second the following year at No. 3 singles, and added his third last season at No. 2 singles. This year, he was crowned the city’s top boys’ player with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Harper Creek’s Tanner Wilcox in the No. 1 singles final.
“I’ve been playing four years now, and it means a lot because I’ve been winning this tournament for a while now,” Lee said. “My freshman year I was pretty nervous, and today when I came out I was actually nervous because it’s my senior year and my last chance at All-City, so it was a good feeling to win.”
McGinnis added that Lee has stepped into a leadership role, after the team graduated former No. 1 singles state champion Jim Beckwith, who is now playing at Western Michigan University.
“Hans is the only player on the team that’s played four years, singles all four years. Most of the kids kind of look up to him and respect him for that,” McGinnis said. “He’s our singles player and our leader. We’ve had some very good No. 1 singles players come through here, so Hans feels that load on his shoulders to come through.”
Lakeview’s Brij Banerji and Cameron Babas each won their first city singles titles after earning a title together at the No. 4 doubles flight a year ago. Banerji won the No. 2 singles flight with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Harper Creek’s Taylor Antes. In the No. 3 singles final, Babas defeated Pennfield’s Logan Mir 6-0, 6-0. Harper Creek’s Daniel Baker finished runner-up in the flight.
At No. 4 singles, Lakeview’s Mayuto Kobayashi captured the All-City title with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-2 victory over Harper Creek’s Tyler Eifler.
Lakeview’s Mat Denison and Stan Lassen teamed up for their second-straight All-City title at No. 1 doubles, beating Harper Creek’s Steven Eddy and Tyler Hagen in the championship match.
At No. 2 doubles, Lakeview’s Jacob Derry and Tyler Horan won an All-City title with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Pennfield’s Jacob Yeager and Jake Smith in the final. Harper Creek’s Corbin Miller and Elex Eifler went on to win the second-place match.
The Spartans’ No. 3 doubles tandem of Blake DeBree and Andy McCotter also won every set in their championship, defeating Harper Creek’s Tanner Cruz and Korbin Terbert 6-0, 6-0.
While Battle Creek Central and Pennfield voided the No. 4 doubles flight, Lakeview’s Ed Ryan and John Ryan won the title with a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the final. Harper Creek’s Brad Carr and Greg Dangzil finished second.
McGinnis noted that numbers have been down at many boys’ tennis programs across the state since the Michigan High School Athletic Association switched it from a spring to a fall sport in 2007. At most schools, boys’ tennis competes with football, soccer and cross country for athletes in the fall.
“In the whole state, the change of the seasons really hurt tennis. Tennis is down about 18 percent and we’re really feeling it in the Battle Creek area,” said McGinnis, who is also the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association vice president. “I was really glad to hear Battle Creek Central kept the sport going… It’s hard once you drop a sport to pick it back up. I’m really glad they were out today and they did a very good job, and I’m hoping next year they have even more players out. Same for Pennfield. Harper Creek, they’ve got a strong team and I think they are going to keep building on that and next year they are going to be even tougher.”