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PREP BOYS TENNIS: Oilers ready for D3 finals

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When the Michigan High School Athletic Association released its division listings for boys tennis earlier in the year, the Mt. Pleasant High School program had one goal in mind: qualify for the state finals.

After long being paired in one of the toughest Division 2 regionals in the state with powerhouses like Midland Dow, Okemos and East Lansing, the Oilers were moved down to Division 3 this fall.

The move could not have benefited Mt. Pleasant any more, as the Oilers secured their first trip to the state finals since 2007 by earning the minimum requirement of 18 points at a regional hosted by Clio last Thursday.

“I think one of the reasons we’re able to go to states is because we never really back down from our competition,” said head coach Greg Wendrow. “I went online and figured out that we had played 10 teams this season that have qualified for the state finals in either Division 1, 2 or 3. There are some schools in the state that would just rather have a winning record, but I believe that if you’re going to get to this level of tennis, you have to play teams like the 10 we played. They might beat you pretty bad at first but we caught and passed Cadillac and Petoskey in a couple of flights at the regionals.”

Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium and Western Michigan University’s Sorensen Courts will be the setting for the two-day event.

The Oilers have qualified three previous times as a team for the state finals, finishing 15th in the 2007 spring Division 1 finals and 12th in the 2006 Division 1 finals. Mt. Pleasant also qualified for 1999 Division 2 finals.

Mt. Pleasant received a big push when Wendrow changed his lineup early in the season to strengthen his doubles lineup, a move that has paid off as the Oilers captured two of the four doubles flights at last week’s regional.

Mt. Pleasant also had a flight champion at No. 1 singles as sophomore Michael Roehmer won his first individual regional title.

“I was really happy with how our team did this year and how I did,” Roehmer said. “My goal last year was to make it to states, but I didn’t quite make it. This year, we were all able to make it. I’m hoping that we can get it done again in the future as well.”

The sophomore follows in the footsteps of his older brother Christian, who captured four individual regional titles and led Mt. Pleasant to the state finals in 2006 and 2007.

Roehmer won his flight championship match in three sets despite suffering cramps and a broken racket.

“I started off strong and won the first two matches. My racket then broke, so I had to use a new racket for the third match. I had been playing well in the second set and then I cramped up a bit. I won the third set out of the medical timeout though,” he said. “It was great because the whole team was watching, so there was a lot of pressure.”

Roehmer, who has started at No. 1 singles in each of his two years at Mt. Pleasant, says the opportunity to see and compete against challenging schools is what he is most looking forward to Friday.

“I’m looking forward to the competition. We haven’t played a lot of the teams at states yet,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to playing some of the more challenging teams. I just want to have a good showing.”

For Hayden Carey, a senior and one-half of the No. 2 doubles team, making the state finals has been especially rewarding.

“I think it’s pretty cool seeing how it’s my senior year,” Carey said. “When we found out that we were going to be in Division 3, we knew that this was our best shot to qualify because we’re losing six seniors. We played really hard, and what do you know, we made it.”

Carey and partner Bryce Bolles, made quick work of their competition at regionals, registering a big win over a strong Cadillac team.

“We knew that it was going to be a challenge because they bumped everyone down in their lineup. Bryce and I knew it was going to be a tough match, but we just played our game and we won in two sets,” he said. “The regional went really well for us.”

Carey is looking to end his high school career on a high note this weekend.

“My goal is to hopefully go 3-0 on Friday and to make it to the second day on Saturday,” he said. “I’d like to be able to play at Stowe Stadium.”

Wendrow echoed Carey’s sentiment.

“We’re just going to try and finish as high as we can,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience just be around that much quality tennis in an environment like Kalamazoo. The city is famous for hosting nationals at Stowe Stadium and the USTA holds its national tournament there every year. The kids will get an eye-opening experience because it’s not like a regional tournament or the Saginaw Valley League tournament. There will be 20 really good teams there, so we’re looking forward to seeing if we can lift our level of tennis one more time.”

The Oilers will make the trip to Kalamazoo Thursday evening to rest up for their early wake-up call Friday morning.

Last Updated: 10/16/2013 7:10:13 PM EST