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Adams’ Must chalks up win No. 400 on the court WITH PHOTOS

  • Rochester Adams boys tennis coach Al Must talks with junior Michael Andrzejewski during his team's match against Rochester. The Highlanders won the match, the 400th career victory for Must. (MIPrepZone file photo)
  • Al Must has coached the boys team at Rochester Adams since 1984. (MIPrepZone file photo)
  • Al Must-coached teams have won 25 league titles and made 33 state tournament appearances - including the last 11 boys seasons in a row. (MIPrepZone file photo)
  • Rochester Adams boys tennis coach Al Must (far left) is one of the deans of high school coaches in Oakland County - and the state of Michigan. (MIPrepZone file photo)
  • Oliver Li plays No. 1 singles for this year's Rochester Adams squad. It will be seeking a 12th straight state finals appearance in 2015. (MIPrepZone file photo)
  • Rochester Adams coach Al Must talks to Josh Li during last year's Division 1 state finals in Midland. Li, who reached the semifinal round at No. 3 singles, is back this season for the Highlanders. (MIPrepZone file photo)

Coach gets milestone victory over rival Rochester

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ROCHESTER HILLS — When Al Must moved to Michigan way back in 1984, he didn’t dream of winning hundreds of tennis matches. He was just a tennis coach looking to make a difference, trying to introduce the game he loves to the area’s youth.

But when one spends more than 30 years coaching, developing a program which competes at the ultimate level, good things tend to happen. Just over a week ago, Must celebrated his 400th career coaching victory when his Rochester Adams squad knocked off rival Rochester.

“I love what I do,” said Must, whose boys teams have reached the state tournament in each of the past 11 years – finishing in the top six in 2013-14. “It’s something I truly enjoy, and we’ve had a lot of success (here).”

A retired social worker from Adams High School, Must has not only coached the boys varsity program for 32 years, he has been working with younger players at Bloomfield Hills Swim and Tennis over that same time. For the last 25 years, he has been the head tennis pro at the club – formerly known as the Surf Club. When he first came to Michigan – from Delta, CO, where he began his high school coaching career – Must took over both the boys and girls programs for the Highlanders. His girls teams were among the best in the state early on. His 1987 squad captured the Class A state championship. He stepped down from the girls program in 1993.

“As a teaching professional, Al certainly brings knowledge to the court and the 400 victories serve as a testament to his technical ability as a coach,” Adams athletic director Jason Rapp said. “However, his passion for kids and the game of tennis are what strike a chord with me and resonate more than the matches won.”

Must said one of his biggest pleasures is seeing some of his former players return to see him, talking about their past experiences as a Highlander.

“As a high school coach, I know I’ve touched the lives of the kids who come through the program,” he said. So many players have come back later on and said that (tennis) was one of their best memories of high school. And that doesn’t surprise me, because it’s so much fun.

“I know the kids are having a great time. I’m having a great time. You’re a part of a team and there is a lot of camaraderie there. It’s a special part of a high school player’s life. Being able to coach these kids, it’s a real honor.”

Must enjoys the intricacies of coaching high school tennis.

“It’s like a puzzle, trying to mold a group of people into the right positions, with the right partners,” Must said. “So there are a lot of mental challenges, as well as emotional challenges, that go into coaching.”

Must has experienced many highs in coaching. He’s also faced his fare share of challenges. Playing in Oakland County is always a challenge. The Highlanders play out of the OAA Red, perhaps the best league in the state. The region his team competes in is also among the toughest in the state – if not the deepest.

This year’s team – with just five players returning from a year ago – faces an uphill battle to get back to the state tournament for a fifth straight season. With top players like Oliver Li and Josh Li, Adams certainly has a chance to get back. But it will come down to team depth. Bloomfield Hills is the class of the region. And Clarkston has a tremendous singles lineup. So the challenge has been laid out for the Highlanders.

No matter what happens at the end of the season, no one can take away the 400 wins – and counting – Must has achieved over the years.

“It’s not all about the number. I’m honored and thrilled to have won 400 but that’s not why you (coach),” Must said. “I do it because I have a love for it.”

Must is quick to distribute praise to all his assistant coaches – including Pete Sexton (20 years) and Alex Saari (seven years) – and the hundreds of players he has coached over the years.

“The number I hit just happens to be because I have good players and coaches to work with,” the coach said. “I was fortunate to get the right job. A lot of coaches will switch around and go from place to place. If I like it where I am, there’s really no reason to move. I’ve never thought of leaving Adams.”

Last Updated: 10/7/2015 1:05:01 PM EST

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