Greg Tunnicliff

Sports Scene

At times, it almost looked too easy.

But winning a state tennis championship is never as easy as it looks.

Midland Dow’s boys tennis team capped a remarkable season October 20, taking top honors at the Division 2 state tournament at Genesys Athletic Club in Grand Blanc with 35 points, 12 more than runner-up Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (23).

It is the Chargers’ fourth straight state title.

“[Players] have quality character and they love the game,” coach Terry Schwartzkopf said. “During the season, their abilities expanded extraordinarily, and you saw what the result was.”

Dow’s depth was the difference in the two-day event, which began at Holly and Fenton high schools but was moved indoors because of inclement weather. The Chargers placed six flights in the finals and won five.

Leading the way for Dow was senior Austin Woody, who captured his second straight state title, beating Portage Central’s Rob Stevens, 6-2, 6-3, in the No. 2 singles championship match.

Dow junior Juli Guerra captured his third straight state title, beating Portage Central’s Trevor VanderKlok, 6-2, 6-2, in the No. 3 singles championship match. Guerra won at No. 4 singles the previous two seasons.

It’s a great experience,” Guerra said. “I have a lot of pressure on me because I won in the previous years. I have to keep working hard.”

Rounding out Dow’s singles winners was freshman Michael Szabo at No. 4. The first-year varsity player beat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern’s Justin Minzlaff, 6-1, 6-1, in the championship match.

It’s great to be on this team,” Szabo said. “Everyone is so close, it feels like a family. I’m glad we were able to win together.”

Leading Dow at doubles was its No. 1 team of juniors Vikram Shanker and Jason Chang, who downed sixth-seeded Mat Denison and Stan Lassen of Battle Creek Lakeview, 6-0, 6-3, in the championship match.

It is Chang’s third state title, as he won at No. 3 doubles in 2010 and at No. 2 doubles last year. It is Shanker’s first state crown. The twosome ended 37-0 as a team.

We play together all year round and we’re good friends,” Shanker said. “We understand each other really well, and if one guy is down we can get him back up again. We make a great team.”

Top-seeded Mark Gorte and Patrick Eschbach beat second-seeded Amey Vrudula and Nico Finelli of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 6-3, 6-1, in the No. 3 doubles championship match.

It was Gorte and Eschbach’s first individual state championship.

It’s a great way to end the season,” Eschbach said. “It was really nice to win one [individual state title] on my own.”

The state tournament continued what has been a remarkable run for the Dow tennis program. The Chargers have won eight straight SVL titles and 21 of the last 22. They have captured a league-record 34 SVL championships overall.

Dow captured its fourth straight regional championship this season, notching this year’s title with a perfect score of 32 points.

When I started out I never thought I would win a state championship,” Schwartzkopf said. “I just take it one year at a time. I’m honored to be a part of their lives.”