BY DAN STICKRADT
NOVI — In a year when Novi is all over the state rankings in multiple sports, it is not lost on veteran Wildcats boys’ tennis coach Jim Hanson that his squad has definitely earned the label of ‘state powerhouse,’ and that it is not a one-hit wonder.
It is also not lost on him that his team has an attainable goal of defending its Division 1 state title.
“We’ve been good for a few years now,” said Hanson, who has coached for more than 30 years. “Last year was our first state title, and we were is second in 2013 and 2012. We’ve been very blessed with a lot of good players over the years.”
Novi has finished in the top 10 at the Division 1 state finals for 10 straight seasons. Barring a sudden rash of injuries, the Wildcats should make it 11 straight in a few weeks.
Novi brought back nine of its top 12 players from last year’s title team. Despite losing 2014 Mr. Tennis, Tim Wang, the Division 1 No. 1 singles state champion, this team is still very talented and is a legitimate threat to repeat.
The Wildcats, who already clinched the KLAA Central Division this season with a perfect 5-0 record, are 6-0 overall entering the KLAA Lakes Conference Tournament. Novi defeated league rival Northville, 5-4, in a tight dual in mid September to earn the division title.
Ironically, Northville is ranked No. 2 behind Novi and will be in the same region as Novi this season.
“It was really close. We only beat them in a tight match, 5-4. Northville is very good again this season,” noted Hanson. “We’ll see them a few more times this season, I’m sure.”
Although his team sits atop the tennis charts entering October, the Wildcats are by no means a heavy favorite. They won both the Brighton and Ann Arbor Pioneer tournaments this season and finished second to Cranbrook-Kingswood at the Novi Invitational — proving that they can be beaten.
“We return a lot of players, nine of our top 12, but we’re a completely different team, really,” offered Hanson. “We lost three players, and one was the best player in the state. Like every year, we had to move people up the lineup. The kids responded well.
“There’s a ton of good teams out there. I honestly think there’s six or seven teams that could win it this season,” he continued. “Northville is very good; Brother Rice; Troy; the Ann Arbor schools, Pioneer and Huron; even Bloomfield Hills is really good. There’s no clear-cut favorite this year. It will be whoever gets the most out of its lineup will win it.”