2012-10-18 / Sports

St. Mary netter reaches regional finals at No. 2 singles

By Mike Spencer Of The Enterprise staff

LEIF MOHRMAN, Leelanau County’s No. 2 singles player, gets some advice from assistant coach Kim Guilbeau in a regional victory Friday at Traverse City Central’s tennis courts. LEIF MOHRMAN, Leelanau County’s No. 2 singles player, gets some advice from assistant coach Kim Guilbeau in a regional victory Friday at Traverse City Central’s tennis courts. Leelanau County’s Leif Mohrman accomplished a career and season-long goal of winning a tennis match in the Division 4 regionals.

In fact, the St. Mary senior doubled his quest, winning two matches Friday before losing in the finals of No. 2 singles to Ludington’s Spencer Knudsen, 6-1, 6-0.

The feat, however, was bittersweet for the third-year tennis player, who realized his playing days for the co-op, co-ed team were also over.

“It’s been a lot of fun and to be regional runner-up, it’s just awesome,” said the lefty Mohrman, who reached the finals with by winning straight set, back-to-back tie-breakers against Gus Danz of Traverse City St. Francis. “To win two and the last one like that ... it’s a good way to end my career.

“But it’s also sad because I’m going to miss it, the coaches Tim and Kim and the program that I love so much.”

Mohrman’s two victories accounted for nearly half of Leelanau’s five points in the tough regional, which saw Ludington win by sweeping all the singles flights, and St. Francis take second by sweeping all the doubles matches.

Ludington finished with 19 points. St. Francis had 16. Leelanau finished with five.

“Leif was unbelievable, but everything had to break well for us to make it to states,” Leelanau head coach Tim Sutherland said. “There were some good teams out here.”

There’s some strong teams. We’re playing as well as we can

Also picking up points for firstround wins are Parker Kokowicz, No. 1 singles, and Leelanau’s top two doubles squads, Ross Guilbeau and Jamie McFarlane, and Jake Duperon and Kyle Hayes.

“Five points is the most since I’ve been here,” Mohrman said. “Two years ago we had zero and last year we had one.

“It’s a definite improvement. We played well as a team.”

The team’s improvement did not go unnoticed. Sutherland was named regional Coach of the Year.

“I’m excited about that,” said Sutherland, who credited assistant coach Kim Guilbeau and the players for the honor. “It feels good.

“It’s been a great year.”

Mohrman, who filled in at No. 1 singles for a couple of matches when Kokowicz was injured, finished the season with an 18-4 record.

Mohrman showed some resourcefulness and grit in achieving his final win. He won his semifinal match by 7-6 scores, including a 9-7 first set tiebreaker and 7-3 in the second.

In the first set, Mohrman was forced to serve underhand because the sun was in the southpaw’s eyes when he served on the north end. He managed to split those four service points. He won the last one when Danz smashed an overhead into the net, giving Mohrman an 8-7 advantage.

“I was surprised as you to see Leif serve underhand,” Sutherland said. “That came out of the blue.

“I don’t think he’s practiced that but that shows how adaptable the kid is. Nothing fazes him.”

“To win a tie-break having to serve underhand ... that’s a first,” Mohrman admitted. “But I’d be blind by now if I did serve like normal.”

In the second set, Mohrman had to rally from a 4-1 deficit in games just to reach the tie-break.

“I knew if it went to a third set that I’d probably lose it,” Mohrman said. “The motivation was not to go to the third set because I was so exhausted.

“It was a combination of I started playing consistent and better and he started missing shots and let me back in.”

“Leif fought his way back into that match,” Sutherland said. “And Leif’s been that way all year.

“You can’t get him down mentally, he’ll find a way to bounce back.”

In the finals, however, Mohrman was no match for Knudsen, a powerful right-handed hitter.

“That guy was good, no doubt about it,” Sutherland said. “We tried to go into a defensive mode because that guy has so much power.

“Leif threw up a few lobs, but then Spencer got a roll.”

“I was burned out after winning that semifinal and to play again, was tough,” Mohrman admitted. “But that Ludington kid is the best player I’ve ever played against.”

Kokowicz had a chance to represent Leelanau County in the state finals since the top two players at No.1 advance.

But the Glen Lake senior, after putting away unseeded Tell Sutton of Whitehall 6-4, 6-0 in his first match, ran into a buzz-saw in the semis, falling 6-0, 6-2 to eventual champ Jake Perez. Perez went on to beat two-time regional champ and top-seeded Sam Dart of Harbor Springs 7-5, 6-1 for the title.

“Jake is a mentally-tough kid who has played a big-time schedule,” Sutherland said. “He faced the best players in the state and nothing fazes him.

“It was like Parker was playing (Rafael) Nadal.”

Sutherland said Kokowicz knew he had to play a power game, be consistent and wait for his opportunities. But he never got any.

“Parker did not play bad. The other kid is just so tough that he doesn’t do anything wrong,” Sutherland said of Perez. “This is like the nightmare of any good player.”

Sutherland said was hoping Kokowicz would have had a tougher time in his first match. It might have helped against Perez.

“I almost would have like to have seen that other guy be a little bit tougher,” Sutherland said. “Parker got a little sense of ‘I’m playing good and I’m going to continue this onward.’

“But he didn’t get any adversity in that first match.”

In No. 1 doubles, Guilbeau and McFarlane beat Charlevoix’s Joe Rich and Addison Armstutz, 6-2, 6-0, before losing 6-3, 6-1 to Whitehall runners-up Zac Carlson and Ryan Back.

In No. 2 doubles, Hayes and Duperon upset No. 4 seed Harbor Springs (Neal Zoerhof and Adam Carett) 6-2, 6-1, before falling to eventual champ St. Francis (Chase Richmond and Blake Bandrowski, 6-1, 6-0.

“As a coach you look for improvement and Jake and Kyle beat a team that had smoked them earlier in the season,” Sutherland said. “They played their best tennis today.”

Leelanau lost first round matches at No. 3 and No 4 doubles. Brayden Reed and Siaira Milroy fell 7-6, 7-5, to Harbor Springs’ Skyler Benn and Keith Fitzpatrick while at No. 4, Lindsey Boone and Madison Fink lost 6-2, 6-0 to Ludington runner-ups Austin Sniedowski and Mason Chapman.

In singles, Leelanau’s Joel Sneed fell at No. 3 to Grant’s Colin Speigelaar, 6-2, 2-6, 6-0, and at No. 4, Evan Fink lost to No. 2 seed Patrick Burke of St. Francis, 6-2, 6-2.

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