2017-08-24 / Sports

Okerlund, tennis team off to promising start


THE LEELANAU TENNIS TEAM is pictured after their second-place showing at a Traverse City Central tournament on Monday. 
Photo: David Grams THE LEELANAU TENNIS TEAM is pictured after their second-place showing at a Traverse City Central tournament on Monday. Photo: David Grams Before the season began, Tim Sutherland had high expectations for his top singles players. Through two tournaments, it’s safe to say those expectations are trending upward.

“Our top two players are setting a tone for our team of toughness and determination,” Sutherland said. “This is a coach’s dream.”

Glen Lake junior Xander Okerlund and Leland freshman Nate Michell sent Leelanau into the season in style at the Ludington Invitational on Friday, going toe-to-toe with state-ranked opponents from schools like Coopersville, East Kentwood and Ludington.

Okerlund took his Ludington opponent, one of the best players in northern Michigan, to a second-set tiebreaker.

Mitchell didn’t look bad, either.

“He is a freshman who played like a senior,” Sutherland said. “He competes so hard. It is a joy to watch, and he has a ton of game.”

Sutherland said Leelanau players won a match in all eight flights — seven more than last year.

The four-school co-op carried the momentum into a quad at Traverse City Central on Monday, securing the second-place trophy with 15 points as a team. Midland Dow’s JV team took the top spot with 16.

“I’m very proud of the tenacity shown by our players,” assistant coach Dave Grams said. “Most matches went into third-set tiebreakers and we just fell short of winning the tournament.

“I feel fortunate to be able to coach such a great group of kids.”

Local flight winners were Okerlund, Mitchell and Thomas Hursey in the No. 1, 2 and 4 spots, respectively.

Sutherland was impressed with the play of Hursey, who has been busy on the golf course this summer.

“I am not sure how he did it,” Sutherland said, “but he is so smart and such a great competitor that he just figured it out while he was playing and eliminated the rust as he went along.

“Very impressive.”

Karson Klocko and Leland Macke won the No. 4 doubles flight, as well.

The Leelanau tennis team is slated to compete in the St. Francis pre-regional today and a home meet with visiting Cadillac on Monday at 1 p.m.

“I am excited about early season success, but the kids understand that coach Grams and I are turning up the heat,” Sutherland said. “We will demand more and we think they have much more to give.”

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