(click on coach's name to read more about them)

GIRLS (Spring)
BOYS (Fall)
1 - Linda Jones, Northville 1 - Jerry Murphy, Rochester

2 - John VanAlst, Grosse Pte. North

2 - Dan Bolhouse, Forest Hills Central
3 - Matt Pedlow, Chelsea

3 - Eric Gajar, Ann Arbor Greenhills

4 - Laura Hackman, Harbor Springs 4 - Aaron Conroy, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic

GIRLS (Spring)
Linda Jones, Northville - Division 1

Linda Wilson had no idea when she entered Dick Norton’s English class as a seventh grader that this left-hander with a crew cut was in the midst of a Hall of Fame career as Northville’s tennis coach. However, although Coach Norton put together five consecutive winning seasons and a dual meet win streak of 64 matches, the best his team ever did at the state tournament was a third place finish.

Linda Wilson had no idea when she was a seventh grader in Dick Norton’s English class that as Linda Jones, she would eventually go on to eclipse one of Mr. Norton’s achievements: a state championship. That was in 2015 when her girls defeated perennially powerful Grosse Pte. South and Midland Dow squads by capturing five of the eight flight state titles. Her kids went on to win two more state championships.

She didn’t just walk into a bonanza of talent. A three-sport varsity athlete at her alma mater, Linda served as the school’s JV coach under Sandy Woolfall from 2009 through 2013 where she, in essence, trained four future state doubles teams. She brought to the position a knack for putting together winning squads in that she had played for and captained USTA women’s teams for 20 years.

She also put together 34 years of experience as an account manager for Ford Motor Company together with close observation of how other coaches—Tom Pullen, Mark Sobieralski, Chris Dobson, Jim Hanson, Gordie Boettcher --  led their teams. The result was what she terms an intuition and indeed a winning one.

Linda graduated from her father’s high school alma mater -- he in 1940 and she in 1970 – with the intention of becoming a secondary education teacher but the skimpy job market caused her to switch majors at Eastern Michigan University, hence her career in accounting. But when she retired from Ford, she received the opportunity to come full circle. She was ready. After all, her USTA teams were consistently local, district, and state champions.

The first change she made was getting into the emerging Saturday invitational and quad market, the ones where the top teams in the state compete against each other. Connections matter. So does persistence. By the time she was finished, all of the Top Ten Division 1 schools – and some in Divisions 2 and 3 – were calling to get Northville on their schedules.

In her first year as the varsity coach, the Mustangs finished third at the state tournament, an achievement for most coaches but not for one with the loftiest of goals. There were tough losses against highly seeded teams which boded well for the future. And sure enough, the next year – 2015- was what she called “the breakout year.

She wasn’t finished. Although losing several talented seniors, the 2016 squad still retained a core of seasoned players which made them contenders. Yes, they came up just a bit short to Garrett Turner’s Midland Dow squad but “I told Garrett that we would be back next year to take that trophy back to Northville.”

She kept her word, albeit she had to share the championship with Dow in 2017. In that final, Linda had not only to contend with highly intense tennis matches but also to attend to a 3D player who had dislocated her shoulder during the tournament and had to go to the hospital. However, her 3S player, in a struggle with her counterpart from Dow, settled down after a 6-1 first set loss and won the next two sets to securer a state championship tie.

But the Mustangs certainly weren’t satisfied with a tie. In 2018 and ranked No. 2 all season, they were so deep that all 8 flights reached the semifinals on Saturday. The 3D player who had dislocated her shoulder the previous year learned to serve underhanded. Once again, Northville walked away with the state championship trophy, this time the sole winner.
At the 2018 June board meeting, Larry Harte was chosen as state coach of the year. He protested the choice, saying among other things that the coach of the state champions was also in the running and should have received the award.

She goes into retirement with an incredible record and caps it off with a State Coach of the Year Award.

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GIRLS (Spring)
John VanAlst, Grosse Pte. North - Division 2

John Van Alst grew up in Essexville, seemingly a tennis backwater outpost until one remembers that Garber High School is the home of the legendary Harold Holcomb, a coach so respected that he is not only in our Hall of Fame but was the third MHSTeCA president (1981-1983). In addition, Hoke’s assistant was long-time board member Jeff Newingham. “I had great coaches to learn from,” he says.

He also had some pretty good teammates, namely Fowlerville’s Jim Jonas, himself a Coach of the Year. “I played on John’s Little League baseball team so I have known him for 40 years,” he says. “When he didn’t make the high school baseball team, he decided to give tennis a try. He picked it up very quickly and was such a hard worker that he made the varsity team in his second year. By the time he was a senior, he was a Regional Runner-up on a Top Ten team.”

John started as the JV coach at Grosse Pte. North for both boys and girls in the fall of 2008. He must have impressed the athletic administration because in just two years, he was asked to take the head job. In a neighborhood that includes perennial powers Grosse Pte. South and University Liggett (thankfully residing in different divisions), these parents and kids are used to quality coaching (See North’s Hall of Famer Ken Gutow). Moreover, they get plenty of competition in their own backyards.

This has proven to be very helpful, in part because North plays in a different division than either of his cross-town rivals. Last spring, John’s kids won their conference and took second in their regional. They went 12-2-4. Interestingly enough, he points to the ties against quality teams (Troy Athens and St. Clair, for instance) as turning points in terms of gaining confidence.

They needed it in that the team was so young. In the previous campaign, the squad had fielded seven kids who had never played a high school match. Last spring, the number was six.

Understandably their youth and inexperience resulted in the team failing to qualify for state competition in 2018 – this for the first time in John’s tenure. Not so last May when they rectified this. “The new players helped with a shift in the team’s attitude,” he says.

In terms of outlook, they needed only follow their coach’s lead. “What I admire so much about him is regardless of how talented his team might be that particular season or how a single match might be going, he will always have a huge smile and an extremely positive attitude,” says Holly’s Will Sophiea. “The way that he handles himself is infectious to his players as well as his coaching colleagues like myself. I seemingly am in a better mood when I'm around him.”

“When I see his success as a coach, I am not surprised,” says Jim. “I'm sure his players would tell you he works as hard or harder than they do.  Also, he is very caring. The kids feel very comfortable around him and he encourages the love of tennis that I am sure rubs off on his players.”

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GIRLS (Spring)
Matt Pedlow, Chelsea - Division 3

After 13 years of being at the helm of the highly successful Chelsea girls program, Matt Pedlow is stepping down. As it turns out, he picked a good year, maybe saving the best for last. The past spring’s squad lost only to always-powerful Allegan at a quad in which three contests went to tie-breaks. They won two other multiple-team events and captured the SEC White title for the 7th consecutive year. At the league tournament, the team didn’t lose a set and at the regional, the Bulldogs won seven of the eight flights. They finished eighth at the state tournament.

Matt gives credit to Tom Osbeck, who has been with the program 13 years and received last year’s MHSTeCA Assistant Coach Award. He also enjoys the services of Misha Moore (a.k.a. Coach Mish) who in the past five campaigns has become the Team Mom. And Brian Tucker has helped out for the past eight years despite a full time job away from the school. In other words, the Chelsea girls have benefited from all important consistency by way of a group of competent and caring adults.

Chelsea girls are well prepared once they get to the varsity level. Coach Osbeck’s teams have not lost a JV match in over three seasons. In addition, Matt, with the help of daughter Maddie, runs a summer program of first through sixth graders. He also directs middle school camps as well as, for a time, a high school booster camp. “The little kids are so much fun to coach,” he says. “We have around 25 kids in each camp.”

This coach not only knows how to win but also how to bond. “Throughout the years, I have formed relationships with my players which extend far beyond their time as a tennis player,” he says. “I keep in touch with most of them and I care deeply about their successes both on and off the court.”

His colleagues concur. ”I have known Matt for a good many years,” says former Parma Western coach Larry Brown, himself a former Coaching of the Year.  “During this time I have learned to appreciate the things he brings to young athletes in tennis. He has a genuine concern for all of his players. I appreciated his knowledge of the game but more importantly how he used interpersonal skills to work with each of his players, parents, other players and other coaches. I have watched him encourage not only his players but even other players that he was going up against during competition.”

“On a professional side, I can honestly say he cares about others including us as coaches,” continues Larry. “He was concerned and came and saw me when I had a knee replacement, something that is appreciated and that I will never forget. 

“I have many times had the pleasure in competing with Matt's teams when I was at Parma Western,” continues Larry.  “Every time we met on the court it was not just about the competition but it was about the relationship we built. That was the great thing about coaching and Matt.”

“Saline and Chelsea have been rivals in every sport for decades,” says Andy BeDell, himself a Coach of the Year. “So there can be a little attitude on both teams’ parts. But Matt and I always kept it very friendly and it paid off big time. He placed a high value on sportsmanship and fair play. We knew we are always in for a battle, but a fair battle.”

Growing up in Perry NY, Matt played in a program that enjoyed a 124 match win streak under a legendary coach, even though it was located in a small farm community in the western part of the state. For his part, Coach Rick Steiner, in turn, enjoyed the services of a player who finished second in the Sectional Meet in doubles during his junior and senior years. In the process, Matt learned not only how it feels to win, win, win but also firsthand how to build a program.

“Throughout the past 11 years, we have had 40 girls per season in our tennis program,” he says. “This makes us the largest program in Washtenaw County even though we have one of the lowest school populations.”

In 2018, Matt was named National Economics Teacher of the Year for the success of his Personal Finance Teams, winners at the state level the past two years and national champions in 2018. The man keeps piling up trophies, it seems, but securing tennis awards is coming to an end.

“I’m sorry to see Matt go,” says Mason’s Jim D’Angelo, himself a former Coach of the Year. “When it’s time for our Chelsea match next spring, I will miss seeing him and competing against him.”

“I’ll miss Matt in our league and in every aspect of our competitions together,” adds Andy. “He always put the kids first. In my experience there is none better.”

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GIRLS (Spring)
Laura Hackman, Harbor Springs - Division 4

In the 1970s and early ‘80s, Grosse Pte. South had a virtual lock on the girls state championship in Class A – Division1 state. These teams were so strong that in one time span, their No. 1 singles, a freshman, played No. 4 her senior year. They won multiple consecutive titles.

Enter Laura Hackman. Even though she grew up playing club, rec, and USTA tournaments, she still had to spend a year on the South JV squad before advancing to the varsity the next three years. Then under the legendary Hall of Famer Stephanie Prychitko, Laura played doubles on three of those teams. In other words, she left high school as a state champion.

“Left high school” means moving to Northwest Michigan. In that Laura’s family and the family of her future husband spent glorious summers together in the Harbor Springs area when they were kids, the two moved to the area after their marriage, When Denny Green, the then-current coach and himself a Coach of the Year, wanted to step down as Harbor Springs coach, Laura applied even though she was raising a three-year-old and five-year-old at the time. She didn’t accept that job until she made sure that if she couldn’t find a baby sitter for matches, her kids would be allowed to ride the bus.

She was a perfect fit for taking over the girls program,” says Denny.  “With her two girls playing a lot of USTA junior tennis she would have plenty of reason to build the team around them. It was very evident from the first time that we met that Laura was very competitive and passionate about tennis and was determined to pass on that passion to her two young daughters and anyone else who would be interested.”

Laura also fit right in with the coaching legends of the area. She knew Hall of Famer Margaret Ruemenapp when Margaret taught tennis in the Detroit area. “We reconnected almost immediately,” says Laura. The two worked together on USTA stuff and Laura played with Margaret’s daughters.

One of her best friends was Coach of the Year Dree Lo who passed away unexpectedly six weeks after Laura’s husband’s untimely death a bit before the start of that year’s spring season. Dree had covered for Laura at that time.

“I believe I started coaching before her but we were very close during our years of coaching, always bouncing ideas and thoughts off one another,” she says. “We also were doubles partners in adult USTA tennis leagues.  I worked with her for two summers running the Petoskey Parks and rec program and ran the local City Championships together for several years.  I think of her all the time during tennis season and know she’s laughing at me.”

It speaks to Laura’s character that she resumed her tennis coaching duties a mere week after her husband’s death and later apologized to Ed Waits for not renewing her membership that spring in a timely manner.

In recent years, completing a successfully spring tennis season in the Harbor Springs area has been an increasing challenge, not just because of the rain but also the snow. Nevertheless, the 2019 season was a good one. The Rams were 6-1 in dual meets, finished first in a tri-event, placed second in the Howell Invitational, and second in both the conference and the regional, each time to always-powerful Traverse City St. Francis. They were close: 19 to 17 in the conference and 25 to 20 at the regional.

In 15 years of coaching, this was the 10th time that Laura’s squad has qualified for state competition. Her kids won the conference and regional championships in 2010 and 2017. This is no small feat in that, although she almost always field several strong players, she has always (with the exception of one year) had to coach kids who have never played until the first days of practice.

Laura tries to rectify this situation by holding one or two week summer camps “for kids to come and try tennis.” She also visits elementary schools to help gym teachers introduce the kids to tennis. “The kids receive basic introduction and instruction to tennis, are run through some basic coordination drills and get the opportunity to try hitting foam or low-pressure balls,” she says. “They get about 6 days of this in the winter and then in the spring and fall we get them onto the outdoor courts.”

She does all this while holding down what she calls “a make a living job.” Laura works for the famous Stafford’s Hospitality handling Accounts Receivables and other various accounting tasks. She also helps the local tennis club in the wintertime with their clinics.

“She has done a great job keeping the Harbor Springs Tennis Program not only going but with success, not only making it to the State Finals 10 times but also with some solid finishes,” says Denny. “Laura has devoted a lot time to the girls team and it shows in the results as well as in the impact that she has had on so many young women.”

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BOYS (Fall)
Jerry Murphy, Rochester - Division 1

Last fall, Dave Fredette announced his retirement after 50 years of coaching at Armada. He was one of the early pioneers in our association who received a Boys Coach of the Year in 1982 (not a misprint) and was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 1988.  They named the Armada tennis courts after him.

In 1998, Tiger Teusink retired from coaching tennis at Holland High School. He spent 27 years leading the Dutch teams and nine in Jackson. He also helped Karen Page with the Hope College women’s team. Total: 47 years coaching tennis. They named the Holland High School tennis courts after him.

Last spring, John Shade retired from tennis coaching at Grosse Ile after a half century. Leading highly successful teams for such a long time, he broke Mickey Johnson of Marquette’s dual meet record. No, they didn’t name the high school courts after him but he owns the Grosse Ile Tennis Club. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Marty Snoap, Hall of Fame Class of 2006, coached for 42 years before suffering a serious stroke last summer. He was Girls Coach of the Year in 2000 and Boys Coach of the Year in 2002.

Larry Nykerk hung up the shoes and racket this past year after serving the Traverse City Central program for 50 years. His sayonara was being inducted into the MHSCA Hall of Fame this past year, adding to his induction into ours in 1999.

But there are those who are hanging in there. Larry Seger, Hall of Fame Class of 1994, just completed his 51st year at Thornapple Kellogg and has no plans to quit. Same with Rochester Adams’ Al Must: 32 years. Both are still coaching even though they were inducted long ago.

And then there is Jerry Murphy, another paragon of MHSTeCA longevity. He is one more example of a tennis coach who has received our association’s highest honors (Boys Coach of the Year in 1993 and Hall of Fame induction in 2010) and then just keeps on going. He is a stalwart at board meetings and Hall of Fame Selection Committee meetings. He has been doing this for 48 years.

Although Jerry retired from teaching at Rochester High School in 2010, he must still enjoy coaching both the boys and girls in that he certainly isn’t it for the wins. After all his record over almost a half century is 286-249-25. Although he has accumulated lots of wins there have been lots of losses.

Why? One has only to look at his league competition. For instance, although his squad won two tournaments this past fall, they placed last in the conference behind Bloomfield, Troy, Groves, Seaholm. Strong schools such as Rochester, Troy Athens and Clarkston tied for 5th place. Every school that Rochester lost to – all 7 – placed in the Top Ten of their respective divisions.

This was the genesis of what has become known as the Murphy Rule, a proposal to allow strong third place regional finishers a chance to compete at the state level. For so many years, Jerry’s very strong squads stayed home because the competition was so strong. Back then, he called it “positive dissatisfaction” and did something about it. His research and presentation in terms of how third place teams would impact the state tournament results resulted in passage of the change. Teams in certain regionals where two perennial powerhouses resided now have a better chance. It seems only appropriate that he would benefit from his rule.

Case in point: This past fall, Jerry’s team ended in third place with 12 points – two above the required 10 in an 8-team regional -- behind Bloomfield Hills (state finish: 7th) and Clarkston (state finish:  5th). Jerry’s group finished in a tie for 14th at the final tournament.

Jerry rarely if ever misses a Hall of Fame Selection Committee meeting (He is a former president – 2003 – 2005) or board meetings even though he might be excused given his longevity. Over the years, he has managed “too many regionals to count.” He is almost always at the workshops although in retirement, he and Carol have tried to travel more.

This January, they plan to attend the Australian Open. That means that Jerry will miss his banquet presentation. However, he has been there and done that, both as a recipient and as a presenter.

“I value the friendship and discussions of which I had through the years with Jerry.  He is one of the fond memories I have of our times in Cadillac and Big Rapids,” says Jim Cummins, who himself has been around as long as Jerry.

“What can you say about the guy? “He is legendary. Or is it legend-Jerry?” concludes Portage Central’s Peter Militzer. They plan to attend the Australian Open in January and will miss the banquet presentation in his honor. But he will be back in the spring to direct another group of Rochester kids.

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BOYS (Fall)
Dan Bolhouse, Forest Hills Central - Division 2

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Dan Bolhouse played both football and tennis for future Hall of Famer Dave Sukup.   “Our football program was very good and tennis was climbing when I graduated,” he says. Dan played doubles at Forest Hills Northern until his senior year when he advanced to singles (his doubles partner had graduated). He then went on to play tennis for a year and football for two years at Hope College before quitting to concentrate on his studies.

In the ensuing time, Dan worked at various clubs in the Grand Rapids area. When Tim Morey, a fellow pro, got the Forest Hills Central position, he brought Dan with him as the JV coach. Dan led the boys JV for two seasons and the girls JV for three. He must have done a good job because the school promoted him to varsity where he has completed his 6th year with the boys and 4th for the girls.

His teams, steeped in the winning tradition established by Hall of Famer and former MHSTeCA president Elliott Pearce, have done very well, thank you very much. In his first two years at the helm, the boys squads won back to back conference, regional and state championships (tied with FHN in 2015). The Rangers placed 2nd in 2016, 4th in 2017, and 11th in 2018.

This past season was topsy turvy. Dan started the first two weeks of the campaign without his 1S who was in China. The ensuing weeks saw both tight wins and tight losses to quality teams (they play the best). Some of the losses – Brother Rice, East Grand Rapids, and Portage Central – involved three set wins and three set  losses. Nevertheless the team won two quads, finished 2nd in the conference and second at the regional, both to Northern. Even still, his kids captured some flight championships. FHN went on to win the state championship while Dan’s kids finished a very respectable 6th.

And he has achieved all of this while coaching from a wheelchair. In February of 1999, Dan was in a snowmobile accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down. A few years later, he took up wheelchair tennis and got so good that he traveled extensively competing in events that earned him a world ranking of 190. Three years later, he moved to Midland where he learned to teach and coach the game from Midland Community Tennis Center’s Mike Woody and his staff. The rest is inspiring history.

“Its always fun to play FHN and battle with an incredible man and coach who taught me so much in my childhood,” says Dan of his days playing for Sukup. In return, Dave calls his former player a great person and a very caring coach who incidentally was the place kicker on the Northern football team. “He hit many big kicks,” says Dave

“He has an amazing way of connecting with players,” says East Grand Rapids’ Mickey Mikesell who has partnered with Dan for the past three summers in terms of running academies. “He has a tough football background and pushes his kids but coaches them in a very calm and respectful manner.  In all my years of coaching, I've never heard a negative thing said about him by his players or fellow coaches.  He's passionate about the sport and loves his kids and his program.  He loves to win like the rest of us but never puts that in front of teaching his players the most important things about being on a team.”

“Dan is great for high school athletics,” concludes Mickey.

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BOYS (Fall)
Eric Gajar, Ann Arbor Greenhills - Division 3

Why should Eric Gajar receive the D3 Boys Coach of the Year Award? After all, he was voted to receive the honor twice before, once in 2005 and again in 2015, only four years ago. 

Consider the following:

This past fall, his team went undefeated. With the exception of one tie, the Gryphons won every dual meet, finished first in all three tournaments they entered, captured the Catholic League title, “swept” the regionals, and won the state championship, this time in Division 3.  The only blemish – and certainly a minor one – was a tie with Troy High School. At that meet, both Troy and Greenhills were missing players -- Troy at 1S and Greenhills at 3S. Greenhills lost the 2S and 2D matches in three sets. Nevertheless, Eric called it “a great match.

His players almost “swept” the D3 final tournament, capturing seven of eight flight state championships. The only flight they lost was in the final at 3D when the Eric’s team bowed to a duo that they had beaten twice before, including in the finals of the regional the week before. This is a reminder of the very first flight state championship in Class A in 1977, when Herm Kiewiet’s Kalamazoo Loy Norrix squad came into the Midland Community Tennis Center and left with seven out of eight flight titles. Fast forward 42 years.

Greenhills finished with 39 points, a huge margin over the 2nd place finishes of Cranbrook Kingswood and Detroit Country Day’s 22. Fourth place went to East Grand Rapids and St. Clair. In other words, for those familiar with high school tennis history, Eric’s squad dominated against perennial juggernauts, schools that usually win it all or come very close in their divisions. This was “polishing off the powers.”

This title was the school’s 13th state championship, 12 of them in Division 4. The Gryphons have won eight consecutive titles from 2008 to 2015. They have been runners-up in “off” years six times and third place three times. They have never finished worse than third since 2000. Twelve titles in 18 years equals a percentage of 67% … in state championships. These are Tom Pullen numbers.

They were arguably the best team in the state regardless of division this past fall. Bob Wood’s University Liggett’s squads would routinely capture the Class C-D – Division 4 crown but when he ventured into an “upper’ class during the season in order to tournament harden his kids, the results were often not pretty. He would sometimes enter the final D4 tournament with losing records but, of course, still win the state championship. In contrast, Eric’s Division 3 kids prevailed over this year’s Division 1 co-state champions. Greenhills beat Ann Arbor Huron 8-0 in the first match of the season although the River Rats were short-handed at that time. They beat Ann Arbor Pioneer at the University Liggett Invitational, winning 4 head to head matches, then beat them 7-1 in a scrimmage the week of the state tournaments.

They won the Catholic League championship against Brother Rice, Cranbrook, Detroit Catholic Central, and U of D. This is no small feat given their finishes at their respective state tournaments: Brother Rice – D1, 7th place; Detroit Catholic Central – D1, 10; U of D Jesuit – D2, 2nd place; Cranbrook – D3, distant second to Greenhills.

 His team has qualified for state competition in all 26 years that Eric has coached them.

 He is our current president, succeeding University Liggett’s Mark Sobieralski. “His kids have class and good sportsmanship,” says Mark who has enjoyed some titanic clashes with Greenhills for state titles, most notably in 2016.

Enough said?

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BOYS (Fall)
Aaron Conroy, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic - Division 4

During this past fall season, Hackett Catholic Prep lost to Allegan 6-2. It was the team’s only dual meet loss. At the regional, Hackett was runner-up, five points behind -- again -- Allegan. Yet, at the final tournament in Holland, the two schools tied for the state championship.
How does this happen?

“Allegan kicked our butts,” says Hackett coach Aaron Conroy of that dual meet. “There were some good, competitive matches.  We came out strong early on the 4 Doubles courts and then won 0 of those 4 matches.  Credit to Allegan….they were better than us.”

Not necessarily, asserts former Allegan coach Gary Ellis. “It was one that could have gone 5-3 the other way.  Allegan lost or was way down in a couple of 1st sets but came back.” Also, close matches in the regional against very good teams other than Allegan served to toughen up the Irish even if they came up short in terms of winning the trophy.

As experienced coaches know, the state tournament is considerably more complicated than a regional, given the increased number of teams entered and the wild cards: 1S players who don’t come with their squads but can influence the team outcome.

“At state, Hackett's 4S was unseeded but got to the semis, so they picked up some extra points there,” continues Gary.  “At 3S, Allegan was seeded but lost his first match after a bye - no points.  Hackett's 3S got to the semis. Allegan beat Hackett at 1D in the dual (a major comeback), lost to Hackett in regionals, then beat Hackett at state.”

“Hackett came to state really ready to play,” concludes Gary.  “They played well in all flights.  I really think they were thinking that next year would be their year but had a good state tournament a year early.”

This speaks to Hackett leadership. Aaron came to Kalamazoo via Traverse City and Iowa (yes, Iowa) as an experienced player and coach. He was undefeated at 1S his senior year at Memphis Catholic High School (yes, Tennessee) and then elected to attend St. Ambrose University, a NAIA school located in Davenport IA. He learned a ton under legendary coach Sheldon Weiner.

St. Ambrose was a perennial Top 15 NAIA tennis school which played a 40 match schedule against D1 and D2 teams. Aaron was the team captain for three years and achieved a national NAIA ranking in singles of 46 in singles and 14 in doubles. He was so impressive that the school offered him the head coaching job after Coach Weiner unexpectedly died of a diabetic seizure.  Although he turned it down, he ended as an assistant coach on a girls team in Iowa while serving as a summertime tennis pro there.

Aaron went to work in Traverse City for Burnette Foods, a Michigan-based fruits and vegetables processor that supplies big chains such as Kroger, ALDI, and Meijer. His job was to work out annual supply contracts. But in 2012, he moved to Kalamazoo, a tennis gold mine for someone with his vast experience.

And vice versa. Hackett got Aaron’s services through a chance meeting with a long-time friend from his Iowa college days whom he met while watching the nationals at Stowe Stadium one August Her mother had been the Hackett girls coach. All of sudden, he was the school’s tennis leader, given his very impressive resume of playing and coaching experience.

Kalamazoo – and by extension Kalamazoo Hackett --- is used to excellence in tennis and Aaron has not disappointed them. In 2016, his girls finished third in the state. This year’s boys squad had no superstars: they won on team depth (read: good coaching) and team chemistry. “These are smart kids,” says Aaaron, “You have to improve quickly in a only a 10 week high school season.”

Yes, “Allegan continues to set an example year after year for how to run a top-notch program. Their success year in and year out is hard to attain,” says Aaron. But Gary notes that Hackett returns 10 of 12 players from this year’s squad.

In 2010, Hackett’s Kathleen Hawkinis was our association’s Miss Tennis. In 2019, Aaron Conroy is the latest version of our Mr. D4 Tennis ----Coach of the Year.

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