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

GIRLS (Spring)
BOYS (Fall)
Spring 2020 Season was cancelled due to Coronavirus
1 - Chris Silker, Okemos

2 - Kevin Freisen, Royal Oak

3 - Rahn Rosentreter, Chelsea

  4 - Cody Liverance, North Muskegon

BOYS (Fall)
Chris Silker, Okemos - Division 1

You’ve got to hand it to Chris Silker: he knows when to quit while he is ahead. Indeed, to say that he was ahead after the 2020 boys season is a severe understatement. Under his leadership, the Chiefs were perfect in terms of wins. They finished undefeated in duals, were victors in every Saturday tournament they entered, and completed an unblemished season by capturing the Division 1 state championship.


It is not unusual for Okemos to field exceptional tennis teams. As with schools such as Detroit Country Day, his squads are a veritable United Nations. “We have an incredibly diverse team, and always have,” he says. “We have players that represent ethnicities from all over the world. I believe the majority have heritage in India, Korea, and China.”


Moreover, this particular group came to play. “It was the deepest and most gifted class of tennis players I have ever worked with,” he says. “Eight of the top ten and two more beyond the 12 were great leaders. They made it clear at the end of 2019 that their goal was to go undefeated and win a state championship in 2020.”


However, with all the uncertainty as to whether the season could be completed with a state tournament, the kids simply wanted to have fun and enjoy their time together, according to Chris. That changed after Executive Order 161 when it looked like these players would be given the chance to compete in a final event.


Indeed, the focus changed dramatically as illustrated in an upcoming match against an always strong Brother Rice team. When you play Rice, you are in for some shouting shenanigans, wherein the contest is reduced to far too many loud “pump me ups.” Not so this time. “About 30-40 minutes into that match I stopped pacing around the perimeter of the courts and listened,” says Chris. “At the start of the match there was the usual loudness and intensity that we expected from this team with a few replies from our guys but at this point I realized that there hadn’t been a shout or loud word uttered for about 10 minutes which was unusual to say the least. All you could hear was the regular thwack of a hard hit ball and as I looked around and saw all 9 matches in play safely marching to Okemos winning all the first sets I was shocked at the ability of play, execution and laser focus from the guys. That was really the first time that season I saw all flights running on all cylinders, it was an incredible match and we didn’t drop a flight. The guys and I really got excited for States after that to see what we could accomplish.”


That focus carried into the final tournament. At the Oct. Zoom board meeting, coaches testified that they saw no problem with sportsmanship from the Okemos players.  Vince Preuthun, a former head coach at Trenton High School, longtime MHSTeCA board member, and longtime USTA official who was at Okemos’s semifinal match against Troy and final match against Ann Arbor Pioneer says, “There were no incidents whatsoever. Furthermore, as rankings chairperson, I never heard anyone raise an issue through the season, either. They were an official’s dream team. They just played.”


Okemos, of course, is synonymous with high school tennis excellence going back to Hall of Famer Jim Powers’s days at the helm. But Chris’s 11 years with the program have not always been filled with perfection. His first five years were a struggle against Midland Dow teams which were annually among the best in the state. A significant change occurred in 2015 when the regional assignments were redrawn and Okemos’s only significant competition was East Lansing. “2015 was really a turning point,” says Chris. “We had some young players that were leading a pack of even younger players in the wings that showed incredible potential. We all knew that the next 5-6 years showed great promise for our program.”


And how. The ensuing seasons resulted in four regional championships and three state titles. In the ten years that his squad has qualified for final competition, his kids have always finished in the Top Ten. They have won the CCAC Blue conference championship for ten consecutive years. But what might be the most satisfying is that this past state championship was in Division 1, the school’s second year in that most populous partition.


So, is Chris simply quitting while he is ahead? Not. As the father of identical one-year-old twins and a daughter who is turning five, he has elected to devote now-time to his own kids, not someone else’s. He is not the first coach of the year to do so (see Kevin Friesen).


“Coaching feeds a big part of my soul, so I hope that someday I will have another opportunity to come back to it,” he says. “For now my soul and plate are full with service to my family and the business that supports it, so it is time to push pause on my commitments to tennis.”


If and when Chris gets back into Michigan high school tennis coaching, he will have not only a Division 1 State Championship on his resume but also a MHSTeCA Coach of the Year Award.

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BOYS (Fall)
Kevin Freisen, Royal Oak - Division 2

Kevin Friesen coached boys tennis at then-Royal Oak Kimball from 1984 through 1996. Newly married and starting a family, he wisely put coaching on hold, but he resumed in 2012 but only in terms of coaching the boys.


“As an elementary PE teacher, I was lucky enough to watch our two girls grow up,” he says. “My time spent with them was getting involved in coaching them in soccer, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, softball…….. and finally tennis. My 15-year hobby at that time was coaching my daughters.”


However, from 2012 through 2020, he certainly didn’t short-shrift the boys at Royal Oak High School. His extraordinary efforts to make Royal Oak respectable place him among the best in the state in terms of building a non-tennis community, city and school.


In the spring of each year, the Royal Oak Middle School has a Sign-Up-For-Sports day in which students mark the sport in which they are interested. Kevin will take those forms and make copies of those who chose tennis (a fall sport), baseball (a spring sport) and anyone else who did not pick a fall sport. Then he calls, texts, or e-mails these kids or their parents to encourage them to give tennis a try.


The result is an offer of free practice for an hour in the summer before the returning JV and varsity players arrive. That’s one hour for the newbies and 1.5 hours for the returning players. “Throughout the summer, I will have 8-10 of these sessions,” says Kevin


 “This is a brilliant strategy,” says Ed Waits who knows that the vast majority of high school players are made in the summer with its unending and inexpensive hours in the sunshine, not during the rest of the year.  “Many of these younger kids will remain after these sessions and watch the older kids,” says Ed. “Some will either conclude that they ‘want to be like them’ and others will decide that if they work hard, they can be even better.”


The result can be seen in the numbers. “Our JV team this year had 17 players, only one having not played tennis before ninth grade,” says Kevin. “This year, the varsity team had 16 players with only two players with previous tennis experience beyond my program. In other words, the Royal Oak tennis program is self-made.”


In addition, during the last four weeks of school, Kevin will take flyers to every grades 2-5 elementary school teacher advertising his summer camps. One year, he sent these flyers accompanied by one used tennis ball. This done in the hope that he would not only elicit interest in the youngsters but get their parents aware of the opportunity.


Five years ago, he had 21 kids attend the camp; this past summer, the number grew (with no flyers due to Covid) to 45.


Kevin also got the Middle School program growing three years ago but couldn’t get a coach to continue it once he took over the varsity position. In year 2012, he had 16 players play for Royal Oak. In year 2020, the number was 37 in his No-Cut program.


But given the area in which Kevin competes --- Troy, Troy Athens, etc --- you won’t find a Royal Oak team at the state finals, at least not yet. But make no mistake about it, his efforts have borne fruit. Kevin’s boys have enjoyed nine consecutive winning seasons, six of which contained 10 or more wins. This year, they finished second in the OK Blue Conference with a record of 4-1. As with so many teams in the fall of 2020, they couldn’t participate in the conference or regional tournaments because of Covid.

Using boys fundraising money, Kevin established a Boys Tennis Record Board to be displayed in the gym. The categories on the board are there so that everyone on the team has an opportunity to get their name on it. Any player or players who win their flight in the OAA League Tournament would get their names on the board as flight champions. “Now that’s incentive,” says Ed.


At the end of each season, he also updates stats of all the players in ranked order in terms of wins, losses, matches played, etc. “in the hope that next year’s players will be more determined to get better so that they can get their names on the list or move up on the list,” Kevin says.


“Many of the top tennis programs in the state just reload each season and compete for conference, regional, and state titles each year,” he adds. “Whereas in Royal Oak, my biggest job is to get players and families interested and motivated in tennis so that Royal Oak tennis teams can be the best of the non-tennis schools and to be respected by all schools.”


It’s a two-way street, of course. “His players area always respectful, both in victory and defeat,” says Andrew Schiff of Troy Athens. “Kevin does a great job working with them.”


Respect? The MHSTeCA board voted this extraordinary individual not only a State Coach of the Year Award in but also the Boys Tennis Coach of the Year regardless of Division. The host of this honor is the Michigan High School Coaches Association, our umbrella organization.

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BOYS (Fall)
Rahn Rosentreter, Chelsea - Division 3

It has been 16 years since Rahn Rosentreter was named MHSTeCA Boys Coach of the Year and given what has transpired, one could conclude that his second award is overdue. That’s because accomplishments certainly didn’t stop after he took home the plaque in 2004. In the ensuing years, his squads have captured 18 more league titles: two decades of triumph. Furthermore, the Bulldogs have qualified for state competition for 19 of those 20 and brought six regional trophies to the school’s trophy case.

Rahn says that in the fall of 2020, he fielded his most successful team ever. Their losses were only to Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Skyline, and St. Clair. His kids defeated two Top Ten teams: Portage Central and Battle Creek Lakeview.

Given the Chelsea’s proximity to Ann Arbor, his kids benefitted from the strenuous competition even at the expense of losses. Moreover, he also took his kids further afield to get competition and hosted a quad. His team got tournament tough throughout the season.


What may be even more impressive is that Rahn had so many good players this fall that he formed two varsity squads. These programs went to six tournaments --  all quads because of Covid --  and were victorious in all six. “That means that on any given Saturday, Chelsea had 24 varsity players playing tennis, having fun, and being successful,” he says. 


In that even Rahn can’t be in two places at once, he has received help from Brian Atkinson for the past five years. Chelsea is indeed blessed with competent assistants and supportive parents. In his last year coaching the girls, Matt Pedlow was 2018 Girls Coach of the Year. Tom Osbeck, his assistant (and current varsity girls coach), was given an award by the MHSTeCA the previous year. And now, the girls program enjoys the services of this two-time Coach of the Year in that he volunteered as JV/Middle School coach “to help with the transition.”


Although he was Chelsea’s basketball coach for many years, Rahn was actually a high school baseball player who started playing tennis competitively in the late ‘70s. The ins and outs of coaching basketball and tennis at Chelsea, then Pinckney, and then back to Chelsea where he taught U.S. History at Beach Middle School afforded him lots of contact with up-and-coming athletes.


“After 37 years, I figured it was time to allow a new voice to shape the young minds in Chelsea,” he says about his retirement from teaching three years ago.


“He is a steady presence in the local tennis scene,” says Eric Gajar of Greenhills who coaches in nearby Ann Arbor. “He runs countless tournaments and has hosted numerous regionals as well. Tournaments in Chelsea are always well run and teams really appreciate and notice what what he does. Rahn’s kids play hard and fair. They are always good sports. He is good natured and a role model for his players.”

And a very good representative of high school tennis coaches throughout the state.

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BOYS (Fall)
Cody Liverance, North Muskegon - Division 4

After Hall of Famer and former MHSTeCA president Joe Gentle retired from teaching and coaching at North Muskegon High School, the tennis program went into a decline. In fact, the school was even having difficulty assembling a full squad. That’s when Cody Liverance decided to give high school tennis coaching a try, a decision that altered the trajectory of his life.

“I did go to one of Joe’s summer camps,” he says, “but otherwise I would just play with some of my friends when we were looking for something to do.”


Cody’s more formal introduction to the game came in the summer between his sophomore and junior years in high school (2009) when he was recruited by a classmate and very good 1S player to come out “because he knew that I didn’t play a fall sport and because the tennis team was going to struggle with numbers that season.”


In turn, Cody talked his best friend into joining. They became doubles partners who hopped around between 2D and 3D in the fall of 2009 and had a .500 season. Moreover, a couple of their friends came to watch them play during that campaign, saw they were having some success even though they had not played much before, and decided to join the following year.


The result was a congenial group of friends who did remarkably well. Cody and his partner locked down the 2D position in the fall of 2010 and were so successful that they made it to the state championship match before succumbing to Ann Arbor Greenhills. That team, which enjoyed the festival atmosphere of a state tournament for the first time in years, finished 5th in the final tournament. “It was quite an impressive feat for someone who only played competitive tennis for 16 months,” he says about his high school years.


That must have planted a seed. Although he didn’t make the club team at Central Michigan, Cody got the North Muskegon gig because he was pretty much the only person to apply for the job (Joe must be groaning). He had finished student teaching at nearby Reeths Puffer and was substitute teaching by the end of the year. A quest for a teaching job at North Muskegon rather than long-term substitute jobs at other schools involved coaching.


It was a wise move in that important folks in the building could see first hand how well he performed. Cody added freshman boys basketball and girls varsity tennis in the spring. By 2017, he had a full time job teaching social studies at the middle and high schools.


Under his leadership, the team has certainly succeeded. This past fall, the Norsemen captured the conference championship. They also won the Grand Rapids South Christian quad and finished second in two others.


Weirdly enough, Cody says that the turning point of the season may have happened before competition began. Some very good athletes chose to play tennis because of the “toss and turn” of a wavering football season in August. And “a lot of the boys who were coming back had taken a keen interest in tennis and played as much as the weather allowed them to,” he says. “All I had to do was try to plug the guys into the right spots which I feel was quite easy to do. The rest took care of itself.”


Maybe he is right about this relaxed assessment. His 1S and 3S were nephews of Whitehall’s 2018 Coach of the Year Greg McManus who undoubtedly worked with them before they came to play at North Muskegon. “We ended up playing them five times this season so it was a cool dynamic to have Greg watch his nephews while having to coach against them.”

The relationship between Cody and Greg was such that Greg would actually offer assessments with regard to his nephews strengths and weaknesses. “In a sense, we almost co-coached them,” says Cody. “It’s not too often you see something like that with maybe your biggest team rival.”


“Cody’s strength in motivating and coaching my nephews is his positivity and energy he brings to them,” says Greg.  He is a bit of a goof ball which he uses to his advantage to keep the kids loose and it works great.  As nervous as I am when we play my nephews I think my nephews are a little tight and nervous when they play Whitehall since they want to impress me and my team and would like nothing else but to beat us.”


 “My nephews Brennen and Troy are very respectful and humble no matter if they win or lose which I can attribute some of that to Cody,” adds Greg.  “We have a lot of respect for one another.  I think the mix of seriousness that I bring to the kids and Cody’s relaxed coaching style has been beneficial to the players.”



“I always look forward to our matches with Cody,” says Grant’s Scott Zerlaut. “I know that his players will be exceptionally well behaved. He places a high priority on sportsmanship and offers himself as an example. He is quick to praise the other team’s players on a great shot or victory. He is a fantastic coach.”.

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