MHSTeCA COACH OF THE YEAR - 2017
(click on coach's name to read more about them)

GIRLS (Spring)
BOYS (Fall)
DIVISION - COACH
DIVISION - COACH
1 - Mike Pearson, Utica Eisenhower 1 - AnnMarie Michol, Utica

2 - Dree Lo, Petoskey

2 - Terry Schwartzkopf, H.H. Dow
2 - Will Sophiea, Holly
3 - Dave Clutts, St. Clair

3 - Zed Mulder, Zeeland East

4 - Nicole Carpenter, Durand 4 - Matt Baleja, Paw Paw



GIRLS (Spring)
Mike Pearson, Utica Eisenhower - Division 1

In the early 1970s, Mike Barnes began a tennis program at Sterling Heights Stevenson at the club level. A football, wrestling, and track athlete at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, he started playing tennis when his wife got him on the courts. He continued the activity with three fellow teachers during his first few years at the school, but then in 1974, a group of students talked him into sponsoring a tennis club. He started teaching a group of 10 to 15 students “with help of some books and anyone I could find to give me some pointers.”

In 1977, the club members petitioned the Utica Community Schools to initiate a varsity tennis program. The district added varsity tennis to the athletic program in 1977-78. In 1981, he took over the girls program after their second season.

That was almost four decades ago. What is amazing is that he is still at it despite retiring from teaching in 2007 where he taught Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and A.P. Chemistry. “I think I have hung in for so long because it is in my DNA,” he says. “My brother coached for American Legion for many years. My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all involved in working with youth, either as teachers or through Boy Scout programs.

What’s more, Mike has done this for so many years with essentially the same facilities. “We still have just six courts,” he says. “Our campus is limited space-wise and the staff like having a place to park so we’re stuck with it.”

That doesn’t keep him from hosting a quad every year and the league tournament when his school’s turn comes around. Over the years, he has managed many events and more often than not, handing the trophy over to another coach. His team rarely makes an appearance at the final tournament: Grosse Pte. South, Troy Athens, and Troy High School usually stand in the way.

But even after so long, there are plenty of pleasures and compensations and satisfactions. “I truly enjoy meeting former players on the courts,” he says. “Last summer playing USTA, 7 of 8 players on the opposing team were former players of mine at Stevenson. The 8th had played against us.”

“When I first started coaching [at Sterling Hgts Henry Ford], he was a huge help,” says Steve Nellis who played for Mike in 2002 and 2003.  “I would always go to him with questions and he was always willing to stop and help me out. He knows so much about the game, strategy, and tactics. We coach at schools in the same district and within close proximity of each other so that adds to the rivalry a little bit. In the summer, we schedule our summer camps around each other so that we can get players from both schools attending each camp.”

Mike admits that there are probably more years behind him than there are ahead of him. But “Introducing young men and women to the sport and watching them mature into better players and responsible people keeps bringing me back,” he says.

Almost four decades and counting for a coach who could have taken his Hall of Fame induction (Class of 2011) and retired in blissful satisfaction. Instead, tennis players in his area and Michigan high school tennis in general are better for his dedication.

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GIRLS (Spring)
Dree Lo, Petoskey - Division 2

"Jim D’Angelo challenges his players like no other with a very tough schedule,” says Haslett’s Henry Brunnsweiler.  “He travels all over to play a ton of matches against quality competition.”

You need only to look at last spring’s schedule to verify this. Jim’s teams competed in four tournaments before the league and regional events. They played against such storied squads as Portage Central, Forest Hills Northern, Portage Northern, Petoskey, East Grand Rapids, and Holly. Jim hosted two of these events.

Unfortunately for his state tournament prospects, he doesn’t have to go far to encounter even more tough challenges. When Mason’s school enrollment puts the team in Division 2, he has to compete against Okemos and East Lansing. “In Division 3, honestly we would go [to the final tournament] every year along with Haslett,” he says. Case in point: at the CCAC Red League tournament, Mason finished second to Haslett, 39 to 36. And sure enough, in the regional, the Lady Bulldogs finished 3rd with 15 points.

Mason’s strength was on top: his girls were runners-up at 1S, 2S, 1D, and 2D. This is especially impressive in that Jim’s squad was comprised of nine first-time varsity players. They lose only two (read: next year looks good).

Although victory against Okemos seems to be annually out of reach, Jim has had some success against East Lansing. Over the past nine years, the squad has been to the state tournament five times in Division 2 by either beating East Lansing or being one of three schools compiling more than 18 points under the Murphy Rule. They qualified twice when in Division 3 but the school enrollment these days seems to be “high enough that I don’t see us dropping back to D3,” he says.

Jim has been at Mason High School a total of 11 years, the first two as an assistant under Doug Dancer. In those nine years as head coach, the team has captured seven conference championships. This year, the daughter of his own assistant, Peter Hanover, lost in the D2 1S final in three sets. Jim’s own daughter went to the semifinals at 1S back in 2005 when the Lady Bulldogs not only won the regional but finished 5th in the state that year.

What’s more, they have a coach who himself can play. Jim competed at 1S for Birmingham (now Beverly Hills) Groves back in the early ‘70s where he qualified for the state tournament all three years (they were three-year high schools back then).  His best finish was the quarterfinals. He went on to try out for the MSU team but was the last man cut. Instead, he lettered in soccer. Clearly, he was very good at both sports.

He still plays several Midwest and National adult USTA tournaments each summer, both singles  and doubles. He also is employed part time as a USPTA Elite Level certified teaching pro at Court One where he works from September to the start of the girls season. His day job: he has owned a landscaping company in the Lansing area since 1981.

"Jim and our teams usually meet up at least twice each season,” says East Lansing’s Cosette Buckberry who grew up playing with Jim’s daughter and has been Jim’s doubles partner in a mixed doubles league. “I can’t thank him enough for always inviting us to his scrimmage and invitational.  He does an excellent job running the tournaments he hosts.  In addition, he has built an exceptional program at Mason High School over the years and there is no doubt that they are very lucky to have him as a coach.  The incredible enthusiasm that he shares as he mentors, teaches, and coaches his players each time he steps on the court is one of the main reasons why he is very deserving of this special honor.”

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GIRLS (Spring)
Will Sophiea, Holly - Division 2

"Jim D’Angelo challenges his players like no other with a very tough schedule,” says Haslett’s Henry Brunnsweiler.  “He travels all over to play a ton of matches against quality competition.”

You need only to look at last spring’s schedule to verify this. Jim’s teams competed in four tournaments before the league and regional events. They played against such storied squads as Portage Central, Forest Hills Northern, Portage Northern, Petoskey, East Grand Rapids, and Holly. Jim hosted two of these events.

Unfortunately for his state tournament prospects, he doesn’t have to go far to encounter even more tough challenges. When Mason’s school enrollment puts the team in Division 2, he has to compete against Okemos and East Lansing. “In Division 3, honestly we would go [to the final tournament] every year along with Haslett,” he says. Case in point: at the CCAC Red League tournament, Mason finished second to Haslett, 39 to 36. And sure enough, in the regional, the Lady Bulldogs finished 3rd with 15 points.

Mason’s strength was on top: his girls were runners-up at 1S, 2S, 1D, and 2D. This is especially impressive in that Jim’s squad was comprised of nine first-time varsity players. They lose only two (read: next year looks good).

Although victory against Okemos seems to be annually out of reach, Jim has had some success against East Lansing. Over the past nine years, the squad has been to the state tournament five times in Division 2 by either beating East Lansing or being one of three schools compiling more than 18 points under the Murphy Rule. They qualified twice when in Division 3 but the school enrollment these days seems to be “high enough that I don’t see us dropping back to D3,” he says.

Jim has been at Mason High School a total of 11 years, the first two as an assistant under Doug Dancer. In those nine years as head coach, the team has captured seven conference championships. This year, the daughter of his own assistant, Peter Hanover, lost in the D2 1S final in three sets. Jim’s own daughter went to the semifinals at 1S back in 2005 when the Lady Bulldogs not only won the regional but finished 5th in the state that year.

What’s more, they have a coach who himself can play. Jim competed at 1S for Birmingham (now Beverly Hills) Groves back in the early ‘70s where he qualified for the state tournament all three years (they were three-year high schools back then).  His best finish was the quarterfinals. He went on to try out for the MSU team but was the last man cut. Instead, he lettered in soccer. Clearly, he was very good at both sports.

He still plays several Midwest and National adult USTA tournaments each summer, both singles  and doubles. He also is employed part time as a USPTA Elite Level certified teaching pro at Court One where he works from September to the start of the girls season. His day job: he has owned a landscaping company in the Lansing area since 1981.

"Jim and our teams usually meet up at least twice each season,” says East Lansing’s Cosette Buckberry who grew up playing with Jim’s daughter and has been Jim’s doubles partner in a mixed doubles league. “I can’t thank him enough for always inviting us to his scrimmage and invitational.  He does an excellent job running the tournaments he hosts.  In addition, he has built an exceptional program at Mason High School over the years and there is no doubt that they are very lucky to have him as a coach.  The incredible enthusiasm that he shares as he mentors, teaches, and coaches his players each time he steps on the court is one of the main reasons why he is very deserving of this special honor.”

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GIRLS (Spring)
Dave Clutts, St. Clair - Division 3

 When Tom Kudwa was inducted into the MHSTeCA Hall of Fame in 2005, his biography chronicled a rags to riches odyssey. In 1977, he started his tennis coaching career in Shepherd with a five gallon pail of balls on one court with a shotput/discus circle painted on one baseline (they had to share the “facility” with the track team). That was then.

By 2005, he was the winningest girls tennis coach in both Shepherd and Ludington High School history. His Hall of Fame article ended with the words: “Imagine starting your tennis coaching career on one court with a single five-gallon bucket of balls. Imagine ending it in the Hall of Fame.”

Wrong.

Tom didn’t end anything at that time. “H of F was never my goal nor a factor in retiring,” he says. “I was still building a program and still had work to do. The past dozen years have been some of the best teams of my career. In fact, 2014 and 2015 were the two best seasons ever. We had our first state champions and our first top five finishes (5th and 3rd). Tying Traverse City St. Francis (#2 in the state) for a regional title in 2015 and almost beating them was awesome since my girls know most of them and know how many play at the clubs in TC year round while we have no clubs.”

Maybe not, but Ludington is now home to the Schoenherr Tennis Center, a beautiful complex with a huge team room, a kitchen, two bathroom, an inseason storage room, and a room for the school’s PE program. The focal point is the stadium court with four levels of concrete seating on each side. There is also stadium seating for the two pods of two courts on each side of the stadium court. There are five additional courts.

Moreover, this facility wasn’t merely handed to Tom. “I began the fund raising in 2006,” he says. It took 1.5 years to obtain $750,000, mostly through face to face conversations. Over $50,000 of work and materials were also donated.

Tom worked with an architect on a design that had to be changed a couple of times. He became the general contractor in charge of procuring over 40 companies (asphalt, glass, electrical, court lighting, fencing, court surfacing, excavating, painting, etc). “The Ludington schools superintendent entrusted me with the entire budget and every decision along the way,” he says. “I was responsible for every decision: color of cement blocks, type of roofing, size of fencing, height of each seat …………” He did all this and more while teaching AP Calculus and Physics.

Tom’s kids have proven to be deserving of such a facility. In the past decade, his teams have captured five regional championships, five conference titles, and made it to the final tournament nine times. This past season - his 40th and last - his squad which included 7 freshmen and sophomores - still won the regional title and gained valuable experience at the state meet.  They also won the Allegan tournament, something Tom’s teams had not been able to do in 20 years.

Although Tom retired from teaching HS (AP Calculus & Physics) in 2011, he is  currently teaching online algebra classes at West Shore Community College.  He retired from coaching tennis after this past season and also gave up boys JV.  He still ran the summer tennis academy in Ludington this past summer -- the one that he started in 1999 -- for kids entering kindergarten through 12 and adults.  
 

This is a man who coached 40 years: basketball for 13 seasons and tennis for 33 varsity seasons (4 seasons of boys at Shepherd High School and 29 seasons of girls at Ludington High School. Although he deserves a rest, he reports being busier than ever. But in the midst of retirement (whatever that means), he can reflect on quite a legacy: Coach of the Year, Hall of Fame, and a wonderful tennis center.

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GIRLS (Spring)
Nicole Carpenter - Durand - Division 4

Does the influence of a coach make a difference? Consider the career of Cathy Hassett.

When she took over the boys team at Harper Woods Notre Dame in 1997, the squad had never qualified for state competition. After working with them for three years (“good athletes but not tennis players”), they qualified. She continued coaching them until 2005 when the school closed.

She was then hired to coach the girls at Regina High School. Again, the goal was to build the team to the point where they would compete at the final tournament. It happened -- once again --  three years later. They were ranked 6th in the state in Division 3 that year. Daughter Siena, who played on that team, surely helped.

In the meantime, Cathy had been hired to teach chemistry at Royal Oak Shrine. Given that the school is located on Detroit’s west side, she decided to leave Regina to help Hall of Famer Barb Myler with both the boys and girls teams. “What I brought to the table at Shrine was more intense practices, strategy, confidence boosting, and team building,” she says. The result: the 2008 boys squad, which included son John, qualified for state competition, once again in three years.

This past season, the Shrine girls placed fourth in the regional behind Sacred Heart, Flint Powers, and University Liggett, some of the best competition at the regional level. Recent Shrine girls teams have been Division II sectional champions three years in a row and league champions two years in a row.

What is all the more remarkable is that Cathy has done this in all three venues under less than advantageous resources.  “In some ways, the only real challenge I’ve had over the past 19 years is finding tennis courts to practice and having home matches,” she says. “The schools that employed me as their coach did not have tennis courts on campus, so each year finding courts to practice was a task. We’ve always practiced at public courts and the maximum amount of courts has been four. This year we only had three. You have to employ a lot of creativity under these conditions when organizing and implementing practices.”

Growing up in New Orleans, she got her start in tennis when someone gave her an old racket and she proceeded to hit thousands of balls against a wall and practicing her serve for so many hours “that people would ask me to play.” “It led me to local USTA tournaments,” she says. “I haven’t stopped since.”

Although it is a truism that the best players don’t necessarily make the best coaches, it doesn’t hurt if the coach presents a good example. Most certainly, Cathy can play. In 2009-2010, she was ranked No. 1 in the Midwest for 55 singles and had a national ranking of 52 for age 50 singles. Currently at age 63, she is playing on a 4.0 team.

She is also retired, at least from teaching and coaching. That is, if you call “retirement” working 14-hour shifts as a medical technologist at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe (She received a degree in the field from Loyola University while at the same time practicing with Tulane tennis players). But perhaps she can pause long enough to reflect on the monumental improvements she has made at three different high schools and enjoy a well-earned Coach of the Year award.

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BOYS (Fall)
AnnMarie Michol, Utica - Division 1

By far, AnnMarie Michol’s greatest tennis influence has come from her brother, teaching pro Mark Sobieralski who is Grosse Pointe South’s girls coach, University Liggett’s boys coach, a Hall of Famer, and a National Coach of the Year. Mark was the one who put a racquet in her hand when she was five years old and because the young sister looked up to him (both literally and figuratively), she was hooked.

Annie went on to stardom at Warren Fitzgerald under coach Wayne Gilbert, playing 4S her freshman year and then 1S the next three. She lost only 10 matches in her four years of high school competition and was undefeated in the conference during that time span. She qualified for the state tournament all four years, and then continued playing after high school: 1S and 1D at Macomb Community College and Wayne State.

She must have been impressive. After all, Annie was hired as tennis coach at an all-boys school, and in the process became the only female coach at the school. Being an English teacher at DeLaSalle made the job of recruiting players a bit easier but it still took considerable effort to field a team in the early years. However, in 2003 over 50 players tried out for the program and tennis being a lifetime sport, she didn’t cut anyone.That year, the squad finished fourth in the league behind perennial powers U of D, Redford Catholic Central, and Brother Rice, were third in the regional (two points from qualifying), and recorded the 100th dual meet victory for their coach on the way to a 7-4-1 record. She was named State Coach of the Year.

But she didn’t stay there, at least not to coach. “When the tennis seasons changed, I retired from coaching tennis at De La Salle because my daughters were starting to get involved in sports -- and also my husband is a swim coach and we could not have two coaches coaching at the same time, she says. “A few years later Regina High School (in Warren) called and was in desperate need of a coach. I decided to help, thinking it would only be for a year and ended coaching there for three. But I could not build a program there because they did not have their own courts so I quit after three years. I thought I would never return to coaching.”

Guess again. After all, Annie had been inducted into the Macomb County Hall of Fame in 2013. Folks in the area would not let that much talent sit on the sidelines for long. “The Utica athletic director contacted me in 2016 and I took over the boys and girls coaching positions there...so coming up this year will be my 24th year as a head coach.” This stint includes two years as Mark’s assistant coach at South.

All that experience has stood her in good stead. Indeed, it didn’t take long for Annie to produce a winner at Utica. This past fall, her boys beat Eisenhower for the first time in school history and won the MAC White League and Division tournaments. They finished at 9-2 and won two tournaments. The Chieftains were named team of the year in Macomb County and were declared All Academic by the MHSTeCA.

And it will get better. “For the past 20 years I have coached some programs that did not have tennis courts on their property,” she says. “Now I will be able to start hosting my own tournaments and promoting tennis in the school and community. This past summer, I ran my first community tennis camp in order to try to build tennis awareness.”

Lucky kids. After all, their leader is a two-time State Coach of the Year.

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BOYS (Fall)
Terry Schwartzkopf, H.H. Dow - Division 2

“Every season on the eve of the state tournament, I hand my seniors personal and individually handcrafted letters of gratitude and encouragement,” says Terry Schwartzkopf. “This tradition has become a highlight of each season and a chance to explain to each player why they matter beyond the world of
tennis and the impact they leave behind. As I tell my boys, I am proud that they are victorious but I am continually amazed and beam with pride when I see how they handle themselves and how they are turning into young men.

He must be quite a writer. Over Terry’s 11-year tenure at Dow, the team has finished in the top five of the state the past 9 years including one fourth place, two 3rd places, and six (this is not a misprint) state championships. Three of these years were undefeated seasons.
Terry’s win-loss record is nothing short of astonishing, regardless of divisions.  His teams are 65-10-9 (Win/Tie percentage of 88.1%) against D1 teams. Against D2 squads: 113-5-2 (Win/Tie percentage of 95.9%). Against D3: 10-3-2 (Win/Tie percentage of 80%).

But to be clear, Terry’s emphasis in writing the aforementioned letters is not on winning. “Yes, I would like to bring attention to the number of records held by Dow players within the last eleven years,” he says. “However, this program works to give back. We spent multiple years volunteering time and money in order to provide free clinics to underprivileged areas in the tri-cities. We have spent countless hours on beautification projects within Midland. The records, trophies, and competition are a wonderful part of the game of tennis but the real victories come in watching these young men turn into productive men willing to serve.”

Productive aptly describes the 11 years Terry has been varsity coach at Dow. In this time span, the Chargers have captured a conference championship each year, brought home nine regional trophies, and qualified for final tournament competition 10 times. The conference record is 54-1, the sole loss being against cross-town rival Midland, a defeat “that drives me to this day.”

Before coming to Dow as a mathematics teacher, Terry worked under Tom Marquis and Hall of Famer Bill Baum at Midland High School. He then took over the JV program at Dow for seven years under Mike Major. He came to these positions well prepared, having played for Hall of Famer Jack Davis and veteran coach Al Werbish at St. Johns. “I was MVP my senior year and was the first player from St. Johns to ever beat a player from East Lansing …. or so I was told,” he says.

Terry describes this past season as “one of over achievement. We lost a ton of talent and leadership this past season,” he says. “However, these boys were determined from day one to prove themselves. I think that was evidenced in our outcome. This is the first year since 2008 that we have not had an individual flight champion yet we pulled off second place.”

That’s impressive but not entirely surprising. After all, there was a time when the best tennis came from the Kalamazoo area, both because of the strength of University High School and Loy Norrix but also because the community was so identified with Stowe Stadium. Since the advent of the flight state championships, Midland has in many ways assumed the mantle. There is not only the tennis center but also the home of Hall of Famers Joe Haskins and Bill Baum. Terry and his assistant coach Garrett Turner (Girls Coach of the Year in 2009) are continuing the good work.

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BOYS (Fall)
Zed Mulder, Zeeland East - Division 3

Growing up in Holland, Jed Mulder played tennis, baseball, basketball, and golf but with baseball and tennis being spring sports in those days, baseball – his first love – won out. He was talented enough to play baseball and golf at Calvin College which became an additional foundation for him to coach a sport.

But why tennis? “I got involved with Zeeland when the school split into East and West high schools,” he says. “My daughter was an incoming freshman at East and as a parent, I went to every match. I love the game [and]moreover I wanted to return to coaching and try to make a difference with kids and our community.”

He did … and still does. Jed is Executive Director of The Bridge Youth Center where he oversees eight different programs that serve over 200 kids each week. He added boys varsity coach at Zeeland East to his daily schedule where he not only directed his kids on the court but often enough off it as well. “Our players are involved with teaching tennis to special needs students on a monthly basis through the winter months,” he says. “I also ask them to run tennis clinics both in the summer and winter months. I feel that it is important to give back and inspire young players. It is also a great learning platform for those players who are thinking of becoming a teacher/coach someday. I am consistently on the lookout for players who are simply great positive role models. They serve as homework mentors, basketball coaches, board game players, or simply someone older and ‘cooler’ for at risk middle schoolers to hang out with.”

They can also play good tennis for their coach and school. Zeeland East had qualified for the state tournament three consecutive years before losing nine players to graduation in 2016. But the 2017 squad stepped up to reassert themselves. The team won 10 matches while splitting with Spring Lake, Coopersville, Williamston, and Allegan. The Chix tied with Allegan for their first ever regional title and then went on to a seventh place tie at the final tournament.

“Our doubles held their own against early competition and progressed into very formidable competition by mid-year,” he says. “By the end of the year, they could compete with any team in D3. Competitive play breeds confidence. Confidence breeds a desire to be better and seek even more positive results. This year we took our lumps from some very good teams but were able to learn and get better as our confidence grew.”

This wasn’t the first time. Jed has coached the team for ten years. In that time span, he has guided his boys to one OK Green Conference  and four OK Black Championships. They have made it to the D3 state finals three times and the D2 finals three times.

This is no small feat. “Zeeland East is in the unfortunate position of being right on the line between D3 and D2 for tennis,” says Jed. “If we find ourselves in D2, we travel to Portage to take on some of the healthiest competition in the state. If our numbers put us in D3, we must get past schools like Holland Christian, Allegan, and Hamilton.”

“His teams are scrappy and competitive,” says Allegan’s Gary Ellis. “He had nine players graduate off last year’s team but still qualified for state this year after tying us for the regional championship. Moreover, he does more than help kids become better players. He helps them become better people. He uses the sport as a teaching tool.”

“His doubles teams are always strong – a sign of good coaching,” says Portage Central’s Peter Militzer. “And depth never seems to be an issue for Zeeland East. I want to know Jed’s secret. In the Fall 2017, he had 4 new singles players so the thought going in was that their team would be substantially weaker. After all, not one of the four new singles players was one of the freshman sensations that coaches drool over. Yet his team had a great season and qualified for the State Tournament.”

“We play him only once a year, yet I am continually astounded at his knowledge of my players,” continues Peter. “When I see him at the Quad, he not only will ask about our top player or players, he’ll also ask if I have specific players back throughout our lineup. And then he will tell me about their attributes, such as that doubles player with the good kick serve, or that lower singles player who had a great backhand. And he usually knows them by name!”

There are some tennis coaches (thankfully not many) who are jerks but they know the game. This is not only a good guy who knows the game but who sees the bigger picture. What’s more, he practices it.

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BOYS (Fall)
Matt Baleja, Paw Paw - Division 4

When Matt Baleja was five or six years old, he used to spend an inordinate amount of time riding his Big Wheel around the tennis courts of Ithaca High School. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing in that by the time he entered the ninth grade, his interest in baseball had waned; therefore he went out for the tennis team. He played JV the first year and varsity the next three. Even though Ithaca is not necessarily a tennis school, he had good seasons at 1D and 1S his junior and senior years respectively.

Matt’s appetite for tennis didn’t diminish. He was the JV coach at Ashley High School one year and varsity coach the next before being hired to teach 8th grade Earth Science and American History at Paw Paw. At the same time, he was hired to coach the Three Rivers team, home of some outstanding players named Kiewiet and a Hall of Fame coach named Hal Stofer. He stayed there for a couple of years before the Paw Paw job opened up. Again, he started as a JV coach – this time under the son of Sturgis Hall of Famer Harley Pierce – before taking over the boys team.

Under his direction, the team has done well. This year, the squad finished ahead of Berrien Springs to capture the regional for the second time in three years. “We had a good start to the day, took the early lead, and held on to it throughout the tournament,” he explains. “Our doubles teams had a slower start than usual this year but we (including Warner Offord III, the assistant coach) were able to work with them a bit.”

Matt is particularly proud of his 1D who beat NorthPointe Christian, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, and Lansing Catholic at the NorthPointe Invitational. In other words, his kids can play. “I was very proud of our boys and the work they put in as the majority of the team begins playing tennis as 8th and 9th graders with our middle school and summer programs,” he says.

It wasn’t easy. Matt and his team lost the use of four of his courts this past season due to a lack of maintenance. That meant he had to cancel all of his home tournaments and his home dual meets had to be played at two locations. Moreover, he lost between 35-45 minutes per day of practice time as he and Warner had to rotate 30 varsity and JV players amidst two facilities.

It hurt even more that Matt wasn’t merely starting to build a fledgling program. That occurred back in 2010 when he took over with 9 boys. But since then, his kids have qualified for the state finals six times in the past seven years. In other words, he has been used to success without the handicaps. This is harder to do but he and his kids prevailed.

“We have always known that when we played Paw Paw, we had to be ready for a battle,” says Allegan’s Gary Ellis whose team competes in the same conference. “He is not afraid to take on some of the best teams around. Furthermore, he is the Boys Tennis Chair of the Wolverine Conference and does a good job coordinating and running meetings. When he hosts a tournament, you know that it will be well-run.”

And yes, the question has to be asked: Have you ever met Charlie Maxwell? Dubbed Old Paw Paw by then-Detroit Tigers announcer Van Patrick because of the name of his home town, Maxwell finished four times among the league leaders in home runs between 1956 and 1960. “I have met him multiple times,” says Matt. “He is the grandfather of a few of my former tennis players. His granddaughter still plays on the girls side (senior this year) and his grandson played a few years ago. He will generally be out at most home matches to watch them play.”

Moreover, Matt is well-liked. “The respect he shows to all is how all coaches should aspire to be,” says Brandywine’s David Sidenbender. He has always been a fair and compassionate competitor. He runs a quality program and does things the right way.”

Matt is a valued member of the MHSTeCA board of directors, one who is willing to pitch in, whether to take minutes in Gary Ellis’s absence or conduct Regional Coach of the Year balloting. “His proposals are well thought-out and he has the information to back them,” says Gary.

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