State finals: Novi has sights on D1 tennis crown
Tim Wang and Novi are primed to dethrone three-time defending state champion Ann Arbor Huron in the Division 1 tennis finals this weekend in Midland.
Huron won the title last year by a single point over Novi (30-29).
Huron coach Stefan Welch knows his team is in the underdog role this season with No. 1 Novi coming in as the team to beat.
“We’re quite a bit younger this year, losing eight players from last year’s team so we had a lot of new kids stepping in and they’ve done relatively well,” Welch said. “I think we’re ranked No. 4 right now going into the state tournament where anything can happen.
“There are some tough teams out there with a lot of experience, but hopefully our kids will step up and perform that (state tournament) weekend. You have to look at Novi’s lineup, returning their entire singles lineup and actually moving a player into the doubles lineup because they have a new freshman, so they’re really tough at the top few spots.”
Leading the way for Novi is Wang, a nationally-ranked player on the junior scene who will play next year at Columbia. He is the defending state champion at No. 1 singles, earning a 6-1, 6-3 win over Connor Johnston of Northville.
The two have already battled three times this season with Johnston taking two of three, including a 6-2, 6-4 win the regional final last weekend. The two could meet again in the championship match.
Johnston, who won the No. 2 singles title his freshman year, was 32-3 last season with all three setbacks coming against Wang. He is 24-1 this season.
Novi won its regional by a 30-24 margin over Northville with junior Koushik Kondapi (No. 2), freshman Alex Wen (No. 3) and senior Andre Liu (No. 4) all winning singles titles.
Kondapi won the No. 3 singles title at the state tourney last year and Maxx Anderson won at No. 4 singles. Liu competed at No. 2 singles.
Anderson, a junior, is now playing at No. 1 doubles with sophomore Daniel Yu, teaming up to win the regional title.
Ann Arbor Huron won its regional by a 27-26 margin over Ann Arbor Pioneer. Pioneer's Ian Yi won at No. 1 singles. Yi won the state title at No. 2 singles last year.
State tennis finals
Where: Division 1 — Midland Tennis Center. Division 2 — Kalamazoo College. Division 3 — Holly/Fenton. Division 4 — Holland
Defending champions: Division 1 — Ann Arbor Huron. Division 2 — Midland Dow. Division 3 — Detroit Country Day. Division 4 — Ann Arbor Greenhills