BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — After winning a state championship in 2002 and finishing as the state runner-up in 2003, Bloomfield Hills Lahser fell slightly from the perch of boys tennis state powers.
Unable to even win a league title for eight seasons, the Knights have started to turn the corner this season. The league championship drought finally came to an end Tuesday at the Rochester Community Schools.
Lahser, 6-0 in dual matches in the OAA White Division, put the finishing touches on its first league title since the spring 2003 season, scoring 52 points to topple the seven-school field. Troy Athens, which finished 5-1 in duals, finished second at the league tournament with 48 points.
Rochester and Clarkston tied for third at the league meet with 45 points, while Lake Orion (29), Auburn hills Avondale (17) and Farmington (16) rounded out the team scores.
“It’s been a while for us,” said Lahser coach Greg Burks. “Lahser was loaded in the early 2000s. They won that state title in 2002 and probably should have won in 2003 but came up short. When I took over the following year for Jan (Esper), we hardly returned any players. We have been good since then, but not a state title or a league title contender. We’ve bounced around the league ever since and last year they dropped us down to (the OAA-White).
“It’s nice to win a league title because it’s been eight years,” continued Burks. “We have a good of seniors on this team that finished second last season. Now, we’re hoping we can carry this over to the regional next week. We’re in a tough regional again at North Farmington.”
Lahser had four champions with a runner-up, two third-place finishes and two fourth-place finishers spread among the nine flights, which was enough to propel them past a tight field where only seven points separated the top four teams.
Athens needed to win the tournament to grab a title share with Lahser, but came up four agonizingly points short. The Red Hawks had one champion and three runner-up showings on the day.
“We were right there. We gave (Lahser) a run,” said Athens coach Andrew Shipp.
Athens still had a consolation, as sophomore Richard Zhang proved to be the league’s top player this season. Going undefeated in duals within the league, Zhang defeated Max Hemmrich of Lahser, 6-3, 6-2, in the finals of No. 1 singles.
“Last year I didn’t do so well in the league. I don’t even know if I won a match in the league,” admitted Zhang, who played No. 1 singles in the OAA Red Division last year as a freshman. “This year I’ve matured so much. My game is way better than it was last season. I play with a lot of confidence this year. Last year if I got down, I couldn’t come back. I didn’t have much confidence.”
Lahser’s lone singles win came at No. 4 singles, where Rohan Sinha downed Clarkston’s Brendan Greenlee in a three-set final, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. The unranked Knights also won three of the five doubles flights.
Lahser’s No.1 duo of David Gwizdala and Michael Daniels defeated Lake Orion’s Eric Kaczor and Ryan Kaczor, 6-0, 7-6 (5). The Knights’ No. 2 tandem of A.J. Smith-Matt Meehan swept Rochester’s Ani Mayasandra and Matt Beckstrom, 6-3, 6-4. The final victory came from the No. 5 doubles duo of Luke Ross and Daniel Peters, who staved off Rochester’s Sathya Narasayan and Ryan Wu, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
“I think having that many in the finals (five) really helped us,” offered Burks. “I thought it might be close with us and Athens.”
Both Rochester and Clarkston had league champions in the doubles flights.
Rochester’s Neil Herberer and Wilson Wong teamed up to down Athens’ Andrew Yan and Phil Ma in the finals of No. 4 doubles, 6-1, 6-3. In the No. 3 doubles finale, Clarkston’s Zach Finn and Alex Richard toppled Rochester’s Torre Rocco and Nick Ang, 6-4, 6-2.
Clarkston and Rochester also had a league champ apiece in the singles flights as well. Clarkston’s J.P. Budzinski upended Athens’ Eric Flewelling, 6-4, 6-3, in the finals at No. 2 singles, while Rochester’s Collin Pendzich rolled to a 7-5, 6-3 triumph over Jason Petter of Athens in the No. 3 singles finals.
Rochester finished third in the overall standings, which couples the dual meet portion of the schedule with the league tournament. The Falcons finished with 9.5 points, just ahead of Clarkston’s 8.5 points. Lake Orion (6), Avondale (4 and Farmington (2) rounded out the final division standings.
To submit information to www.northoaklandsports.com, e-mail email@example.com. To advertise, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow us on Twitter @LocalSportsFans and more than a dozen other social media networks.