When you live on the island and you play tennis, you have an expectation to uphold. That expectation is to put in the work, play your hardest, and win some league championships along the way. And the Red Devils are pretty good at that league championship thing.
This fall, the Grosse Ile boys tennis team won the league title for the 33rd straight year with a flawless 4-0 Huron League record.
“Tennis is kind of a little bit of a legacy here,” longtime Coach John Shade said. “People want to be a part of that program and continue it. That’s kind of gone on and that’s what I’m very proud of, that people want to join.”
This year, the boys used a perfect mix of veteran and young athletes to work their way to an undefeated league record, a fourth-place finish at their own invitational in September and a fourth-place finish at the regional meet, narrowly missing the state meet as a team.
The highlight of the season included beating four teams that the Red Devils lost to a year ago in Gibraltar Carlson, Wood-haven, Divine Child and Wyandotte Roosevelt.
“They found a way to turn around the four matches we had lost last year,” Shade said. “I just think they learned a little bit from last year to this year. They learned more and progressed and that was enough to get us over the edge.”
In the tough regional, the Red Devils had to face a tough West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy. In order to advance, Grosse Ile had to tie or win five, three-set matches and they only lost three.
“It certainly shows that we put out an awfully good effort,” Shade said. “The end goal is always to try to get to the state meet. We’ve got a difficult regional and the way the numbers work out, we’ve been really close the last few years, it just didn’t come out our way.”
Despite missing the state meet, the Red Devils had plenty of other parts of the season to be happy about. At No. 1 singles, senior captain David Ameriguian won 13 matches and finished All Huron League First Team. No. 2 singles saw junior Ryan Cuddy win 17 of his own matches and also finish All Huron League First Team. At No. 3 singles, Jonathan Sheets won nine matches and Lucas Kopp won 10 at No. 4 singles.
Seniors Noah Ng and Tom Rodgers won 11 matches at No. 1 doubles and juniors Jack Wendell and Tom Shumate won the most doubles matches of any pair with 14 at No. 2 doubles.
Alex Melhorn and Lorenzo Deldago won 11 matches at No. 3 doubles and Andrew Johnson and Michael Carney won 11 at No. 4 doubles. As a team, the Red Devils won the All State Academic Award with a minimum combined GPA of 3.25.
“Everybody worked hard through the offseason and worked hard through the regular season,” Shade said. “We really competed in a lot of matches.”
Shade is excited with the return of his younger players and the continuation of a strong tennis program on the island.
“A lot of teams are having trouble fielding a full varsity (and) we’ve been able to continue to have a full varsity and a full JV,” he said. “(This year’s players) will all move up because our number ones are graduated. We’re going to continue to improve and we’ll be pretty good again next year.”