WARREN, Mich. - It may seem like the De La Salle Collegiate tennis team peaked this season, with all the success it achieved this past fall.
But that doesn't mean the ceiling hasn't been elevated.
Head coach Matt Fisher was brought in two years ago to elevate the program, take it to new heights. And so far the difference has been notable. Look no further than what the team accomplished in 2019.
The Pilots finished 8-3-1 this past season, won the L'Anse Creuse Quad, finished in the middle of the pack at the stacked Catholic League Championships, and competed in some very tough invitationals - including the Holt Quad, the Great 8 Invitational, and the Grosse Pointe North Quad.
"This year was one of the best years in the history of the program," Fisher said. "With seven of our starters being seniors, I knew this year the team was ready for tougher competition."
So Fisher went out and found it.
"I called a lot of top Division 1 and 2 schools and tried to set up matches to prepare us for the only end goal - a regional championship and a proud showing at the state championship," he said.
It's safe to say the Pilots achieved their end goal. De La Salle capped off the season with a Division 2 regional championship and a Top 12 finish at the state finals.
At the regional, hosted by Grosse Pointe North, De La Salle swept the doubles competition and won seven of eight flight championships overall. Robert Shiner, Joseph Janusch and Alek Beginin won titles at 1-2-3 singles, while the doubles pairings of Andrew Janusch-Paul Didio, Gabriel Kirck-Matthew Zanotti, Parker Kuchulan-Deven Sheth and Luke Boldman-Matthew Kostuch did the same in doubles. All flights defeated their Grosse Pointe North counterparts in the finals.
The team went on to win four matches and finished with six points at the state finals - held in Ann Arbor. Beginin and junior Steven Lubera each won their first matches, as did Janusch and Didio at 1-doubles and Kirck and Zanotti at 2-doubles.
At the team's banquet, Beginin, who finished 20-6 overall this past season and earned All-Catholic honors, was named the team's Singles Player of the Year. Kirck and Zanotti ended their season with a spectacular 16-2 overall record and also earned All-Catholic honors. They were the team's Doubles Team of the Year. Seven of the eight flights won 10 or more matches, with Boldman and Kostuch finishing 7-1 after being paired together midway through the season. Joe Janusch finished 17-12 and Shiner was 14-11 playing at the toughest flight. Shiner earned all-CHSL honors.
"Robby stepped up this season and had a winning record playing against a lot of tough schools," said Fisher, who was voted Regional Coach of the Year. "(At states), Robby fought hard against East Lansing and played a great match to watch for both teams' players and parents. His game is nowhere near where I feel it will be and I hope Robby continues his tennis path past high school, into college."
Shiner is a senior, as are the team's top six doubles players. Didio and Janusch finished 11-7 at No. 1 doubles. Kirck and Zanotti had the team's best winning percentage. And Kuchulan and Sheth lost just three matches together, finishing an impressive 13-3.
"All of my seniors stepped it up when it counted at the end of the season," Fisher said.
The team earned Academic All-State honors, one of just 26 teams in Division 2 to earn that honor.
The foundation has been laid out for the Pilots. Joe Janusch, Beginin and Lubera will all return to the team next year - as seniors. That's a pretty good corps for Fisher to start with. Boldman and Kostuch will also be returning to the team. Juniors Jamison Spring and Alexander Nazarian were varsity reserves, and juniors Luc Heiss and Salvatore Maniaci and freshman Louis Mollicone also saw time in the varsity lineup this year.
The junior varsity team finished 7-2 and captured the Macomb County Junior Varsity Tournament, so the future is certainly bright for Fisher and his Pilots.