Pilots nearly sweep en route to tennis title

GROSSE POINTE, Mich. - Friday morning didn't necessarily start the way De La Salle Collegiate tennis coach Matt Fisher had hoped.

A couple of his players got off to rough starts, one or two more were delayed because of first-round matchups that seemed to go on and on, and Mother Nature wasn't playing all that nice - with rain in the forecast threatening to wreak havoc.

But then things started to turn in his Pilots' favor. His team started playing well - very well. And by the end of the day, De La Salle routed the field at the Division 2 regional tournament hosted by Grosse Pointe North.

"Everybody came back," said Fisher, whose team won seven flight championships on the day. "I'm happy we never got down (on ourselves). I told them that some of the other teams were getting in their heads and to just play the ball, don't play your opponents. Don't let someone control your mind. And they did that."

No flight had a bigger comeback than the No. 1 doubles team of Andrew Janusch and Paul Didio. The seniors not only came back from a set down but had to battle back from a 5-1 deficit in the third and final set to defeat Grosse Pointe North's Charlie Ramsdell and Mitchell Mills, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

"Our coach would never let us think that we're done (down 1-5), so I wasn't thinking that we were done, but I knew it was going to be hard to fight back," said Didio, who along with Janusch lost to this same Norsemen duo in their last matchup a few weeks back. "I thought we could (cut the deficit), but it was going to be really tough to win six in a row and win it."

The match had started at Grosse Pointe North, but had to be moved to Wimbledon Racquet Club because of rain. Janusch said when they made the move indoors, he knew they were going to come back and win the match.

"When we came over (to Wimbledon), we knew we had them," he said. "We had come back two games and were down 3-5, and up 40-15. I knew we had this."

Janusch and Didio were part of a doubles sweep for the Pilots, who had split their four doubles matches in their last matchup against North - and three of four matches in their first meeting back in August.

This time around it was all De La Salle. The No. 2 team of Gabriel Kirck and Matthew Zanotti did not drop a set all day, defeating North's Jonathan Hartley and Adam Naimo, 6-3, 7-5 in the championship match. Parker Kuchulan and Deven Sheth beat top-seeded North at 3-doubles, needing three sets to get past Luke Deskin and Ben Zoia, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, in their final.

And the Pilots No. 4 team of Luke Boldman and Matthew Kostuch lost just a single game en route to the final, and then went on to beat the Norsemen's Sahith Nannapaneni and James Moussaiux, 6-4, 6-3, to claim their title. They were the first off the courts.

Three of De La Salle's singles players captured flight championships. Senior Robert Shiner and juniors Joseph Janusch and Alek Beginin won all 18 sets they played - between them. Shiner defeated Sterling Heights'  Brendan Evert, 6-1, 6-2 in the No. 1 singles championship match. Janusch took down North's Zach Rockwell in the 2-singles final. And Beginin shut out North's Alex Muawad, 6-0, 6-0, in his 3-singles final. Beginin lost just two games in three matches on Friday.

De La Salle finished with 22 out of a possible 24 team points. North was a distant second with 14 points. Both teams qualified for the Division 2 finals, which will be played next Friday and Saturday in Ann Arbor. Cousino finished third (7 points), followed by L'Anse Creuse (6), Sterling Heights (3) and Port Huron (2) among the top five. 

The regional title was the second straight for De La Salle, which also beat out North last year. Fisher put together a tough schedule this season and it seems to have paid off for his Pilots.

"All I've cared about were this tournament and the next one (states)," Fisher said. "That's why I gave them such a tough schedule, against teams like U-D Jesuit, Greenhills, the teams we saw at the Catholic League Tournament."

Fisher was also ecstatic that his seniors led the way on Friday. 

"Every senior stepped it up," said Fisher, referring to Didio, Andrew Janusch, Kirck, Kuchulan, Sheth, Zanotti, and Shiner. "Everybody's on Cloud Nine right now and I'm hoping this continues into next week. I've got guys on this team that are normally quiet, and today they were doing fist pumps and things I've never seen them do before."

Division 2 regional

(at Grosse Pointe North)

TEAM SCORES: De La Salle 22, Grosse Pointe North 14, Warren Cousino 7, L'Anse Creuse 6, Sterling Heights 3, Port Huron 2, Warren Woods-Tower 1, Lakeview 1

CHAMPIONSHIP SINGLES: 1. Robby Shiner, DLS, d. Brendan Evert 6-1, 6-2; 2. Joe Janusch, DLS, d. Zach Rockwell, GPN; 3. Alek Beginin, DLS, d. Alex Muawad, GPN, 6-0, 6-0; 4. Jake Goebel, LC, d. Rogan Carter, WC, 6-3, 6-3

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLES: 1. Andy Janusch-Paul Didio, DLS, d. Charlie Ramsdell-Mitchell Mills, GPN, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5; 2. Gabriel Kirck-Matthew Zanotti, DLS, d. Jonathan Hartley-Adam Naimo, GPN, 6-3, 7-5; 3. Parker Kuchulan-Deven Sheth, DLS, d. Luke Deskin-Ben Zoia, GPN, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5; 4. Luke Boldman-Matthew Kostuch, DLS, d. Sahith Nannapaneni-James Moussiaux, GPN, 6-4, 6-3.

Pilots nearly sweep en route to tennis title
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