Step Up: Negaunee Miners Boys Tennis team preview

NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN ) – In 2024, the Negaunee Miners Boys Tennis team will look to continue a run of success that has seen them take home a conference championship, outside of the pandemic in 2020, each season since 2011.

“Since coming back from spring break, we’ve been able to be out here and kind of progress through some challenge matches,” said Kyle Saari, head coach of the Miners. “That’s crucial in the year to figure out who you are and what you’re going to have in your lineup and that’s what we’re still sorting through. I’m really looking forward to kind of seeing if this team is ready to hit that bar and be able to kind of jump and meet the goals and expectations of what’s set before them. The goal always remains the same: if there’s a U.P. title out there, that’s what you’ve got to chase. And we just have to mature as a team, day by day, to do that.”

They’ll also aim to defend their title as reigning U.P. Division 1 champions, but will have to do so with some new faces on the court.

“The kids realize that every single season, every single team, is different,” said Saari. “During this year, we lose seven seniors from our lineup last year, but it’s a position that we’ve been in prior, in the past, and we’ve had groups capable of overcoming that. The biggest message to our kids so far, it’s so common, but kids need to step up and we’ve had some good senior leadership from people like James Thomson in our doubles lineup. Often, leaders have to make themselves feel uncomfortable to make others feel comfortable, and he’s bridged the gap nicely for a number of our inexperienced or younger players to kind of pick up the slack and get used to what varsity tennis would be like.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely different, but kids have stepped up,” said Thomson. “We have two players at 2 doubles that have never played varsity before, but I think they’ll be able to step up and win for us. Everything’s different, it’s a clean slate. We’re just going to do the best of our ability to win. Hopefully we can accomplish that.”

As they look forward to getting in the swing of the schedule, they’ll continue to build on fundamentals as they look to those new faces to take the next step.

“You can always improve. I’d like to improve my serve that but it goes back to that you can always improve your mental game more. I would like to improve that, not getting mad as easily, listen to Coach Saari more, and do what he says. We had a very successful year last year. It’s always the next step – get that again. Last year is last year, so I’d like to define my senior year as one of winning. Winning MPC’s, U.P.’s.

“Once the season begins we’re able to get more technical, into more of the fundamental stuff,” said Saari. “But right now, we like where we’re at. We’re excited to see people step up and see how they answer the bell with an opportunity at hand. In spring sports in the U.P., you have no time to be young at all. Teams are always going to be young, you’re always going to replace players in a lineup, and what it truly comes down to is who can step up and and who’s mentally tough enough to fill those positions. So, the fortunate thing, we do return three or four singles players and that helps establish a core within the lineup and then within the double side of things.

The Miners kick off their season on April 19 in a five-team doubles match hosted by Marquette.

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