By Jacob Arvidson
Could a state championship trophy be somewhere around the corner?
The Vikings are currently ranked fourth in the state in in Division 4 heading into Friday and Saturday’s state finals at Holly High School near Flint.
That’s where Whitehall finished last season, which made it the top public high school team in Division 4 in the state.
Coach Greg McManus is proud of the lofty ranking, but would like to scratch even higher and challenge the private schools that dominate the top spots.
“We take a lot of pride in finishing as the top public school,” McManus said. “But we want to break into the top three really bad.”
McManus has spearheaded the Whitehall program since 2008, and only twice in that time have the Vikings failed to reach the state tournament.
But this year’s team may stand above the rest.
“We have a pretty good history of fairly strong teams,” he said. “But this is the best team, as far as depth, that I’ve ever had.”
The Vikings have spent the year crushing most opponents. They won the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Tennis Tournament crown, as well as another West Michigan Conference championship.
They won five of their first six tournaments (finishing second at the other) and achieved a 10-1 dual meet record, in addition to finishing second at last week’s Division 4 regionals.
Leading the way is first singles star Andy Esh (24-11), currently in his third year playing in the team’s top spot.
Ben VanSumeran (30-4) takes care of business at No. 2 singles. He’s an amazing story, since he had never played the game until July of 2015.
“He absolutely loved the game and didn’t put his racket down,” McManus said. “As a junior he was on JV all of last year, and then this year he came out being the second best player on the team.”
The secret weapon for Whitehall has been Oscar Hobaek (23-0) at No. 3 singles. He’s an exchange student who didn’t join the team until after the season had started, and ended up being a city, conference and regional champion.
He’s seeded third in his flight at the state tournament.
Jacob Herbert (32-3) plays No. 4 singles and is seeded fifth in his flight.
The No. 1 doubles team of Alec Milliron and Judd Van Bergen (21-5) is seeded third at the finals, while the No. 2 team (Connor Briegel-Andrew Tallquist, 19-4), No. 3 team (Ben Stenglein-Spencer Trnka, 19-2) and No. 4 team (Michael Heylmun-Jackson Van Bergen, 24-4) are all seeded fifth.
A state championship isn’t out of the question, McManus said, but things would have to fall into place.
“If we can get everybody past the first round, if our seeds can play up, and if we can get a couple championships and a couple boys to the finals, I think that’ll give us a good shot,” he said.