Dow state champs?: It could happen

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Dow High boys’ tennis coach Terry Schwartzkopf isn’t going to say that winning a state championship this weekend is a probability. At the same time, he’s sure not going to deny that it’s a possibility.

As far as Schwartzkopf is concerned, his eighth-ranked Chargers have a chance to bring home a Division 2 title for the first time in five years if everything goes just right.

“State is interesting this year. … It’s a stranger year than perhaps any year since 2009,” said Schwartzkopf, whose Chargers, along with Midland High, will head to Holland to compete in the state tournament at Holland Christian High School and Hope College on Friday and Saturday.

“I think it’s wide open, and there are eight different teams that could walk away victorious. We’re one of them,” he added. “It will take a lot for that to happen. We’ll have to pull off some upsets, but it’s not outside the realm of reality. … It’s a weird year, because everybody is beating up on everybody. It’s just a matter of who plays well this weekend.”

Dow, which is coming off a regional championship in which it won every flight last week, is led by No. 1 singles player Austin King, who is seeded sixth at state as a freshman.

“Austin has had a stellar year. Other than a loss to Grand Blanc, everybody he’s lost to this year is seeded at state,” Schwartzkopf noted. “He’s had a really good year, and he will be incredible when he’s a senior. The only thing that holds him back is (lack of) confidence in himself, but I haven’t seen anyone this year that he can’t beat.”

At No. 2 singles for Dow is sophomore Joaco Garcia-Argibay, who is seeded sixth and sat out much of the season with a broken foot.

“Joaco has come back and is playing better than I saw him play at any point last year. He has a bigger drive and confidence in his own game (than I saw last year),” said Schwartzkopf. “He’s the sixth seed, but if he had played the entire season, he would be the No. 1. If he has a good day, he could win the tournament.”

Freshman Nimai Patel has overcome some heart issues to return to the court at No. 3 singles for the Chargers.

“He was having difficulty breathing, and we were being extra cautious,” Schwartzkopf said of Patel’s missing a couple of matches late in the season. “He’s feeling good now. He’s unseeded, but it (the seeding) came down to only one match, and, otherwise, he would be seeded fourth.

“He may be unseeded, but that doesn’t mean he can’t compete,” Schwartzkopf added. “He’s got a tough draw, but if he can win some matches, that would put us in a good position.”

Sophomore Logan Yu is seeded second at No. 4 singles and has lost only once all season.

“Logan is stellar. He is really, really good. He’s ‘Mr. Dependable,'” Schwartzkopf enthused. “I know what I’m going to get from him. … One thing that’s vastly important is that I don’t have to watch him play. I can count on him taking that flight. And not having to coach him gives me more opportunity to help other people who might need some help.”

At No. 1 doubles for the Chargers, junior Thomas Ladwein and sophomore Aaron Li are seeded fourth and have shown steady improvement.

“They could be the No. 1 seed. They’ve played the one-seed multiple times, and every time they’ve gotten better and better,” Schwartzkopf said. “There’s nothing about any team they’re going to face that scares me. Aaron is surehanded at the net, and Tom has the desire to win, and they’ve pulled out some massive wins.”

Sophomores Boaz Qiu and Roofy Elsadaany are seeded fifth at No. 2 doubles and are “an unconventional pair,” according to Schwartzkopf.

“Their ceiling is limitless,” he noted. ” … When they’re on and when they’re focused, nobody beats them. It’s just a matter of being focused and having one of those days where they’re hitting well.”

At No. 3 doubles, junior Shubhan Nagarkar and sophomore Vish Karthikeyan are seeded third and have their coach singing their praises.

“Those guys have been a pure joy to coach this year. I don’t think they thought at the beginning of the season that they’d make the lineup. And when they did, they really gave everything they could give,” Schwartzkopf said.

“They’re easily coachable, and they apply lessons, and they have positive attitudes, and their improvement has skyrocketed,” he added. “It’s fun to see their success, and they leave everything on the court.”

Rounding out Dow’s lineup are senior Michael McGaugh and sophomore Jonathan Song, who are unseeded at No. 4 doubles.

“McGaugh is one of our captains, and he’s been incredible at leading the team and getting them focused and prepared. He set the foundation for the success we’ve had,” Schwartzkopf said. “He’s busted his hump for the past couple of years to break into the lineup, and I’m confident that he’ll make the most of this opportunity.

“Song is a natural athlete whose skills have improved quickly, and I’m excited to see where he’ll be in the future,” Schwartzkopf added.

The Chargers, who last won a state championship in 2016, have finished no worse than fifth since 2008, including five straight titles from 2009-2013.

Asked how rewarding it would be to win a championship this weekend with such a young team, Schwartzkopf replied, “It would be incredible.”

“These guys remind me of our 2009 team. They came together when they were young, and they said, ‘We’re going to win this thing.’ And by the time they were seniors, they did,” Schwartzkopf noted. “That’s the trajectory this team is on. If they don’t win it this year, I think they will eventually.

“It would be great to win it this year, not so much for me but for Michael McGaugh (the team’s lone senior) and for (assistant coach and former Dow standout) Juan Guerra, who was on my team the first time we won it,” Schwartzkopf added. “Juan is going to Germany after this season, and I would love to do it for him.”

For Midland at the state tournament, Jackson Keefe is unseeded at No. 1 singles, Parker Hillman is unseeded at No. 2 singles, Fred Temple is unseeded at No. 3 singles, and Tommy Kroll is unseeded at No. 4 singles.

Also for the Chemics, Josh Doyle and Jacob Doyle are unseeded at No. 1 doubles, Carter Albright and Braylen Laverty are unseeded at No. 2 doubles, Deitrich Greiner and Aiden O’Malley are unseeded at No. 3 doubles, and Jordan Warner and Gabe Krenzke are unseeded at No. 4 doubles.