Negaunee Miners Tennis Rolling Through Season

Click the thumbnails to hear interviews with Kyle Saari and Lilly Nelson.

The 2021 high school girls tennis season is coming to an end, and the Negaunee Miners are one of the top favorites to take home the Upper Peninsula championship.

So far this season, the Miners have won all 13 of their dual matches, and the closest they’ve come to losing was an early-season tournament, where they edged Westwood by one point.

“We’ve got eight new faces in the lineup,” Negaunee Coach Kyle Saari said. “We turned over a lot of seniors in our program last year. When the year began, that was kind of a big question mark. We didn’t know how girls would respond to certain situations, how they’d respond under pressure and in third sets. But they’ve kind of answered the bell so far. Everyone who’s new to the lineup seems like they’ve been here all along.”

The Miners have been led by #1 singles player Lilly Nelson. She has won all of her matches this year, and in fact, has not lost a single set all year.

“I’ve had a lot of experience because I’ve been playing #1 singles since my sophomore year,” Nelson said. “So, I’ve seen pretty much every situation on the tennis court. And I’ve also grown a lot mentally. I’ve been keeping a level head throughout every single match. Not getting too high or too low or anything. So that’s what’s ben helping me out.”

It’s more than just Nelson. Daylyn Drew has been dominant at #2 singles at times, and Izzy Kantola has been steady at #3, along with Jordyn Enright at #4. And all four doubles teams have posted multiple straight set victories this season, led by the top tandem of Emma Miller and Madi Austin.

But Saari is not counting out any of the remaining opponents on his schedule.

“There’s some quality teams throughout the U.P.,” Saari said. “You’ve got Esky, Westwood, Marquette. And there’s some other schools that have individual flights that can push you in places, too.”

But there has been no “pushing” of Nelson this entire season. Saari likens her dominance to that of one of his boys players, Will Luke, who last year never lost a single set. In fact, Nelson rarely even loses a point, winning multiple sets by 6-love scores this season.

Nelson, though, isn’t too worried about that.

“I try not to overthink anything,” Nelson said. “I just, honestly, go one point at a time. If I have a bad point, I forget all about it and go on to the next one and see what happens. And if I drop a set, it’s not the end of the world. It’s best-out-of-three, so you’ve got to win two!”

Negaunee had its showdown with Escanaba rained out on Monday. Saari says they’re hoping to reschedule that match for next Monday in Kingsford, where the Eskymos are already set to play the Flivvers.

LISTEN: Negaunee senior Lilly Nelson comments
LISTEN: Negaunee Coach Kyle Saari comments