The Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis team qualified for the fourth time in five years for the Division 4 state tournament and finished in 13th place.

Featured photo courtesy of Hannah Charlip

Thirteen isn’t necessarily an unlucky number.

The Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis team qualified for the Division 4 state tournament for the fourth time in five years this fall and finished in a tie for 13th place at Hope College’s Etheridge Tennis Complex in Holland.

Eli Grey, who played No. 3 singles for the Jaguars, won all three of his matches Oct. 18 at the Vande Poel-Heeringa Stadium Courts and advanced to the flight semifinals Saturday, Oct. 19.

Both flight semifinal matches and the championship match were moved to the night of Oct. 19 inside the DeWitt Tennis Center so Grey could compete after Shabbat.

While Grey was facing No. 1 seed Cody Richards from Traverse City St. Francis in one semifinal match, the team state championship was on the line on the next court in the other semifinal match between players from Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and Kalamazoo Hackett.

Richards beat Grey 6-2, 6-0 and went on to win the flight championship with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Rafid Farjo from Gabriel Richard.

“I didn’t play too well in my match (against Richards), but it was a great experience that night,” Grey said.

It was a great experience because even though most of the FJA contingent had returned home, a large crowd of players, coaches and fans from the other teams involved stuck around to watch the matches.

Grey was not seeded in his flight.

The senior beat a seeded player and a competitor who had defeated a seeded player to get to the semifinals.

Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis players and coaches watch FJA’s Rafi Weinstein play in a No. 4 singles match at the Division 4 state tournament. Hannah Charlip

Grey finished the season with a 14-6 record, the best of any FJA singles player or doubles duo.

A team effort involving FJA Athletic Director Rick Dorn, the Michigan High School Athletic Association and the tournament director at Hope College created the accommodations for the Saturday night matches.

“I started talking with the MHSAA the week of the regionals to see options we had if any of our players made it to the state semifinals,” Dorn said.

The MHSAA contact was Dan Hutcheson, assistant director in charge of tennis.

After Grey got to the semifinals, “because of travel times, it didn’t make sense to send everyone home and bring everyone back to finish the No. 3 singles competition,” Dorn said.

So, Dorn said, the decision was made to play the flight semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19, then the championship match.

Grey found out about the plan around 10 minutes after his third match Oct. 18.

“Coach (Larry) Stark told me we’re going to be staying another night,” Grey said.

This was Grey’s third trip to the state tournament. He played No. 3 doubles as a freshman and sophomore with Alex Bean, making it to the quarterfinals and second round.

It was the second time arrangements were made for FJA at the state tournament.

A few years ago, Stark said, an FJA doubles team returned to Kalamazoo on the Sunday after the tournament was supposed to end to finish its competition.

Stark has done a remarkable job in his five years as coach of the FJA boys tennis team. The Jaguars made it to the state tournament in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 and finished eighth, 10th, 11th and 13th.

Why are Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis players holding up four fingers after competing in a Division 4 regional tournament? Because the Jaguars had just qualified for the state tournament for the fourth time in five years. Larry Stark

“We’ve set the bar high,” Stark said. “Our goal each season is to get the state tournament. That’s why we play a lot of Division 1 and Division 2 teams during the regular season. We want those tough matches to get ready for regionals and state.”

FJA went 5-7-1 in dual matches during the regular season this fall.

Among its wins was a 6-2 victory over Walled Lake Western. The Jaguars lost to West Bloomfield, Walled Lake Northern and Walled Lake Central.

Besides Grey, it also was the third state tournament for FJA No. 1 singles player Eric Adelson and No. 2 singles player Bean, both seniors.

Adelson was named the team’s most valuable player.

“I’m proud of how Eric (Adelson) and Alex (Bean) battled every opponent’s top singles players,” Stark said.

Adelson and Bean each was 9-8 for the season.

Freshman Rafi Weinstein (No. 4) rounded out FJA’s singles lineup.

The FJA doubles teams were seniors Mitchell Blackman and Russell Presser (No. 1), senior Ben Goldstein and freshman Ethan Grey (No. 2), senior Andrew Schulman and freshman Max Charlip (No. 3) and senior Elan Krakoff and freshman Adin Charlip (No. 4).

Adelson, Eli Grey, Schulman/Max Charlip and Krakoff/Adin Charlip were runners-up in their flights in the regional tournament.

Gary Gates is FJA’s assistant coach.

FJA and Flint Powers tied for 13th place at the state tournament, each with seven points.

Allegan and Hackett deadlocked for the team title with 21 points.

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