The Dexter boys’ tennis team is competing this weekend at the Division 2 State Finals in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. It’s not the program’s first trip to the state finals but it’s been a few years since the Dreadnaughts have played tennis on the highest court.
The team reached the state finals after last week’s strong showing at the Regionals where they finished third behind South Lyon and East Lansing. The Dreadnaughts doubles teams played well at Regionals where they accomplished one of their big goals this season.
“We returned our whole team from last year so that helped,” says Nate Kniesteadt one of those returning players. “Everyone was on the same page and we all knew what our goals were and what the coach expected from us.”
It’s been quite a run for Kniesteadt and his fellow seniors.
“Yeah, it was great finally making it to states,” he said. “From not winning a match at Regionals my freshmen year to making it to states my senior year is great.”
The Dreadnaughts won both two doubles and three doubles at the Regional, hosted by Dexter. At one doubles, Kniesteadt and Nathan Kangas won their opening match before losing a tough 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 match to South Lyon in the semifinal round.
Kniesteadt says last year’s team was solid but came up a few strokes short of making the state finals. “Last year we did as we kind of expected we would,” he said. “We knew we had a chance to make it to states last year but everything would have had to go right for us. So it was not that disappointing we didn’t make it.”
This year, with another season of experience, the Dreads raised their expectations and delivered the goods. But there is one more goal to chase this weekend.
“We hope to get top 10,” says Kniesteadt. “I haven’t seen the draws yet but if they go our way it’s possible.”
Kniesteadt, who had a strong season for the Dreads, was Second Team All-Conference at two singles. He also was one of the senior leaders on the team.
Kniesteadt passed on playing football and was looking for another sport when his mom suggested he try tennis. “Yeah, I said, why not,” he said. “I do an occasional group lesson with (Coach Robert Smothers) every other week or when I could fit it in with other sports.”
The son of Roy and Jodi Kniesteadt, Nate also plays hockey in the winter and baseball in the spring for the Dreadnaughts. He’s enjoyed his tennis career and being part of a team that set big goals and accomplished them.
He also liked playing for Coach Rob.
“He is a very energetic coach and he keeps everyone positive and on the same page,” says Kniesteadt. “And his tennis knowledge is through the roof.”
Kniesteadt says being a captain has its “ups and downs.”
“It’s a great responsibility. You have to not only lead by example but gain the support of teammates and put out fires on the rare occasion there is one,” he said.
You don’t reach the state finals without a little fire!