North Muskegon and Whitehall have battled head-to-head in many close tennis matches throughout recent history.
This year was no different. As many schools in the West Michigan Conference do not have tennis, these two programs have branched out to acquire some competition outside of each another.
The Coastal Conference tournament earlier this season, which also featured Fremont, Grant, Ludington and Western Michigan Christian along with North Muskegon and Whitehall, the championship went down to the wire. Ludington finished in first place with 39 points, while Whitehall and North Muskegon followed with 37 and 34, respectively. The small point spread is commonly visible between the Norsemen and Vikings programs.
Both of those West Michigan Conference schools has representation in the race to see who becomes the 2021 VanDyk Mortgage West Michigan Conference Player of the Year for boys tennis. North Muskegon’s Troy McManus and Whitehall’s River Morrison and Ashton Trnka have been nominated by a CatchMark SportsNet panel as finalists for the award.
Voting for the conference player of the year in all fall sports will open on Friday.
Fan polls of all sports will be released in one story on our site. That’s where readers will determine who earns player of the year recognition. Readers will be allowed to vote once per hour as long as the poll remains open.
Once players of the year are determined by fan votes and announced by CatchMark, we will invite the winners to our office in downtown Whitehall for an awards presentation and honorary dinner. A trophy that stays in our CatchMark office will have the names of the players of the year engraved on it.
Stories announcing Player of the Year nominees for football, volleyball, boys soccer, girls golf and boys and girls cross country have been published.
Here are the three nominees for the conference player of the year award in boys tennis, along with their season stats and achievements. They are listed alphabetically:
North Muskegon, junior, No. 1 singles
As a three-year standout for North Muskegon, McManus took his turn in the driver’s seat as No. 1 singles player for the Norse this season. Norse coach Cody Liverance describes McManus as consistent, responsible and hard-working. McManus’ qualities encouraged others around him to rise to challenges and be the best they could be.
McManus led his team to a third-place Coastal Conference finish and continuously allowed his teammates more success by fighting off some of the area’s premier tennis players. His selflessness as a person and as a teammate were evident, his coach said.
The junior’s overall record this season was 12-18 against schedule that forced the Norse to play at the highest level in every competition. Troy defeated four opponents that qualified for the state finals in their respective divisions. Out of his 18 losses, 17 of those were to either state finals qualifiers or to schools that were at least one division larger in size than North Muskegon.
McManus was named first-team all-conference and first-team all-area. He was also the runner-up at the Coastal Conference tournament.
Whitehall, junior, No. 2 singles
Morrison’s growth is what defined him through out the 2021 season. Coach Greg McManus describes the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament as a turning point for the skilled junior. After losing a tough match to Western Michigan Christian, he took an opportunity to shift the tides, resulting in a Coastal Conference championship at No. 2 singles.
As a core part of his team, Morrison led the Vikings by example. The soft-spoken leader kept his head down and worked hard in practice and played hard on match days, according to his coach. Most of his talking was done on the court while he was trying to figure out his opponents.
Morrison closed the season with an 18-13 overall record. He finished strong with a 10-2 streak rolling through to the Division 2 regional competition, losing only five games in the first and second rounds.
At No. 2 singles, Morrison earned first-team all-conference honors and was a regional finalist in Division 2. He was also awarded the all-academic scholar athlete award.
Whitehall, senior, No. 1 singles
Trnka knew he would have to play at a high level at No. 1 singles this season and that is exactly what the senior standout did. The serious mentality and dedicated work ethic led Trnka to a runner-up finish at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament, a Coastal Conference championship as well as a qualification for the Division 3 state finals.
The senior worked hard to improve his game in every instance, which led him to play some of his best tennis at the end of the season. A stellar serve is what set Trnka apart from his opponents. After a runner-up placement at regionals, he gave the sixth seed a run for his money in the state finals.
Whitehall played against an abundance of difficult competition, which helped Trnka morph into the strong player he is today. Trnka finished out the season with a 22-8 overall record while fighting off some the area’s best competition.
Trnka was named first-team all-conference, first-team all-area and all-state honorable mention. In addition to his GMAA and Coastal Conference honors and being a state finals qualifier, he was an all-academic scholar athlete and regional finalist.
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