The Lakers placed second behind Petoskey at Thursday's Division 3 regional meet, hosted by Spring Lake. The top two teams receive automatic invitations to the state meet, which will be held next week Friday and Saturday in Holland.
Petoskey flexed its muscle by winning seven of the eight flights, good for 23 points. The Lakers were second with 13 points, and Cadillac took third with 12. Cadillac also qualified for the state meet.
Sparta placed fourth with five points, followed by Fruitport with two points and Cedar Springs with one.
Spring Lake's No. 2 doubles pair of Brendon Peel and Josh Cole were the only ones to beat a Petoskey team on the day as they captured a regional title.
"I'm excited about it. The kids played their hearts out," Lakers' coach Charlie Bassett said.
A fierce wind blew throughout the day, wreaking havoc on tennis balls hit into and with the wind. Players had to adjust on the fly, and those who figured out how to play with the conditions had the most success.
"It was unbelievable," Bassett said. "Especially over at the middle school. It took them a while to figure out how to paly the game in the wind. The kids did a good job. Everybody won their first match, and that was our No. 1 goal.
"If you do that, you're in the semifinals, and anything can happen in the semifinals."
The highlight for Spring Lake came at No. 2 doubles, where juniors Peel and Cole started with an easy win over Fruitport in the opening round. The pair then cruised past Cadillac in the semifinals before scoring a grueling 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Petoskey in the finals.
"They're a pretty good team. They've had a good season," Bassett said. "They defeated Petoskey earlier in the year, but I don't know if it was the same kids."
Bassett explained that his team met Petoskey twice this year, but the Northmen changed up their lineup significantly since those early-season meetings.
"That made it hard to figure out what would happen," Bassett said. "We beat them last time, but it was a different team."
Also reaching the finals was junior Ryan Fedewa at No. 1 singles. He was the second seed, and started with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-1 win over Fruitport's Alex Bowen. Fedewa then demolished the third seed, Sparta's Jared Bradford, 6-1, 6-0, before suffering a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Petoskey's Zach Phillips.
"Ryan played his heart out," Bassett said. "He played probably the best match I've seen him play. This kid from Petoskey, Zach Phillips, Ryan played him the first time back in August and lost 3 and 3. Two days later, he played him and lost 3 and 4. This time it was 4 and 5. He was up 5-4 and couldn't hang on."
At No. 2 singles, the Lakers' Stuart Velarde was the second seed. He scored a 6-0, 7-5 win over Connor Curtis of Sparta before losing 6-4, 6-1 to the third seed, Cadillac’s Tyler Thomas.
Erik Johnson had a strong showing at third singles, reaching the finals before losing to Petoskey's Christian Wilder, 6-3, 6-1.
At No. 4, Spring Lake's Craig Pratt, the third seed, won 6-4, 6-1 over Kris Bunca of Big Rapids before falling to the second seed, Cadillac's Evan Kornacki, 6-2, 6-4.
The Lakers' Mitch Davis and Kasey Panyard were the third seed at No. 1 singles. They opened with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cedar Springs, then lost to the second-seeded team from Petoskey, 6-4, 6-1.
At third doubles, Spring Lake's Patrick Wang and Trevor Zenas scored a marathon win over Cadillac, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4, to reach the finals. There, they came up short against Petoskey, losing 6-3, 7-5.
"Patrick is a senior and Trevor is a freshman, and they're really coming on," Bassett said. "They've been playing together all year, and they won the conference last Saturday. They had defeated a team they had lost to, and now this time, they almost beat Petoskey."
The Lakers' Jonah Yoshonis and Griffin Wagasky won their opening match at No. 4 doubles, beating Big Rapids, 6-0, 6-0. The second-seeded Lakers then lost to the third seeded team from Petoskey, 6-4, 6-3.
Bassett said he was nervous entering the meet because he wasn't sure what to expect out of Cadillac, a traditional powerhouse on the tennis courts.
"We didn't see Cadillac this year like we have in the past, so I didn't know what to expect from them," he said. "I knew they were going to be tough. I'm just tickled pink we came out ahead of them.
"It was a good day. I was happy the kids played well. When you consider we're a young team — we have only three seniors on the team and three freshmen — it was a good day."
Fruitport's Kelly Peterson had a nice outing at second singles. The fourth seed, he won his first match, beating Bret Greenacre, 6-3, 7-5. He then lost to Petoskey's Cam Ludlow, 6-1, 6-1.
The Trojans' Derek Sircher and Graham Sullivan won their opening match at No. 1 doubles, beating Big Rapids, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-1. They then fell to Petoskey, 6-0, 6-3.