Hillsdale boys tennis battles at regionals; Ben Kunkel takes second for the Hornets

Hillsdale boys tennis entered the season with uncertainty following the retirement of longtime coach Scott Phillips.

More: Scott Phillips retires as head coach of Hillsdale tennis after 17 years

Hillsdale varsity baseball coach Matt Duff took over for the 2023 season. Since then, the Hornets have continued their academic and athletic success on the courts.

“My son decided to do tennis this year,” said coach Duff. “As the baseball coach, I began thinking about it and pushed some baseball players who don’t do a fall sport towards tennis. They didn’t have a coach and I thought I should step up.”

Duff and the Hornet varsity boys tennis team have had an impressive run during the regular season. This included several Hornet players taking second at the conference tournament and Matias Marfil earning a first-place finish at No. 2 singles.

More: Hillsdale boys tennis team earns multiple medals at conference tournament

Hillsdale traveled to the Region 25 finals in Three Rivers, delivering another strong performance. Several Hornet athletes advanced to the semifinals in their brackets.

Ben Kunkel reached the finals in the No. 4 singles tournament, facing Edwin Seo of Berrien Springs in a thrilling back-and-forth battle. Despite his efforts, Kunkel finished in second place.

This was Ben Kunkel’s first-ever tennis season for Hillsdale. He joined the team after being convinced by his friends, and despite playing through an injury, Kunkel made an impressive run at the regional championships.

Gallery: Hillsdale County soccer teams start their district playoffs

Kunkel expressed his gratitude to his teammates for their support and his family for attending his matches.

The boys tennis team has an impressive GPA of above 3.7 and is on track to receive another Team Academic All-State honor.

With the end of the 2023 fall season, coach Duff revealed that several new tennis players wished they had started playing earlier, as they developed a passion for the sport.

“It’s a neat sport,” said Duff. “Every kid that I have, who is playing for the first time, wishes they could have started sooner. It really grabs a hold of these kids, and they develop a passion for it.”

2023 has been a significant year for the program. Despite starting with only eight players, the team finished with an overall winning record and is preparing for a new coach to take over the program next season.

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This article originally appeared on Hillsdale Daily News: Hillsdale boys tennis battles at regional championships


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