Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett took first place at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 Tennis State Championship in Kalamazoo Oct. 15.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett took first place at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 Tennis State Championship in Kalamazoo Oct. 15.

Photo provided by Anthony Anusbigian

University Liggett back on top as boys tennis team wins Division 4 state championship

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 9, 2022


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett has an established foundation in boys tennis.

With 37 state championships, countless individual state champions, and four state titles since 2016, Liggett looks like it’s returning to its 1970s-1990s form, when it won 21 state championships from 1972-1997 under coach Bob Wood.

Liggett suffered a crushing defeat to Traverse City St. Francis in the finals last season, and Liggett coach Mark Sobieralski said his team didn’t want to feel that way again.

“Our goal was to win it for sure,” Sobieralski said. “Last year, we were runner-up to St. Francis, so we wanted to take them out; that was our goal.”

On Oct. 15 in Kalamazoo, Liggett did just that with an impressive showing to win the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 Boys Tennis State Championship. Liggett finished three points ahead of second-place Hudsonville Unity Christian with seven of Liggett’s eight flights reaching at least the semifinals.

“It was amazing; it was everything I could’ve hoped for,” senior George Anusbigian said. “I just want to thank the team for everything they did.”

Sophomore Charlie Cooksey was first place in the singles flight No. 4, earning the lone championship in singles’ flights for Liggett.

Cooksey’s older brother, Will, currently plays tennis at the University of Michigan. Will Cooksey won the 2020 Mr. Tennis Award and was the first player in the state of Michigan to win four consecutive state titles in any division since 1960.

Charlie and Will’s younger brother, freshman Niko Cooksey, reached the semifinals for Liggett this year while paired with senior Ryan King in the doubles flight No. 4.

Sobieralski said the Cookseys are special talents.

“You just put them out there, and they just battle and compete,” Sobieralski said.

Niko Cooksey and King weren’t the only senior-underclassman duo to earn some major points for Liggett.

Senior Steve Wheatley and freshman Griffin Marchal took first place in the doubles flight No. 3, while senior Neil Murphy and sophomore Luca Marciano reached the semifinals in the doubles flight No. 2.

A mix of senior leadership and youth was just what Liggett needed.

“Being able to go through and see what it’s like, especially as a senior, you know what it’s like and what energy you need to bring for the freshmen,” Anusbigian said. “I remember in 2020, the seniors really brought the energy, so we knew that we needed to do that.”

Arguably the biggest win for Liggett was in the doubles flight No. 1, as senior Campbell Marchal and junior Tommy Ugval, who were a four seed in the tournament, took down the top two seeds to take first place.

“It was huge; it was like bonus time,” Sobieralski said. “They were supposed to lose in the semis, but they ended up winning the semis and the finals.”

Junior Sebastian Courtright earned runner-up in the singles flight No. 1, while Anusbigian reached the semifinals for Liggett. Senior Gerry Sherer was a significant factor behind Liggett’s success this year in the singles flight No. 2.

Liggett had the recipe for success entering regional play. Before regionals, Liggett’s remaining schedule was against the entire Catholic League.

While Liggett struggled against the stronger competition, it was the fuel that it needed before regionals.

“The tough schedule mixed with all the D1 and D2 teams gets the boys ready to play anyone at any skill level,” Anusbigian said.

After a dominant showing at regionals, Liggett had all the momentum going into the state finals.

“It felt like, for some of the players, it was a big confidence boost and. for some of the players. it was a job-done situation, but for everyone to sweep the competition at regionals was a huge confidence boost,” Anusbigian said.

Liggett is set to graduate six seniors this year, but will return a healthy amount of young, experienced talent.