By Rob Kiser
TROY — Lehman Catholic boys tennis coach Tim Ungericht doesn’t hide his passion for the game — or his love for his players.
So, when Lehman’s third seeded doubles team Sam Ritze and Danny Lins joined second seeded singles player Griffin West in qualifying for district at the Tuesday’s Troy D-II sectional tournament, it was Ungericht who had the biggest reaction of all.
After a shot sailed long in the third-set tiebreaker to give Lehman the win against Northeastern, Ungericht spent the next 10 seconds punching his fist in the air, yelling Yes!
“We have three guys going to district,” Ungericht said. “A great day for Lehman tennis. We wanted to get four, but we got three. No one else got more than two kids out. I am just so proud of my kids.”
And he has a special bond for Ritze, who’s father serves as his assistant coach.
“I am just so happy for Sam (Ritze),” Ungericht said. “As a sophomore, he played first doubles and went 5-14. Of course last year, he was in a match like this and didn’t make it out.”
For Ritze, it was more a sense of relief after he and Lins outlasted Morscher and Calhoun of Northeastern 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 7-6 (7-3) to improve to 12-5 on the season in a match that lasted almost three hours.
“Thank God,” Ritze said about his reaction to seeing the ball sail long on match point. “Thank you to may partner (Danny Lins) for getting me to district. This is why we played together this year. It cost me a racquet, but that is OK.”
Ritze said that with a laugh, referring to breaking his racquet in the second set and having to use a backup racquet for the third set.
“That racquet was a little heavier,” Ritze said. “It took awhile to get used to it, but once we got into the third set, it was OK.”
After leading throughout the first set, Lehman was forced to win a tiebreaker and did, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and winning it 7-1.
Just as quickly, they lost the second set 6-1.
“I think we just lost our focus,” Lins said. “I think we relaxed.”
That led to a roller-coaster third set.
It started out normal enough. Serve was held in the first five games, then the Lehman duo got a break to go up 4-2.
Just as quickly, Northeastern was up 5-4 and up 30-15 serving for the match.
“I was thinking, ‘not again’,” Ritze said. “That’s how I lost last year.”
And Ungericht still had confidence in them.
“We have been in a lot of tough matches this year,” he said. “I told them to draw on that experience.”
They did exactly that to force a tiebreaker.
“We just had to play our tennis,” Lins said. “That is what we did.”
Ritze had two big volleys for winners and Lins added one as Lehman pulled away from a 3-3 tie score the final four points to win the match.
“We won the first tiebreaker 7-1, so I felt pretty good going into the tiebreaker,” Ritze said.
Ungericht said good strategy was part of it.
“Both their players were playing back,” Ungericht said. “When you have that situation, you win at the net and I thought they did a good job of doing that.”
They had advanced to that match by defeating Jaer Glass and Luke Macy of Northwestern 6-2, 6-3.
West, 13-8, said he had to through some issues, but did not drop a set in earning his second straight district berth.
He defeated Luke Barnes of Milton-Union 6-0, 6-1 and Gabe King of Northeastern 7-6, 6-2, before knocking off Hugo Mark of Tippecanoe 6-2, 6-4 in the go-to district match.
“I have been feeling a little sick,” West said. “And I faced a lot of different styles today.”
Against King, he won a first set tiebreaker and then took control in the second set.
“I was thinking I didn’t want to go a third set,” West said. “I needed to get it done in the tiebreaker.”
Against Mark, he rolled through the first set.
Then, Mark began hitting moon balls (high lobs) throughout the second set and led 4-3, before West took the final three games to earn the district berth.
“It feels good just to have this day over with,” West said. “I want to win the sectional title. I think there was more pressure (to qualifying for district) because I had already done it last year and it was expected.”
Ungericht felt like West handled things well Tuesday.
“First, the Northeastern kid (Gabe King) was pushing everything and Griffin (West) prefers playing a guy who hits it with pace. Hugo (Mark) came out hitting the ball hard in the first set and Griffin handled him pretty well. He starting mixing up pace in the second set and Griffin did a good job of handling that.”
Ryan Goettemoeller was the fourth seed in singles.
He defeated Zack Thompson of Kenton Ridge 6-1, 6-2; and Duda Wollmeister of Greenville 6-4, 6-3; before losing the go-to district match to Jacob Calhoun of Northeastern 6-1, 6-2.
“Of course, we wanted to get G (Ryan Goettemoeller) to district as a senior,” Ungeright said. “But, that kid (Jacob Calhoun) was Northeastern’s number one singles player and a senior. He is a really good player who didn’t get seeded.”
Michael Wesner defeated Greenville’s Pablo Baddel 6-4, 6-1 Monday, before losing to Reilly Smith of Northwestern 6-0, 6-0.
The Lehman doubles team of Sean Tone and Cole Kramer lost to Colin Achterberg and Christopher Nichols of Tippecanoe 6-0, 6-0.
“That was just a tough draw (for doubles),” Ungeright said. “They ended up making it out to district. Michael (Wesner) just picked up a racket two months before his junior season. He came back this year and was one of our varsity guys from the start. It was nice to see him get a tournament win.”
The semifinals and finals are Saturday at Troy City Park.
West doesn’t know who he will play yet, but it will likely be third seed Forrest Rowe of Yellow Springs, who still needs two wins after leaving to take AP tests Tuesday.
“I think that is the guy it will be,” Ungericht said. “Griffin (West) has a good chance to win be sectional champion.”
Ritze and Lins will be playing top seeds Nathan and Nick Brumbaugh from Milton-Union.
“We didn’t want to have to play them in the semifinals, but that was just the way it had to be,” Ungericht said. “But, Saturday is icing on the cake.”
After a great day for Lehman tennis.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.