SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic High School’s boys tennis team captured the first meeting with crosstown-rival Sidney on April. 12. The Cavaliers and Yellow Jackets both continue to improve as they approach the rematch on April 28.
Lehman, which plays as an independent, is 5-4 in dual matches and is coming off a Miami Valley Tennis Coaches Association Coaches Cup victory in the C Flight bracket. The win against Sidney was also Lehman’s first versus the Yellow Jackets in five seasons.
Sidney was 4-9 overall and 3-3 in the Miami Valley League heading into a conference match with Tippecanoe on Thursday.
“I was just hoping we could compete and get better throughout the year,” Lehman coach Tim Ungericht said. “I didn’t think we’d be 5-1 after six matches. I was hoping for after six matches maybe 2-4 and 3-3. The rest of the way the schedule is going to get tougher.”
Lehman is led by junior Sam Gilardi at No. 1 singles. He’s 3-5 after moving up from No. 2 singles as a freshman.
There was no 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“All things considered it’s like restarting the program with no season last year,” said Ungericht, who has four players earning their first varsity experience.
Sophomores Chris Evans (3-3) and Joe Pannapara (2-0) have played at No. 2 singles. Pannapara (3-2) and junior Brock Bostick (2-0) have seen action at No. 3 singles.
At No. 1 doubles, sophomore Brandon Jones (3-4) and Schmeising (4-4) have been the regulars.
Freshman Logan Linson (0-6), Bostick (0-4) and Thomas White (0-3) have gained experience at No. 2 doubles.
“Sammy is very strong mentally and he’s very steady. He does not beat himself. He doesn’t make unforced errors,” Ungericht said. “Just a good bunch. You’re going to see some district qualifiers out of this bunch.”
Lehman is a member of the Northwest Central Conference in other sports, but not tennis with not enough NWCC schools fielding teams.
That changes somewhat next season when Lehman joins the Three Rivers Conference. Milton-Union and Northridge also field tennis teams in the TRC. Along with Lehman, those three TRC schools will join with Preble Shawnee and Dixie from the new Western Ohio Athletic Conference to form an unofficial tennis conference that will crown a champion.
Greenon and Greeneview from the Ohio Heritage Conference are expected to compete in girls tennis and could also participate in boys tennis if the OHC doesn’t have enough boys teams competing.
For now, the Cavaliers are focused on the remainder of the regular season – including that rematch with Sidney – and improving as the sectional tournament approaches. The Division II sectional tournament is scheduled to start the week of May 10.
“They work hard and they’re coachable,” Ungericht said. “First and foremost, they represent Lehman very well. Our kids are good sports. I’m more proud of that than our record. Do it the right way. That’s the most important thing.”
At Sidney, junior Grant Hoying is a frontrunner for the top seed at the D-I sectional tournament. He’s 13-0 overall at No. 1 singles and 6-0 in the Miami Valley League. He won the first singles bracket in the Schroeder Tennis Center’s invitational on Saturday.
“He’s just continuing to improve every match. Two years ago when he was a freshman and comparing him to today, the amount he has improved is just amazing,” Sidney coach Donovan Gregory said. “He continues to work at it and fixing the holes in his game.”
Juniors Conley New and Kaden Abbott have both spent time at the other singles positions. New is 2-3 overall at No. 2 and 3-3 at No. 3. Abbot is 1-4 at No. 2 and 3-1 at No. 3.
“They’re doing a pretty good job,” Gregory said. “They’re still kind of learning the sport. They have a couple wins under their belt so that’s a good sign.”
Sophomores Noah Baldauf (1-9) and Takuma Furukawa (1-7) have teamed up the most at No. 1 doubles. Sophomore Hideyuki Rachi (3-7) and freshman Brady Hagan (3-6) have seen the most time at No. 2 doubles.
“We are definitely improving. That’s kind of our philosophy. If you get out there and play you’re going to get better at the sport,” Gregory said.
“This year it’s been kind of an adjustment for us. We’ve had to recruit a little bit. We’ve had some players who really haven’t played that much and get them out on the courts and kind of teach them the sport. Hopefully they’re having fun with it and enjoying it.”