ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Starting the season with three tournaments in eight days, first-year Hillsboro tennis coach Kory Unruh has had ample opportunity to see his troops under fire.
With two team titles under his belt, Unruh likes what he’s seen.
“We’re doing OK,” he said. “I was happily surprised by the play. It was rough for me to determine how good we really were because I had been coaching at the college level. But we’re battling. We still have a long way to go, but we’re getting better.”
The Trojans won their own invitational Thursday, placed fifth out of eight schools at a tough meet in Lindsborg two days earlier, and opened March 28 with a team win at Conway Springs.
Brandon Ratzlaff, playing No. 1 singles, is off to an 8-2 record for the season with two tournament titles.
“Brandon’s just playing some good tennis right now,” Unruh said. “If he had played all day (at Smoky Valley) the way he played in the second round, he probably would have at least been in the semifinals and may have won it. But at least he got fourth and got into the medals.”
Teammate Tyler Weinbrenner is 6-2 with two titles at No. 2 singles.
“Tyler Weinbrenner has been kind of a surprise,” Unruh said. “I did say from the beginning that if he would work hard, his athleticism would take him a long way. (Hillsboro) is the second tournament he’s won already.”
Unruh’s two doubles teams of Adam Driggers/Caleb Dirks and Jesse Janzen/Jordan Woelk have a second- and third-place finish to their credit.
“Doubles are coming along,” Unruh said. “Both lost in the semifinals in tiebreakers (at Hillsboro).
“All around as a season, it’s a great start and gives us a little bit of confidence that we can play and we can compete.”
Led by first-place performances in both singles flights, Hillsboro won its own seven-team invitational tournament Thursday.
The Trojans scored 60 points, followed by Smoky Valley with 52, Conway Springs 45, Circle 37, Chapman 29, Hutchinson Trinity 21 and Nickerson 16.
Brandon Ratzlaff won the No. 1 singles title by defeating Brandon Ewertz of Conway Springs 8-2 in the opening round, Kevin Arnhold of Hutch Trinity 8-6 in the semifinals, and Jon Hecker of Circle 8-3 in the finals.
Hecker was a state qualifier in Class 4A last season.
Tyler Weinbrenner won No. 2 singles by defeating Craig Betzold of Hutch Trinity 8-2 in the first round, Joey Boyd of Smoky Valley 8-6 in the semifinals and Shane Gerber 8-4 in the finals.
Hillsboro’s two doubles teams each finished third in their respective flights.
Adam Driggers and Caleb Dirks, playing No. 1 doubles, defeated Jarocki/Wuestenhagen of Nickerson in the opening round, lost in a tiebreaker to Hodges/Douglas of Smoky Valley in the semifinals 7-8 (5-7), then came back to beat Murphy/Brown of Chapman 8-6 in the third-place match.
Jesse Janzen and Jordan Woelk, playing No. 2 doubles for the Trojans, defeated Maldonaldo/Harris of Hutch Trinity 8-3 in the first round, lost in a tiebreaker to Radatz/Lindfers of Smoky Valley in the semifinals 7-8 (6-8), then beat Dill/Brehm of Chapman 8-4 for third place.
Hillsboro faced some cold weather and tough competition at the Smoky Valley Invitational April 2.
The Trojans finished fifth with 15 points. Smoky Valley, Hesston and Abilene tied for first with 35 points, Concordia was fourth with 31, Wichita Collegiate sixth with 12, Pratt seventh with 6 and Nickerson eighth with 5.
Brandon Ratzlaff placed fourth out of 16 competitors in singles, losing to Wyatt Cooper of Abilene 5-8 in the battle for third place. Ratzlaff won his opening two matches against John Reidel of Abilene and Mark Sandbo of Smoky Valley by identical 8-1 scores. He lost in the semifinals to Steve Claassen of Hesston 5-8.
Tyler Weinbrenner was eliminated in his first two matches in singles, as were the doubles teams of Adam Driggers/Caleb Dirks and Jesse Janzen/Jordan Woelk.
Hillsboro opened its 2002 season by winning a quadrangular meet at Conway Springs, March 28. Conway Springs placed second, followed by Circle and South Barber.
Brandon Ratzlaff won the No. 1 singles title by beating Jon Hecker of Circle 8-6, Kyle Robinson of Conway Springs 8-4 and Joel Forester of South Barber 8-3.
Tyler Weinbrenner won No. 2 singles by beating Jeremy Jones of Circle 8-2, Matthew Pauly of Conway Springs 8-6, and Clay Phillips of South Barber 8-3.
In No. 1 doubles, Adam Driggers and Caleb Dirks beat Kuttler and Hindy of Circle 8-5, lost to Stuever and Matzen of Conway Springs 6-8, then beat Fenderson and Shelite of South Barber 8-3.
Hillsboro’s No. 2 doubles team of Jesse Janzen and Jordan Woelk beat Pritchard and Atchison of Circle 8-2, lost to Gerber and May of Conway Springs 6-8, and beat Cox and Wright of South Barber 8-3.
Coming-Hillsboro will travel to Towanda for a Thursday meet hosted by Circle High School. The Trojans won’t compete again until April 23.
“I think it’s good,” Unruh said of the break. “Tournaments are always good in tennis because the more you play, obviously, the more you gain experience. But on our team, we can only push each other so much in practice.
“But we need a break, we need to recover, we need to get back to some basics that we’ve gotten away from,” Unruh added.