by Carl Van Fleet
Over the first 2 weeks in October, the RHS Boys Varsity tennis team completed the regular season and entered into post regular season play. Let’s just say the this team is “RAM TOUGH” as they have competed hard and won key matches to the surprise of many conference foes.
State Final Tournament; HERE WE GO RAMs, as they took out OK Red Conference rival Grandville H.S. in both the Conference and Regionals to secure their place in the state tourney in Midland!
On Monday, October 1, the RHS tennis team went into their final regular season OK Red dual meet against arch rival Grandville on the home courts at RHS. The Bulldogs are regularly competing at the top of the conference year in and year out and the Rams knew that if they were to gain the psychological edge going in to the conference tourney, they needed to have a strong showing in the final regular season match against GHS.
Throughout this dual match, the Rams netters battled Grandville’s strong team play from number one singles to number 4 doubles, through and through. When the dust was settling on the courts at RHS, the Rams had gotten to a 3-4 score with key wins from Mark Vietengruber at #4 singles (6-1, 6-3) and from the doubles tandems of Sam Dater & Gregg Witt (#2, 6-4, 6-2) and Zak Riebschleger & Ken Smith (#3, 7-6, 6-4). With one match still in play, Luke Van Fleet (#3 singles) was still going at it with his USTA rival Zak Robitoy. One avid fan and follower of RHS tennis that was watching the match told me that Robitoy had not lost a dual conference match in two years! I know for fact that Van Fleet has played Rabitoy a few times in USTA matches and has never been able to take him down. Let’s just say this was the battle of the Ram versus the Bulldog! In set one, the score went to the edge with Van Fleet taking it 7-5. The Bulldog then bit back hard to knock the Ram back in a score of 2-6 in set two. As the sun set and all other matches were complete, all eyes were on this last remaining match. Securing a win here and a 4-4 team tie was key to the Rams mojo in entering the OK Red Conference tourney.
The Ram dug in, lowered his head and charged forward to take the lead at 5-4….and the dog bit back to tie at 6-6. Now the Dog and the Ram were in a tie breaker set, first to 7 by 2 wins. The Ram dug deeper with another charge, again and again….and, the dog went down!! Van Fleet took the tie breaker 8-6 in a dramatic finish to secure the win and the 4-4 tie for the team!! After the match, I asked Luke what it takes to stay in the long grind (almost a 3 hour match) against an opponent you have never beaten. Luke said, “I have played Zak numerous times in USTA, and I know his game”. “I knew I had to just keep taking it back at him over and over and stay with it until I had the points to win”. Wow, what a great way to end the regular season and psych up for the conference and regionals for RHS tennis!
The Rams then moved on to the OK Red Conference tournament at Grandville High School on Saturday, 10-6. The tournament competition in the OK Red is one of the toughest state wide in Division 1 and the Rams were ready to battle it out for the conference title!
The Rams netters battled hard on Saturday and ended up with a rain delay which moved the matches to Monday, October 8. Through the wind, rain and sun, the Rams never gave in. At the end of the day Monday, the Rams netters turned in an impressive second place finish, finding themselves only behind West Ottawa for the conference title!! Posting great wins for this tourney were conference champion Mark Vietengruber at #4 singles (6-1, 6-7, 6-0) and conference championship runners up Luke Van Fleet at #3 singles, Cade VanRooyen & Thomas Hall at #1 doubles and Zak Riebschleger & Ken Smith at #3 doubles.
With only two days in between, the Rams netters then went directly into Regional play at Holland High School on Thursday October 11. This tourney for the regional title drew teams from the all over the area including the OK Green Conference Champ and home court team, the Holland Dutch.
The Rams netters again worked it hard all day, in some terribly windy, cold weather on the outdoor courts at Holland H.S. Through the wind and changing weather conditions, the Rams drove forward and finished the day with another impressive outing, finding themselves right there with West Ottawa at a score of 19-22, finishing second in the region!! Posting great wins for this tourney were regional champions Mark Vietengruber at #4 singles (7-5, 6-4) and Zak Riebschleger & Ken Smith at #3 doubles (6-2, 2-6, 6-4). Also getting to the championship round were runners up Sam Dater & Gregg Witt at #2 doubles. Other Rams that posted key wins to score team points were #2 singles Ryan Korlewitz versus Wyoming (6-1, 6-2), #3 singles Luke Van Fleet versus East Kentwood (6-0, 6-1), #1 doubles Cade VanRooyen & Thomas Hall versus East Kentwood (6-1, 6-1) and #4 doubles John Macgregor & John D’Amore versus Holland (6-3, 3-6, 6-2).
After the completion of the conference and regional tourneys, Coach Tom Huizing said this about his team; “What a day we had in Holland!! Only a TEAM effort can accomplish what we did, and man, we have an awesome TEAM!! I am very proud of all of these guys”.
With the second place finish in the region, the Rams boys Varsity tennis team qualified for the state tournament in Midland to compete with the best of the best in Division 1 boys’ high school tennis.
Great job by the Rams boys tennis team at making state!! GO RAMS!!!