By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Not many freshmen get the opportunity to play for their college tennis teams. Lakeside graduate Megan Reichert was an exception to the rule for Mount Union University.
The 2011 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Co-Player of the Year was a starter for a Purple Raiders team that finished third at the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament at the Lindner Tennis Center in Mason.
“It was really cool,” Reichert said. “I told my parents I felt like a pro player even without the fans there. We got to practice on center court.”
The daughter of Steve and Kathleen Reichert played fifth singles and first doubles this spring, advancing to the OAC tournament with the team.
“It was a little overwhelming (to play on such a big stage),” Reichert said. “But the whole team was pumped up. That made it a little easier. The boys were there, also, so we got to watch them before we played. It wasn’t scary. It was almost like a regular-season match.”
The third-seeded Purple Raiders fell to second-seeded Otterbein in the tournament semifinals.
“We always go out as a team and try to do the best we possibly can,” Reichert said. “We do what we can to win. We just tried our best and gave it all we had.
“We were very disappointed,” Reichert said. “A few of the matches went three sets. I know mine did. It was heartbreaking to be so close. But it gives us more motivation to work harder and be the ones who come out on top.”
Reichert and teammate MacKenzie Jenkins fell to one of the best tandems in the country.
“They were really good,” Reichert said. “They knew what they were doing. I don’t think they lost a single match all season. The were really good.”
Reichert earned her spot with good old-fashioned hard work.
“There were a lot of challenge matches,” Reichert said. “I went out and said I wanted to win. It took a lot of hard work. I got a lot better from where I started, There was a tremendous improvement.”
Conditioning and strength training played a part.
“During the offseason, the coach gave us five-day workouts. We had three days of lifting and two days of running. I try to run every day. I actually started to like running.”
Reichert finished her initial season 9-7 in singles play and 3-3 in doubles competition.
“I never actually played competitive doubles before,” Reichert said. “My partner and I did good together.
“I had to learn how to talk to my partner, to communicate. I got a lot better at volleying. I wanted to impress my partner. She motivated me to work harder, as well.”
That partner helped Reichert along the way.
“She was really encouraging,” Reichert said. “She never let me get mad. After the first couple of points, she had said I know what I have to do, so just do it.”
Playing doubles helped Reichert’s singles’ game.
“It made me more confident going to the net,” she said. “It improved my serve. Getting the first serve in is important in doubles. It forced me to concentrate instead of smacking the crap out of the ball.”
Reichert has already started her offseason workouts.
“I’ve already started hitting with friends,” she said. “I feed tennis balls for lessons, so I’ll be able to keep doing that all summer.
“I’ve been working out a lot still. That helps, obviously. And my brother (Michael) has been there to help me with a workout plan, which is good because he doesn’t let me off easy.”
That familial support has been important to Reichert along the way.
“That was always nice,” she said. “I love having my family at matches. My grandparents (Edith and Paul Reichert) were there, too. They were all even at the away matches, except when we were in Athens. But even then, my brother (David) was there because he lives close to there. Wherever I went, I had a fan club.
“It’s nice to always have somebody on the sideline encouraging me even when I’m doing bad.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.