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Men's tennis team headed to nationals (09-24-13) PDF Print E-mail
Written by JACOB BEVERLY Sentinel Sports Writer   
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 09:31
Mark O'Connell returns a ball during Perrysburg's mens tennis practice. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - The Perrysburg Tennis Center's men's 3.0 tennis team is accomplishing more than it could have imagined.
After finishing league play undefeated, 18-0, and becoming district, state and regional champions, the team is now headed to Tucson, Ariz. this weekend to compete in the United States Tennis Association National Tournament.
Many of the members on the team didn't even conceive a trip to nationals was a possibility when they started their season.
"If you told any one of us when we first got together in the beginning of the season: 'hey you guys are going to go to nationals,' we would be like yeah whatever, we're here to play tennis, have some fun, get a little bit better, and that's about it," said team co-captain Dan Bietzel. "But when the season progressed, we're like hey we haven't really lost yet."
The national tournament consists of 17 teams in four flights. The matches consist of three doubles and two singles games, where the best of five will win the match.
Members of the team include: Bietzel, captain Chris Cunningham, Mike Bielefeld, Bryan Douville, Rick Hetzel, Mark O'Connell, Mike O'Toole and Dave Riffer.
USTA league's beginning level is 2.5, so for most of the players on the 3.0 team this is their first time playing tennis competitively. Each person's experience range varies from only eight to 18 months.
It is also the first time these men have played together as a team.
''So last minute, we had played with each other in what they call the ladder leagues here (at the Perrysburg Tennis Center) in the fall and winter," Bietzel said. "And then they were getting a 3.0 team together, so we were just trying to find people who were 3.0 and went from there."
Even though the team was somewhat thrown together, the members are enjoying their time. Especially in the run to nationals.
"I'm just having a great time. We go out there, we have a ball out there with the other teams and amongst ourselves," O'Connell said. "We have a good core group of people on our team, and it's nice that our personalities and play styles are very similar. On the court we are very strong, and then off the court we get along very well."
The fun-loving approach embraced by the team has everyone rooting them. The PTC even held a fundraiser in support of the team, raising $4,500 dollars to help pay for expenses.
"They have the best attitude, and they are so nice to be around," said PTC owner Julie Weider. "I know their heads are starting to swell, but they are the nicest guys you could ever meet."
This trip to nationals is only the second time in PTC history a team has made it to the championships. The first being a 7.0 mixed team in 2009, where it finished second in its flight.
To get ready for nationals, team members are working hard to improve.
"We still have a lot of areas where we can improve and that's what we are working on. We are working on getting better,'' O'Connell said.
Although the team has accomplished more than anyone thought, it still wants to win it all.
"I think we've achieved more than we ever imagined already so, not to say everything has been gravy after we got through it, but I think we have a good chance," Bietzel said. "We just have to take it one game at a time and get through our flight and go from there. It's five matches, if we win five matches we are national champions."

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