Van Wert's Katie Trittschuh returns a serve during the second singles match on Monday night versus Ottawa-Glandorf. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Van Wert's Katie Trittschuh returns a serve during the second singles match on Monday night versus Ottawa-Glandorf. (DHI Media/John Parent)
By Jim Cox
DHI Media Correspondent
VAN WERT - Ottawa-Glandorf escaped Van Wert Monday with a 3-2 Western Buckeye League win over the Lady Cougars. Van Wert's wins came at first singles and second doubles. The Cougs are now 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the WBL. The Lady Titans are 1-2 and 1-0.
Both doubles matches were over in less than 50 minutes, with the O-G pairing of junior Robin Maas and sophomore Madison Heckman topping Van Wert senior Hannah Stemen and junior Kalie Agler 6-1, 6-2. Van Wert's second doubles team of junior Phoebe Eutsler and sophomore Jess Agler countered with a 6-3, 6-1 win over seniors Beth Puthoff and Erin Hageman.
"The second doubles team played really, really well tonight," said coach Chuck Rollins. "They're two of my best athletes and they're two of my rawest players. Once they start picking up tennis, I think they have a very high ceiling. The first doubles team really struggled tonight. They did not play well."
Shortly after the doubles matches were completed, O-G got a big win at second singles, with junior Lauren Schneeg topping junior Katie Trittschuh 6-2, 6-4. Trittschuh led 4-3 in the second set before Schneeg reeled off three games in a row to put the Titans up 2-1.
"I was really impressed with Katie's play at second singles, because she played a girl that lobbed every shot," said Rollins. "In the beginning of the match and the second set she was lobbing everything back because she didn't want to make a mistake. I told her 'I don't care if you don't win another game, you're going to hit the ball like I've taught you,' because I want her to develop as a tennis player. She started hitting the ball in the second set, moved her opponent from side to side, hit some great shots.'
The third singles match took 90 minutes to complete, with O-G sophomore Kristen Ellerbrock edging Cougar senior Sydney Felger 7-5, 6-4 in a big one. Felger led 5-4 in the first set, but Ellerbrock won the next three games to end it. Felger had an even bigger lead in the second set, 4-1, but again Ellerbrock rose to the occasion, winning the last five games to sew up the team win with a 3-1 lead.
For Felger, a doubles player her entire high school career, it was her first try at singles. "She got a little tired," coach Rollins said of Felger's effort. "She's coming off a leg injury, a pulled muscle. I made her sit Friday and the weekend. It's a totally different level of physicality when you're playing singles, because it really wears you down." 
All four of the aforementioned matches were over before the first singles players had even completed the first set. With the Titans' junior automatic ball retriever Tiffany Kahle and the Cougars' steady junior Ally Moreland engaging in one long rally after another, the first set lasted an hour and 45 minutes before Moreland prevailed 7-5.
The lefty Kahle made virtually no unforced errors, winning several points with lobs when Moreland came to the net, and depending for the rest of her points on Moreland's unforced errors. Moreland's points came largely by hitting winners or forcing Kahle into errors with deft placements.
With the score 1-1 in the second set, things changed drastically when Kahle abandoned her soft game and became much more aggressive. It didn't work, as Moreland reeled off the next five games in about 20 minutes.
"It was a good win for Ally, but she played a very difficult opponent because of the style of play," said Rollins. "It was hard for her to play her normal game because she wasn't getting any pace from her opponent. She normally likes to hit a little harder and go for some things, but when you don't have pace coming to you, it's hard to generate your own. It was a tough, tough match to grind out." Moreland is now 2-0.
While disappointed to lose a winnable match, Rollins put things in perspective for his young team. "To be better at the end of the year, we're going to have to go through some growing pains. I don't want them to sacrifice playing correctly just to win some points, because it won't help them develop as tennis players."
First singles: Ally Moreland (VW) over Tiffany Kahle (OG) 7-5, 6-1.
Second singles: Lauren Schneeg (OG) over Katie Trittschuh (VW) 6-2, 6-4.
Third singles: Kristen Ellerbrock (OG) over Sydney Felger (VW) 7-5, 6-4.
First doubles: Robin Maas/Madison Heckman (OG) over Hannah Stemen/Kalie Agler (VW) 6-1, 6-2.
Second doubles: Phoebe Eutsler/Jess Agler (VW) over Beth Puthoff/Erin Hageman (OG) 6-3, 6-1.