By Kyle LoJacono
Zephyrhills junior No. 3 tennis player Hannah Ungerer’s win over Land O’ Lakes in the semifinals on April 3 clinched the Class 3A-District 6 championship.
“It felt great,” Ungerer said. “I’m so happy about how I played this year. I’m just so happy to be able to play healthy and help the team. It’s an awesome feeling, and it gives me the motivation to get better for next year.”
Things weren’t so great a year ago when Ungerer was still recovering from a back injury suffered in a car accident. The crash left her with two herniated discs, forcing her to go to one-hour physical therapy sessions three times a week for more than six months.
The injury happened shortly after the Bulldogs won a district championship and reached the regional finals in 2010. Ungerer was a freshman No. 4 player on that team and was expected to take over the No. 2 spot as a sophomore after the squad graduated several players.
Ungerer said she did not really start feeling the pain until she tried out for the volleyball team in 2010. She played on the junior varsity squad as a freshman at outside hitter, but her back prevented her from playing as a sophomore.
Ungerer has also had to miss tennis practice many times while going to therapy.
“It’s was really hard because my doctor said I could either play singles or doubles, but not both to help my back,” Ungerer said. “I really wanted to do both.”
Zephyrhills coach Lorraine Hinkle decided to play Ungerer at No. 5 singles only to ease her return to tennis as she recovered.
The Bulldogs finished third in districts last season, one away from the playoffs, but recovered enough to play singles and doubles this year. Zephyrhills earned 14 points to win the 3A-6 title, the program’s second in three years.
“Basically she’s done everything we’ve needed of her,” Hinkle said. “Last year she wanted to play more and play harder, but we slowed her down. I keep reminding her she doesn’t want to take something that limits her one year and make it last two because she tries to do too much.”
Ungerer’s teammates are happy to have her back at full strength.
“She really helped us,” said senior and No. 1 singles player Sarah Vande Berg. “She’s obviously one of our best players at No. 3, so it definitely helped having her at 100 percent this year.”
For Ungerer, it’s a relief to be healthy again.
“I’m really glad that I can contribute,” Ungerer said. “That’s what I’ve worked for since I got hurt. I’m happy I can help the team.”
Vande Berg won her singles point 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 1 singles final at districts and teamed with fellow senior Amanda Smith to win the top doubles point 6-0, 6-2. Sophomore Sydney Owens won No. 2 singles 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 and paired with Ungerer to win the No. 2 doubles.
Bulldogs fall in semifinals
The Zephyrhills girls tennis team was unable to win its regional semifinals contest against Citrus, losing at home 5-2.
The Bulldogs’ points came at No. 1 singles and doubles. Senior Sarah Vande Berg won 6-0, 6-2 and teamed with fellow senior Amanda Smith to win 6-0, 6-2.
Vande Berg will still play in her third state tournament individually, while also teaming with Smith in doubles play. The Class 3A tournament is at Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs April 17 to 20.
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