There was heartbreak a year ago for Jonathan Onigkeit.
That heartbreak had more to do with him seeing the Rochester Lourdes boys tennis team’s seniors be denied a season because of the COVID pandemic, than him losing out on his junior season.
All of it has made Onigkeit more thankful than ever for what’s been provided to him this spring. Like never before, he’s relishing this final opportunity to play tennis in an Eagles uniform.
Onigkeit and his teammates enjoyed another day on the courts on Tuesday when they came through with a hard-fought 5-2 non-conference win over upstart Schaeffer Academy.
Lourdes moves to 7-1 overall, while Schaeffer is 9-3.
“I am just very happy that I got a senior season,” Onigkeit said. “We are very happy to be back. It was heartbreaking that we couldn’t play last year and seeing some close friends not get their senior season. They were really upset by that. Getting to play for this (program) is a big deal. Some of the best high school memories I’ve made have been on the tennis court.”
Indeed, it’s been the idea of being on this “team” that’s most drawn Onigkeit to tennis. When that “team” opportunity went away last spring due to COVID, Onigkeit largely went away from the game.
He just lost the itch to keep at it, at least in the non-stop way that he used to at a younger age, when his parents would drive him from tournament to tournament — year-round.
“Prior to this season, the last time I’d played in a competitive match was two years ago, when I was in the individual doubles final at the state tournament,” Onigkeit said. “Life kind of got in the way of tennis for me. I got a job, there was college stuff to get ready for. Tennis kind of took a back seat. And then, this season came on so fast.”
Onigkeit is gradually getting up to speed with his game. He was positioned at No. 3 singles on Tuesday where he finished with a 6-1, 6-1 win.
He likely isn’t where he was at skill wise when he was a sophomore. But that doesn’t surprise Lourdes coach Steve Tacl, who is slowly but surely watching Onigkeit regain his form.
“That first month of playing, honestly, I think he was just trying to find himself,” Tacl said. “And it was tough. He has been struggling some in practices and matches. So I am zero percent surprised that he has struggled some. I could see it coming from a mile away. But now, he is trending in the right direction when it matters, and that is the goal no matter what.”
Speaking of trending in the right direction, that is certainly Schaeffer Academy. The Lions used to be a program, five years ago when current senior Brady Zimmerman was a seventh-grader, that had trouble competing against junior varsity teams.
And now look at them. The Lions went toe to toe with Lourdes at most positions Tuesday and won two of them. One of those came at No. 1 doubles, where Zimmerman paired with Faith Monson (Schaeffer has three girls in its lineup) and won 7-6 (7-5 tie-breaker), 6-1.
It was an odd, though wonderful feeling for Zimmerman who couldn’t help but harken back to how things used to be in this program.
“It is so weird for me to have matches now and actually win them,” Zimmerman said. “And just for us to be able to hit it back with other teams, it feels great.”
Lourdes and Schaeffer may meet again this season, only this time it would be with each other’s season on the line, in the Section 1A tournament. The teams figure to be the top seeds in the state-qualifying event.
Zimmerman and the rest of the Lions went away from Tuesday’s competition with hope, something they never seriously felt in seasons past.
“That we even made it close today is a confidence booster for us,” Zimmerman said.
Lourdes 5, Schaeffer Academy 2
Singles: Marjan Veldic (L) def. Luke Bothun 6-0, 6-3; Ethan Leeser (L) def. Pierre O’Driscoll 6-0, 7-5; Jonathan Onigkeit (L) def. Annie Orvis 6-1, 6-1; Freddie Suhler (L) def. Asher Monson 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Doubles: Brady Zimmerman/Faith Munson (SA) def. Ethan Blissenbach/Will Pollock 7-6 (7-5), 6-1; Adam Rector/Noah Monson (SA) def. Charlie Young/Ethan Hubbbard 6-3, 6-3; Ethan Thompson/Jonathan Boughey (L) def. Katie Friese/Aidan Kluth 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.