Tonawanda News — It’s been a while since North Tonawanda senior Gretchen Ringler lost a singles match. Against opposing teams, that is.
She went 14-0 this season in Niagara Frontier Play, without ever losing a set, and the only player to beat Ringler this year was her own teammate: junior Jessica Robins, who also was 14-0 on the season.
“In my humble opinion, her biggest competition this year was Jess,” said NT coach John LeMar. “The only player Gretchen lost to this year was Jess in practice... They’re excellent players and it’s real beneficial to them (to play against each other in practice). Knowing you won’t face anybody a big level above that, at least in our league, it helped the both of them go undefeated this year.”
Ringler and Robins, playing first and second singles respectively for the Lady Jacks this season, were both perfect on the season, leading NT to a 10-4 regular season record. With their regular season goals accomplished, the Lady Jacks teammates will finish the season as doubles competitors, starting today as the No. 1 seed in the NFL tournament.
On the court the two girls compliment each other very well. Ringler is a consistent, methodical player who never misses a shot, LeMar said. Robins has more power in her game, especially on her forehand, and LeMar said she is one of the few girls in the NFL that can put pressure on opponents with her big shots.
“I think their chemistry is very good. They get along great, they’re great players — actually the thing we did different this year was from the first day of practice in mid-August I had an idea I wanted to send them for doubles,” LeMar said. “We practiced doubles with them every day this year with them together.”
Ringler is looking forward to teaming up with Robins after both players had so much singles success this season.
“We are real close and we have played together for five years,” Ringler said. “I love playing with her because she’s so fun. We’re very equal so it’s very competitive when we play. I’m so glad we’re going to doubles together and that we both went undefeated.”
Robins isn’t looking forward to next season without Ringler because of their bond, but she is excited to close out this year playing side by side with her partner and good friend.
“The toughest part of all this is knowing she’s a senior and it’s all going to end soon,” Robins said. “I can honesty say, over the course of the last few years playing with Gretchen, I wouldn’t be where I am without her. We constantly push each other and there are things one is better at than the other, and we really compliment each other on that.”
Robins said the practice matches between the two girls were intense, but both approached each one with a positive attitude. Both players wanted to get better and their results indicate the competition was advantageous for both players.
“I love playing her because it’s always us two playing against each other,” Ringler said. “We have to stay serious during a match, but we’re so nice at the same time because we’re teammates and friends.”
LeMar said what both girls accomplished this season is something to be proud of, and said he is confident they can continue to have success in NFLs and hopefully at Sectionals.
“It’s remarkable to play first singles and not drop a set all year. It’s a huge, huge accomplishment,” LeMar said. “Gretchen is a hard worker and it’s nice to see that when she leaves her game got better. I see each year where she got a little better and added parts to her game.
“Jessica has come a long way in every little sense,” he continued. “Sometimes in our league it becomes don’t miss the ball, and she has some shots that can hurt people. Where she’s grown is she’s gotten much more consistent and mentally tough and strong in big matches.”
LeMar has coached the girls’ team at NT for over 20 years and said if he had the choice there wouldn’t be two athletes he would choose over Ringler and Robins. They has put in the work and now are ready for the trek to states.
“They have played for a long time, they’re experienced, they’re mentally strong and sometimes as a coach you have a good feeling when your athletes are prepared or ready,” he said. “There is difference between hoping they’re ready and knowing they can handle the pressure. I’ve coached a long time and you can see. This year I know they’re ready and it kind of depends on that one match — do they play well? Because anything can happen.”Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.