During the semifinal round of the Ohio Athletic Conference's men's tennis tournament in May, Zach McDivitt was put under pressure at a famous venue.
The 2012 Lakeview graduate found himself on the center court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, the place where the Association of Tennis Professionals' Western and Southern Open occurs in August. The event is also called the Cincinnati Masters, a tuneup for the U.S. Open.
Otterbein held a 4-3 lead over Capital with two matches to go to clinch a spot in the final, and McDivitt had the opportunity to do so. Squaring off against Capital's Kenny Duncan, the then-freshman took the three-set match, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, and the Cardinals won, 5-3.
"It was an awesome atmosphere because we were playing at the ATP courts in Cincinnati," McDivitt said. "You already feel like you're playing in the big leagues when we were playing in the big stadium. Everyone was watching because there was two matches still going. That was definitely the highlight of my season, clinching that match."
Otterbein's season ended the next day against No. 19-ranked Ohio Northern and missed out on a chance to participate in the NCAA Division III Men's tennis tournament, but McDivitt's win in the semifinals capped off a solid first season at the collegiate level.
As the No. 4 singles player on the team, McDivitt posted a 12-9 record and had two matches unfinished because the other matches decided the outcome of the team match. He also played doubles for the Cardinals, going 15-6 with three different partners.
Zach McDivitt, Otterbein
Alma Mater: Lakeview
Major: Allied Health
The skinny:?As a freshman, McDivitt was the No. 4 singles player on the team and accumulated a 12-9 record. He also was a doubles player, with a 15-6 record.
While he played singles during the regular season and doubles during the postseason in high school, McDivitt had to get used to competing in both during team matches in college, but he said he found it enjoyable.
"(In high school), I was either doing one or the other, so that's definitely a lot more tennis," McDivitt said. "For me, though, I actually kind of like playing doubles because it almost acts as a warmup for my singles match - gets my legs moving.
"But it definitely wears you out after awhile."
For much of the season, McDivitt partnered up with junior Ryan Shutt as the second doubles team, and the pair went 12-4 together. McDivitt said both players were used to playing on the left side of the court called the advantage side, which forces players to employ more backhand hits.
McDivitt moved over to the right side of the tennis court called the deuce side, which has more forehand hits, and he said the pair made it work.
"We both played the same side, but we agreed that I'd go over," McDivitt said. "He was really consistent with his ground strokes and my volley game is personally better than my ground-stroke game. That always worked well because I came to the net all the time, and he was OK with staying back. We compliment each other pretty well."
McDivitt and Otterbien have little time before the season starts again, as the team will play a few matches in the fall before taking a long winter break.
This means McDivitt doesn't have much time to improve his game before having to defend his spot in the rotation. Otterbein will have 11 recruits coming into the team this fall, one year after only getting four. The 2012 Ohio High School Athletic Association state tennis qualifier in doubles said that he's been working on his consistency to help improve his standing on the team.
"Every year you have to bring your best because the coach is going to keep recruiting no matter what," McDivitt said. "You never know who's going to be coming in as a freshman that's going to play in the top six. So, I've been working hard this summer hopefully to maintain my spot."
As for the team, Otterbein turned it around last season, recording 16 wins en route to the runner-up finish in the conference tournament. In the previous three seasons, the Cardinals amassed 25 total team wins.
With Ohio Northern graduating two of its top players and Otterbein returning its entire team, Otterbein looks like a contender to win the OAC tournament and get a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"We definitely have a shot," McDivitt said. "I'm not sure if we're the favorites for next, but we're definitely a contender."