Ronghi using right approach with Red Devils

LORDSTOWN – Joe Ronghi’s demeanor says it all.

The Lordstown girls tennis coach has an infectious personality.

He’s quick to give you a good, firm handshake, look you in the eye and pay you a compliment all within a matter of a minute.

That positive reinforcement shows in the Red Devils, who improved to 12-5 and 5-0 in the Northeastern Tennis League with a 5-0 victory over United on Monday at Lordstown Township Park. The victory wrapped up Lordstown’s second straight N.E.T title. Lordstown also won the league in 2009. Besides Lordstown and United, West Branch, East Liverpool and East Palestine are in the league.

“He’s the nicest person alive,” Lordstown senior Marina Patitucci said. “He’s not mean like some of the other coaches are. He lets you have fun. He’s just wonderful and all the girls love it.”

Ronghi, who is also Lordstown’s boys tennis coach, is 82-39 in seven seasons. Through those years, he hasn’t lost sight of the main premise of this program – having fun. That would explain the 15 girls out for this year’s team.

“The first-year players, once they hit the court, it’s something different for them from the other sports we have here like basketball and volleyball,” Ronghi said. “It’s just contagious. The girls come here, play, hit a couple of balls and they like it. It’s a whole different kind of sport for them.

“The enthusiasm has been great.”

Patitucci’s play has been pretty good as well. She was the lone junior on last year’s starting seven peppered with seniors.

She made the adjustment from playing second doubles to No. 1 singles.

“The lines. Usually you could slam it out and somehow it would still be in,” Patitucci said. “In singles, it was a narrower court. It’s pretty easy. It’s pretty fun.”

Though the Red Devils lost at least a half dozen seniors, they gained as many freshmen – including second and third singles players Trish Kohut and Dakota Naples.

Patitucci said her job as a senior leader has been pretty easy.

“They’re all pretty good. They all know what to do,” she said. “It’s just the little things. They call me Mama Patitucci. So, I guess I’m the mom of the team.”

Lordstown’s team concept is the heart and soul of the Red Devils tennis team. Postseason play hasn’t been the team’s forte. The only player to make it out of sectionals was Julian Arciszewski, a German exchange student who won the Division II Boardman sectional title in 2007.

“We’re a good team, deep team,” Ronghi said. “We’re 10 girls deep. We don’t have an individual superstar. We’ve had a couple girls, couple boys make it third round (one step from districts). We’re a good solid team. That’s why we’ve been so successful.”