Perhaps it was best that German exchange student Roman Ranke isn't too familiar with the local tennis scene.
It certainly worked out for the best for Lodi High's boys tennis team on Thursday afternoon at Twin Arbors Athletic Club.
With Lodi and Lincoln - the team that has tormented the Flames and the rest of the San Joaquin Athletic Association while winning the last three league titles - knotted at two apiece, Ranke and the Trojans' Danny Nahl, playing in the No. 2 singles slot, were the only players left on the court.
As if the pressure wasn't enough already, the two were tied at 4-all in the third and final set.
Ranke, though admittedly nervous, couldn't have looked more calm and composed as he won out the final two games to take a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win that propelled the Flames (5-0 SJAA) to a 3-2 victory and atop the league standings. "When my second set was over I heard that we were tied 2-2," Ranke said. "There was some pressure. I've heard how dominant Lincoln is. I just kept playing and tried to keep long rallies going and let him (Nahl) make the mistakes."
It was the first loss of the season for Lincoln (5-1 SJAA).
"This was a huge upset," Lodi coach John Stroh said. "We haven't competed with Lincoln the last three years. I think they might have been overconfident."
Stroh said he was a little worried when the match came down to Ranke and Nahl, explaining that Ranke, a junior in his first year at Lodi, isn't used to the rivalry.
"I have to give him credit," Stroh said. "He's a very smart player."
While Ranke's victory was clearly the difference in the match, Stroh said the play of his No. 2 doubles team was a huge factor.
Matt Rosenberg and Chad Marchand, playing against a much more experienced tandem in Lincoln's Albert Wu and Mark Crockett, took the first set before losing a tough second set (5-7) that could have put the match away. But the Lodi duo improved their play at the net and came away with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 triumph.
"It was a very tough match," Marchand said. "It was the biggest match I've played in."
Rosenberg and Marchand "played with a lot of heart," Stroh said.
Picking up Lodi's other win was Danny Miladinovich, who handled Lincoln's Peter Cassette 6-4, 6-3.
Steven Oechel came away with Lincoln's only win in singles play, knocking off the Flames' Mitch Hanner 6-3, 6-1.
In the other doubles match, the Trojan tandem of Anthony Corradi and Mark Admundsun defeated Julian Castillo and Jack Zeck 6-0, 1-6, 6-1.
"What a special treat," Stroh said. "This could determine the league championship."
The Flames still have to play at Lincoln later this season.
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