Burlington’s Bertlshofer tops Bliesner for SEC boys tennis singles crown

Burlington High School's Tyce Berthlshofer serves the ball during his Southeast Conference boys tennis tournament match against Fairfield's Dil Hurlin Tuesday May 10, 2022 at the Dankwardt Park tennis courts.

Two years ago, Tyce Bertlshofer was sitting idly by, watching the spring sports go bye bye and hoping the COVID-19 pandemic wouldn’t wipe out the summer sports, too.

Last spring, Bertlshofer decided it was time to make the most of every opportunity afforded him. So, for the first time in his life di lui, he picked up a tennis racket and tried out for the Burlington High School boys tennis team.

This year, the BHS senior is one of the top singles players around.

On Tuesday, Bertlshofer did what he set out to do at the end of last season. Bertlshofer downed teammate Richie Bliesener, 6-4, 6-0, to win the Southeast Conference singles championship at the Dankwardt Memorial Park Tennis Courts.

On a hot, windy day, not even a black, long-sleeve sweater could keep Bertlshofer from achieving his goal.

Burlington High School's Rich Bleisener returns the ball during his Southeast Conference boys tennis tournament match against Mount Pleasant's Elliot Cook Tuesday May 10, 2022 at the Dankwardt Park tennis courts.

“It’s awesome. That was my goal from last year was to come to conference and put up a good fight, “Bertlshofer said.” To walk away with the win is really cool. I’ve only been playing tennis for a couple years, to have an accomplishment like this is really big. It means a lot to me. “

“It was cool having Rich and Tyce play each other in the championship match,” BHS boys tennis coach Brian Mumm said.

It was a banner day for the Grayhounds, who won the regular season conference title and, had team scores been kept at the tournament, would have won that, as well.

Bliesener pulled off the biggest upset of the day in the singles semifinals. He knocked off Keokuk senior Ivan Lopez, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8). It also was Bliesener’s first tiebreaker victory, but the marathon win took its toll on him for the championship match.

“I was a little exhausted because the match before I had to go to a 10-point tiebreaker and took about 2 1/2 hours to do all that in the heat,” Bliesener said. “I had to drink lots of water. It was a tough match. I played Ivan before. He’s a very good player from Spain. That was a very difficult match. I really have accomplished a lot this season. There’s always mistakes, but my serving has improved and also my backhand. Just keeping it in play. “

“Rich and Tyce playing in the finals was a first for me,” Mumm said. “Rich had a pretty big upset in the semifinals. The kid from Keokuk is a really good player. That was a very exciting match to watch. You don’t get to see that a whole lot in tennis. “

Burlington High School's Hunter Ford returns the ball during his Southeast Conference boys tennis tournament doubles match against Mount Pleasant High School's Lincoln Henriksen and Levi Graber Tuesday May 10, 2022 at the Dankwardt Park tennis courts.

Bliesener kept the first set against Bertlshofer, battling back from 5-2 down to within 5-4 before Bertlshofer won.

Bliesener simply ran out of gas in the second set.

“The sun blaring in my eyes on my serves, it gave me a little extra oomph,” Bliesener said. “This one deserves a win. You’ve got to put the drive for it. Don; ‘t put your head down. Just keep it in play. “

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