BRATTLEBORO -- The Most Improved Player award generally goes to someone who succeeds because of their drive instead of their God-given talent. And you never hear of a team’s star receiving it.
Junior Isaiah Ungerleider, who was the No. 1 singles player for the Brattleboro boys tennis team this spring, was named M.I.P. at his team’s recent end-of-the-year cookout.
"He’s improved more in one year than any kid I’ve ever had," said Phil Natowich, who has been coaching boys tennis at BUHS for the past 12 years. "His hard work is what makes him so good. He really works at his game."
Ungerleider helped the Colonels to a 12-2-1 record during the 2012 regular season and a No. 6 seed in the Division 1 Tournament.
"He’s a quiet leader. He supports his teammates and enjoys playing," noted Natowich. "It was a great group of kids to work with this season. They played up to their potential."
During his team’s playoff run, Ungerleider was a perfect 3-0. He took care of Burr and Burton’s Max Gomez 6-0, 6-3 in the opening round; beat U-32’s Greg Asnis 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals; and outdueled Rutland’s Dom Wysolmerski 6-4, 6-4 in the semis.
"He’s as balanced, consistent and patient as any kid I’ve ever had," said Natowich, who believes those are the three key ingredients to a good tennis player. "His mental toughness and his forehand are his strengths.
The BUHS junior defeated Jamison Hartley of Burlington and then South Burlington’s Cody Yu to advance to the semifinals of the individuals that were held in Burlington. He then lost to Daniel Ro of Essex in the semis -- a match that Natowich believes might have a different outcome if they were to face off again.
That’s because Brattleboro’s Most Improved Player has since improved his volleying simply by keeping his racquet head higher.
The BUHS coach said that Ungerleider is a really great kid and the type you want representing your town and school. He said he’s a better person than he is a player, and that he’s a great player.
"I’ve never had a kid get more compliments from opposing coaches. They are always telling me what a great player he is and that he looks like a really nice kid -- or that he seemed really nice when they got to talk to him," continued Natowich.
There’s a chance that the No. 1 singles player at BUHS could graduate early, according to his coach. But if he does return for his senior season, beware.
An improved Isaiah Ungerleider will be scary.
Shane Covey can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.