Whenever possible, former Tiger men’s tennis student-athletes Mike Senich ’72 and Wendell Lutz ’66 like to take to the courts between meetings with the Wittenberg University Board of Directors. However, they had grown concerned by the deteriorating condition of the Albright Tennis Complex.
Rather than sit idly by, Senich, a 1992 Wittenberg Athletics Hall of Honor inductee, and Lutz resolved to do something about it. With help from the university’s Office of Advancement, they embarked on a fundraising campaign that would hopefully raise enough money to fill cracks and clean mold off the courts and purchase new nets and windscreens throughout the 12-court complex.
“Why did we undertake the project? Quite simply, it had to be done,” Senich said. “Wendell and I had a few hits before one of the board meetings and were commenting on how sad it was that the courts were so badly deteriorated, full of cracks and darkened with mold. One of our fellow board members heard our conversation and challenged us to start a campaign to repair the courts.”
Senich and Lutz sent out personal notes and followed up with phone calls, but the campaign did not raise nearly enough money to cover the costs associated with the improvements. Senich and Lutz were not deterred. They made large enough donations to fund the restoration of the complex, which was completed in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year.
“It really meant a lot to me to have the opportunity to play tennis at Wittenberg,” Lutz said. “I was a mediocre player on some great teams, but players who were much better than me always treated me equally. Being part of those teams produced great camaraderie, and tennis is something that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life.”
In researching companies to do the resurfacing project, Senich stumbled upon a familiar name. His one-time rival at Muskingum College, Jim Lathrop, owns one of the most successful court resurfacing companies in the Midwest, Total Tennis, Inc., in Columbus, Ohio. Seeing each other for the first time in 40 years, Senich said that the “years just melted away. We particularly remembered a tough match that Jim won on the old North Hall (Firestine) courts and laughed as we re-lived many of the points and games.”
Lutz said more than 1,500 feet of cracks on the courts were filled, and they were also mapped for future reference and repairs. He and Senich hope that the improvements are just the start of efforts to maintain the facility, noting that the entire process likely will have to be repeated in less than 10 years.
“Sports is something that enriches the college experience,” Lutz said. “It’s important that players have decent facilities.”
To that end, Senich said the work done was a “good mid-range repair that will give us several years of good, playable courts before additional maintenance is needed.” He added that Lathrop, who lost in the Ohio Athletic Conference championship match to Senich twice, provided excellent direction on the project to ensure its success.
“The players on the teams are ecstatic about the new surface, the teams are practicing better, and they have become more competitive with the elite North Coast Athletic Conference programs,” Senich said. “The courts will now require some routine annual maintenance to keep them as fresh as possible for a few years.
“Speaking for myself, and I suspect Wendell as well, we are happy to have made the effort, we are thankful for those that contributed to the campaign, and we are grateful for the work provided by an old rival.”
The David B. & Georgiana S. Albright Tennis Complex was dedicated in September 1997 after the former chair of the Wittenberg Board of Directors and his wife for her $1 million contribution to the project. It features 12 courts, six of them with competition lighting.
“I can’t tell you how much the members of the current Wittenberg tennis teams appreciate the generosity of Wendell and Mike,” said Tiger head coach Justin Stuckey. “Their vision and leadership made these facility enhancements possible, and they have done so much to revitalize what I consider to be one of the finest small college tennis facilities in the nation.”
Written By: Ryan Maurer