By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT -- Hurt, tired and down a break in the third set in the finals of the District 4 Singles Tournament, Lewisburg senior Ben Koch got mad.
And he just didn't get even in the set against top-ranked David Rodenhizer of Towanda, Koch, with an aching back and all, won.
In a title match for the ages lasting nearly two and a half hours, the No. 2-seeded Koch gutted out a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Rodenhizer to claim the district championship Monday at West Branch Racquet Club.
Koch becomes Lewisburg's second District 4 singles champion in three years. Peter Csernica claimed the title in 2011. A year ago, Koch fell in the semifinals to eventual champ Maria Cioffi of South Williamsport, who went on to finish fourth in the state tournament before becoming a freshman sensation at Bucknell.
Now it's Koch's turn to go to the PIAA Championships, held May 24 and 25 at the Hershey Racquet Club. He will face District 7 runner-up Jake Mascaro of Thomas Jefferson in the first round.
"This year coming out, oh man, I wanted (to win the title) more than ever. After getting so close to going to states and just being, you know, cut (down), it sucked," said Koch, whose family moved to the Lewisburg area from New York prior to the 2011-12 school year.
"This year we played a heck of a match and I couldn't be prouder of the way I played today, even though (the match) was so long. It was probably one of the best matches I've ever played, and probably one of the most fun matches because it was so amazing."
After a spirited first-set victory that was fueled by six of his seven aces he had in the match, Koch's serve was broken twice and committed three crucial double faults as Rodenhizer rebounded to win the second set.
But when Koch found himself down 0-2 in the third set, he didn't have to look far to find the inspiration he needed to mount a comeback.
"I heard my dad (say), and it's something I should always think, 'do I want it?' And man, I wanted it so bad I just had to pull it out," said Koch.
Behind a pair of service breaks Koch bounced back to take a 4-2 lead, but he wouldn't be out of the woods yet as Rodenhizer reeled off wins in the next three games to go up 5-4 and get within four points of a district title.
During the ensuing changeover however, Koch gave himself a little extra psyching up to stay in the match.
"I was talking to myself again, do I want it, and man, I wanted it. I kept telling myself this is probably one of the best matches you've ever played -- the longest -- and go out with a bang," said Koch.
The Green Dragon ended up making a lot of noise when he broke Rodenhizer's serve twice in the final three games for the victory, which came less than a week after the Towanda junior beat Koch in their two teams' District 4 team quarterfinal match, 6-4, 6-2.
"I learned a lot (in the week since the loss). I played my game (Monday). Last week I played (David's) game. And that was the key," said Koch. "Today I said, no matter what, play your game. I just had to wait for my opportunity, and attack it."
In the semifinals, Koch lost his first two games of the tournament, but he still handedly beat third-seeded Caleb Vuocolo of Loyalsock, 6-2, 6-0. In the other semifinal, Rodenhizer defeated Wellsboro's Aaron Dillman, 6-1, 6-0.
"Ben deserved this today. This is what we've been talking about for a couple of weeks now," said Lewisburg coach Matt Barr. "It's his time now and his time to just go and get it. I'm sure he's flying high right now. He's got to be so happy. Just to be back and be able to capture that gold is pretty awesome for him."