BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – There have been more important Cedar Crest-Lebanon High meetings. But on this court, not that many.
It has been nearly an eternity since the Cedars have bested the Falcons in boys’ tennis. Yet if it was ever going to happen, this season figured to be the year.
But on Wednesday afternoon at Cedar Crest, tradition trumped timing, as the Falcons whitewashed Lebanon High 7-0 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section One match. That both teams entered the contest undefeated was more out of the ordinary for one program than the other.
The result pushed perennial power Cedar Crest to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the section. Off to its best start in no-one-knows-how-long, Lebanon, which is made up of a number of boys’ basketball players, is now 6-1 on the spring and 1-1 in the circuit.
Of the 82 games played throughout the entire match, Cedar Crest won an incredible 72 of them.
“We’re fortunate to have a big group of seniors who have started and have experience,” said Cedar Crest head coach Mike Rohrbach. “We felt good coming into the match. We just wanted to play hard and play smart.
“When I look at Lebanon I see a group of athletes who play hard,” Rohrbach continued. “These guys (the Cedars) know how to play tennis. They all have great strokes. They’re athletes, they’re working hard and they’re playing the game the right way. That is definitely one of the best Lebanon teams I’ve ever seen. They’re going to beat a lot of people this year.”
“We just wanted to battle point for point with them,” said Lebanon head coach Don Trostle of the Falcons. “Our goal was to play as good as we could and let the chips fall where they may. Mentally, it was like Lehigh against Duke, since most of my guys are basketball players.
“They’re (his players) athletes playing tennis,” added Trostle. “Why we’ve had success is our core group of seniors have stuck with it, even though they’re playing other sports. They have great attitudes.”
Cedar Crest put itself in the position of having to win just one singles match by capturing all three doubles matches. The Falcons’ top duo of senior Wes Fortna and freshman Colin Muriaka set the stage by rolling over Ben Leibig and Avery Maldonado, 8-1.
At number two and number three doubles, Alex Koltun and Henry Overholt, and Alex Royer and Colin Easter followed suit with 8-3 and 8-0 triumphs, respectively.
“Things are going great,” said Rohrbach. “We have 36 players and that’s the most we’ve ever had. We have a very experienced team and some very good senior leadership. We’re looking to compete for a championship. We’re looking to put ourselves in position to make noise in the postseason.
“Our goals start with the County Tournament (on Saturday),” Rohrbach added. “We’ve won like the last five or six in-a-row and we want to keep that streak going.”
“We have a senior group,” said Trostle. “I knew if we played our best tennis that we’d have an opportunity to be in matches. I’m very happy with it. But as I told our guys, we can’t be satisfied with our start.”
The number one-singles match went to Fortna, who shaded Leibig 6-2, 6-1. The first set stood at 3-2, before Fortna won nine of the last ten games.
Fortna is a three-time Lebanon County scholastic champion, was a Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three runner-up last season, when he made it to the Elite Eight in the state.
“Ben’s really getting better,” said Rohrbach. “His forehand is really strong right now. It took Wes a while to figure out that he couldn’t give Ben a lot of forehands or he was going to put it away.
“It’s tough to top what Wes did last year,” Rohrbach continued. “He just needs to stay focused to get himself in the same matches this year.”
“Ben had some good points against Wes,” said Trostle. “He battled. They (his players) all battled as best they could.
“If we play our best tennis, and if we could get to double-digit wins, that would be a very good season for us,” continued Trostle. “10-6 or 11-5 would be good. Optimally, 12-4 would be great for us. But I don’t like to be a prognasticator.”
From number two singles through number four singles, the Falcons dropped only three games. Muriaka dispatched Brandon Whitman 6-0, 6-1, Ryan Zinn defeated Maldonado 6-0, 6-1 at number three singles and Alex Koltun downed Alex Trautman 6-1, 6-0.
“Getting to the state tournament as a team, without a doubt, would be our ultimate goal,” said Rohrbach. “When you make it to the state tournament as a team everybody can go. Taking all 36 kids, let’s get crazy loud for tennis.”