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 SOUTH LEBANON – A ‘racquet’ is a legitimate element. ‘Serving’ is a good thing. And ‘deuce’ explores the power of two, by representing players’ equality. 

 But ‘love’ means nothing?

 Tennis anyone?

 On a gorgeous Saturday morning at Cedar Crest High School, the locale celebrated the game of tennis during the 25th annual contesting of the Lebanon County Boys’ Tennis Tournament. And after the competitors had gotten down to business and the dust had settled, Ben Clary  won the battle and the war was declared a draw.

 Clary, a junior from Palmyra, was crowned the Lebanon County individual champion after he defeated Cedar Crest’s Jack Muriaka, 6-1, 6-2 in the final match at Number One singles. On the team side of the competition, the Cougars and Falcons were declared co-champions when they tied for top honors with ten team points apiece.

 Annville-Cleona, Elco and Lebanon High finished in a three-way tie for third place.

 The Cougars repeated their team championship from a year ago, while yesterday marked the 17th time that the Falcons finished ahead of the pack.

 “It’s nice for us, because we don’t play these schools during the regular season.” said Palmyra head coach Abbie Mahaffey. “With  the strength of tennis in Lebanon County, it’s nice to be able to come out and have them all play together. I appreciate Cedar Crest stepping up and doing it every year.”

 “I thought we had a really good shot at winning this year,” said Cedar Crest head coach Mike Rohrbach. “We added a couple of new players. Our expecations were to take that trophy back.”

 “I’m happy, because we haven’t been know to win this,” said Clary. “Winning it back-to-back feels great. We wanted to do it for Palmyra.

 “Jack was a tough opponent,” continued Clary. “I’m just glad I got it done. I didn’t have an idea what the scores would be. But I came in understanding that I can do it.”

 The results of the Flight One singles’ final may have been surprising to some, given the fact that both competitors are among the top players in District Three. But the match was closer than those scores might indicate.

 The turning point may have come early on, with Clary up 2-1 in the opening set. Clary held his service in the fourth game, then broke Muriaka’s serve to open a 4-1 lead.

 “At the beginning of the set, when I was up 2-1, there was some tension,” said Clary. “I thought holding my serve was the key. I was just consistent throughout. I came out with that positive mindset. In previous years I would come into this tournament thinking, ‘Jack is a good player. I’m going to do what I can.’ Today I came in thinking, ‘I’m a good player too.'”

 “Ben’s strength is his consistency and his athleticism,” said Mahaffey. “He gets to balls that look like they’re out of reach. He’s growing into his height a little bit. He’s getting stronger. He’s seeing different kinds of games and it’s helping him.

 “They (Clary and Muriaka) played a really good match,” Mahaffey continued. “Jack is a fierce competitor and a great kid. They both came out to win and they both played well.”

 The momentum that Clary established towards the end of the first set carried over into the second.

 Clary grabbed the first two games of the set, before Muriaka broke him twice to pull to within 3-2. But Clary captured the final three games to claim the title.

  “I was keeping it deep, for the most part,” said Clary. “I hung in there pretty well. Sometimes it helps to take a break, especially when you’re serving, so your opponent doesn’t get that confidence. Sometimes it’s a mind game.

 “I just wanted to keep my confidence,” Clary added. “I can play with the intensity that these guys bring. Now I’m ready to move on.”

  “There were a lot of great points when it looked like Jack would get over the hump,” said Rohrbach. “But you’ve got to give Ben credit for taking care of business. You’ve got to respect your opponents, and when they get it done, you’ve got to congratulate them. I can’t tell you how well Ben Clary played today.

 “They’re pretty close,” continued Rohrbach. “It depends on the day. Sometimes it has to do with conditions and surfaces. But that’s why it’s a great rivalry.”

 With the outcome, the all-time personal match-up between Clary and Muriaka now stands at 2-2. Muriaka had bested Clary for the Lebanon County individual title in 2017, before Clary broke back and through last spring.

 Clary had reached the championship match with a 6-0, 6-0 semifinal whitewashing of Jaydon Grumbine of Elco, while Muriaka was beating Annville-Cleona’s Casey Hess in similar fashion, on the other side of the bracket.

 “It’s just a really good rivalry,” said Clary. “It goes back and forth. And I think it’s going to continued. He’s (Muriaka) a really good player.

 “Beating Jack is a very tough thing,” added Clary. “When he has his confidence, he’s really hard to beat. I thought keeping it deep was a real key.”

  “They push each other,” said Mahaffey of Clary and Muriaka. “They play a lot. They hit a lot together. They’re both responsible for that (making each other better).”

 Just as impressive was Falcon Dylan Tull’s run to the Number Two singles’ championship. Tull did not drop a game all day, while rolling over Palmyra’s Brady McLucas 6-0, 6-0 in the final.

 “They’re as close as they can be,” said Rohrbach of the competitiveness between Tull and Muriaka. “You could flip a coin. Any day, Jack or Dylan could beat each other. Just like any day our guys could beat Ben. It’s a great rivalry right now.”

  Palmyra and Cedar Crest spilt the championships of the Flight One and Flight Two doubles’ brackets.

 At Number One, Falcons Enzo Emerich and Garrett Muriaka downed Cougars Brendan Byler and Garrett Elliot, 6-3, 6-4 for top honors. Palmyra’s John Goodpaster and Andrew Sweeney topped Cedar Crest’s Justin Hilty and Bruno Schaevolin, 6-3, 6-3 for the title at Number Two.

 “It’s a good day,” said Mahaffey. “Cedar Crest is a good team, better than last year. They’re going to keep getting better. You know you’re going to play them all the time (in the brackets).”





 To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.











Lebanon County Scholastic Boys’ Tennis Tournament

Past Champions
1995: Cedar Crest

1996: Cedar Crest

1997: Cedar Crest

1998: Cedar Crest

1999: Annville-Cleona/ Palmyra

2000: Palmyra

2001: Cedar Crest

2002: Elco

2003: Elco

2004: Lebanon

2005: Elco

2006: Cedar Crest

2007: Cedar Crest

2008: Cedar Crest

2009: Cedar Crest

2010: Cedar Crest

2011: Cedar Crest

2012: Cedar Crest

2013: Elco

2014: Elco, Cedar Crest

2015: Elco, Cedar Crest

2016: Cedar Crest

 2017: Cedar Crest

 2018: Palmyra

 2019: Palmyra/Cedar Crest


Flight One Champions

1995: Ben Andreozzi -CC

1996: Dave Wolfe-CC

1997: Johnny Oh-CC

1998: Brock Hoover- ELCO

1999: Brock Hoover -ELCO

2000: Stanley Kahl -ELCO

2001: Stanley Kahl -ELCO

2002: Brent Kahl -ELCO

2003: Stanley Kahl -ELCO

2004: Brent Kahl – ELCO

2005: Brent Kahl -ELCO

2006: Matt Grodzinski -NL

2007: Brad Wolfson -CC

2008: Steven Kurban -CC

2009: Weston Fortna -CC

2010: Weston Fortna – CC

2011: Weston Fortna – CC

2012: Weston Fortna – CC

2013: Colin Muriaka – CC

2014: Colin Muriaka – CC

2015: Colin Muriaka – CC

2016: Nick Tull – CC

 2017: Jack Muriaka – CC

 2018: Ben Clary, Palmyra

 2019: Ben Clary, Palmyra






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