BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Colin Muriaka left little doubt as to who is the best boys’ tennis player in Lebanon County. But when it came determining the locale’s best team, well that outcome was a bit less decisive.
On a Saturday afternoon at the Lebanon County Boys’ Tennis Championships when Muriak won his second consecutive individual title, Muriaka’s Cedar Crest club was forced to split the team trophy with Elco. Actually, Muriaka’s 6-4, 6-2 triumph over friend and rival Adam Bahney of Elco at number-one singles proved to be a big team point, as the Falcons and Raiders each finished with ten apiece.
But perhaps the decisive match of the whole tournament was contested at number two doubles, where the Raider tandem of Brayden Smith and Austen Davis outlasted Marko Resetar and Liam Easter in a 7-8, 8-7, 10-3 barn-burner. Earlier, Cedar Crest had counteracted Raider Galen McNaughton’s 6-2, 6-1 victory over Falcon Nick Tull at number-two singles with David Mesaros and Dylan Smith’s 6-4, 6-1 win at number-one doubles.
After last Saturday’s winds had forced the postponement of the event to yesterday, the annual tournament pretty much came down to a dual meet between perennial County power Cedar Crest and defending champion Elco. Saturday marked the second time in the 20-year history of the event that a pair of schools were forced to share the team crown.
“We clearly wanted to repeat,” said Elco head coach Zach Cook. “Our players stepped up, but Cedar Crest’s players stepped up as well. It was nice to finish on a high note. It was good tennis. There was a lot of energy.
“That’s all it is. It’s just a pride event,” Cook continued. “Our kids get up for it. In the kids’ minds, it’s the biggest event in the season before leagues. This is an opportunity to play Cedar Crest. When there’s a split, everybody’s happy.”
“Splitting it is better than not getting any part of it at all,” said Cedar Crest head coach Mike Rohrbach. “It’s the nature of the tournament. We could create tiebreakers, but everybody’s happy. I’m happy.
“I don’t think there was a favorite,” continued Rohrbach. “Coming in, Elco had the trophy. You have to take the trophy from the defending champion. It just means both teams are playing really good tennis.”
It was a key service break in the third game of the first set that sent Muriaka on his way to a title. That gave Muriaka an early 2-1 lead, and neither he or Bahney was able to muster a service break for the rest of the opening set.
It also provided Muriaka with a head of steam for the second set.
“Colin had beaten Adam last year,” said Rohrbach. “But it was a lot different style from last year. This year they were finishing off points. Both were on top of their games. Colin just won a couple more key points.
“Adam and Colin are double partners in the summer,” added Rohrbach. “They’re good friends, they practice together, they train together. They know each other as well as any two tennis players. This was the first time I didn’t talk to my number-one player at a match. Maybe I should do it more often.”
Muriaka wasted little time breaking Bahney in the second set, grabbing a 1-0 lead on Bahney’s serve, and then replicating the feat for a 3-0 advantage two games later. Then after surviving a Bahney break in the fourth game, Muriaka won three of the next four games to claim the match.
Muriaka’s title marked the eighth straight year that a Cedar Crest player was crowned the champion at number-one singles.
“They both need to play at the top of their games to beat each other,” said Rohrbach. “It’s not specific things. They’ve got to play well in all aspects. They need to play their best games.”
“Adam played phenomenal,” said Cook of his number one. “All it was was a couple of points here and a couple of points there. Colin has a very good power game. But Adam stepped up and handled the power admirably.
“They’re friends,” added Cook. “They know each other. They knew it was going to be a great match. It always is. Today was just Colin’s day.”
At number-two singles, McNaughton spotted Tull an early2-1 edge in the first set, before rattling off five straight games.
“I went out there and prepared to grind,” said McNaughton. “There were long points, and then whenever there were short balls I tried to hit it to his backhand. I just wanted to be consistent. I wanted to make him miss first.
“We played last year in this tournament,” McNaughton added. “It was a really good match. But I was prepared and I went out there and was aggressive.”
The second set was much of the same for McNaughton. He established an early 2-1 lead, then won the last four games to win the match going away.
“I was very, very happy with my play,” said McNaughton. “I think I played smart and consistent. He (Tull) wasn’t at his best, but I think the way I played made him inconsistent.
“Cedar Crest has won it so many times, but last year we got it and that was huge,” continued McNaughton. “It’s so important to me because we’re friends off the court. But when we get on the court things change.”
“I told everyone that they have a chance, across the board,” said Cook of his players. “Number two doubles was huge for us. There were three tiebreakers and we won two out of three. This is Brayden Smith’s first year out for tennis, and without him, I’m not sure we could’ve gotten this.
“When we play Cedar Crest, I always feel it’s David versus Goliath,” continued Cook. “But I know we have a chance. Very rarely do they blow us out of the water.”
“I really thought number one and two (doubles) would be keys,” said Rohrbach. “They (the Raiders) lost a lot of seniors and we thought we might have more depth. But their number two doubles team was athletic, they played well and they won some clutch points.”
And a good time was had by all.
1995: Cedar Crest
1996: Cedar Crest
1997: Cedar Crest
1998: Cedar Crest
1999: Annville-Cleona/ Palmyra
2001: Cedar Crest
2006: Cedar Crest
2007: Cedar Crest
2008: Cedar Crest
2009: Cedar Crest
2010: Cedar Crest
2011: Cedar Crest
2012: Cedar Crest
2014: Elco, 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