SOUTH LEBANON – At its basest, purest level, tennis is an individual sport. But, beginning with doubles, there are aspects of the game which lend itself very well to team competition.
What it all really comes down to is a matter of perspective. Purist and traditionalist? Or liberal and progressive?
Falcon? Or Raider?
Wednesday night’s conclusion of the annual Lebanon County Girls’ Tennis Championships at Cedar Crest produced winners of all sorts. Which were more significant and important all depended upon how one looked at it.
In the number-one singles flight, Falcon senior Madison Fortna downed Sydney Nye of Elco 6-1, 6-2 to claim the final match and earn the honor of being recognized as Lebanon County’s top female player. But it was Nye and her Raider teammates who won the war, as they prevailed in the team competition – winning both doubles brackets – laying claim to the title of ‘Lebanon County champs’.
Elco accumulated ten team points to nudge Cedar Crest by a pair. Annville-Cleona finished third, followed by Palmyra and Northern Lebanon, and Lebanon High.
The Raiders’ team title snapped the Falcons’ run of four in-a-row. Cedar Crest had also worn 12 of the last 13 Lebanon County crowns
“I knew we had a chance,” said Elco coach Zach Cook. “And I thought doubles would be a key. Luckily, my girls edged them out.
“They (the Falcons) seem to almost always win it,” continued Cook. “They’re the big kids on the block. We’re excited to knock them off every once in a while. Chalk one up for David, against Goliath.”
“I thought the kids did very well overall,” said Cedar Crest coach Gila Hodge. “They tried. They stuck with the game plan we practiced. It’s something to work on.
“We had a chance,” continued Hodge, “but I knew Elco would be tough. We knew we had to work hard. This time, it fell Elco’s way.”
Fortna also claimed the seventh and eighth games of the set, to place an exclamation point on her second straight County crown.
“Madison’s match went really well,” said Hodge. “She had a lot of pressure as a defending champion. She felt it, but she did not display it. Sydney has a lot of weapons, but Madison played a very consistent game.
Fortna had opened a 5-0 advantage in the first set, before the rains came on Saturday. She needed just two games on Wednesday to close out the set, and thus provide herself momentum heading into the second.
“Sydney’s strikes are bigger this year, but Madison has gotten more consistent,” said Cook. “Sydney’s decision-making didn’t seem to be as good in key points. She has more to grow mentally. But hats off to Madison. She did what she had to do to beat Sydney today.”
The Raiders certainly made their hay in doubles.
Elco’s Kelsey Stubblebine and Karis Brasheary pulled out a crucial 7-5, 6-3 triumph over Falcons Keeley Hartman and Brisa Diazzorilla in tense marathon in the final at number one doubles. Raiders’ Anna Enck and Jen Kinsey had set the tone at number-two doubles, with their 6-0, 6-0 whitewashing of Addie Heeter and Sarah Berger of Annville-Cleona.
“The first doubles match at number two was key,” said Cook. “I knew we were going to play Cedar Crest in the first round at number two. I thought if we could win that we’d have a great chance to win the championship. The girls played with a lot of heart out there.”
“It was a tough draw for us,” said Hodge. “Our number-two doubles team met Elco in the first round, and we never got a point from that court. If we had been on opposite ends of the draw, it might have shifted everything.”
Cedar Crest’s Greta Strunk defeated Elco’s Hannah Kercher by injury default to take the title at number-two singles. Kercher was forced to retire with a leg injury, after falling behind 0-3 in the opening set.
“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” said Cook. “At the beginning of the season, we always mark this date on our calendar. It’s for bragging rights. This year it just happened that all of our girls reached the finals. It’s always nice to match up with bigger schools and see what we can do.”
“This is always our number one goal,” said Hodge. “It’s our hometown match. We take a lot of pride in it. It’s something we really look forward to. I’m taking this loss as preparation, and hope it toughens us up.”
Madison Fortna (Cedar Crest) bye
Alicia Hitz (Annville-Cleona) def. Emily Bucks (Palmyra), 6-3, 6-0
Kelly Shuey (Northern Lebanon) def. Alexis Kuhnert (Lebanon), 6-0, 6-0
Sydney Nye (Elco) bye
Fortna def. Hitz, 6-4, 5-7, 11-9
Nye def. Shuey, 6-0, 6-0
Fortna leads Nye, 4-0, suspended
Hannah Kercher (Elco) bye
Maggie Jelliff (Palmyra) def. Amelia Kuhn (Lebanon), 6-3, 6-1
Nicole Ditzler (Northern Lebanon) def. Emma Lerchen (Annville-Cleona), 6-4, 6-4
Greta Strunk (Cedar Crest) bye
Kercher def. Jelliff, 6-2, 6-2
Strunk def. Ditzler, 6-0, 6-0
Strunk def. Kercher, 5-0, retired
Megan Donachy/Hannah Weaber (Palmyra) bye
Karis Brashear/Kelsey Stubblebine (Elco) def. Katia Luu/April Barley (Annville-Cleona) 6-3, 6-4
Keeley Hartman/ Brisa Diaz Zorrilla (Cedar Crest) def. K. Hinzman/L. Haddock (Lebanon), 6-0, 6-0
Vanessa Stickler/Brianna Ditzler (Northern Lebanon) bye
Brashear/Stubblebine def. Donachy/Weaber, 6-0, 6-1
Hartman/Diaz Zorrilla def. Stickler/Ditzler, 6-0, 6-0
Brashear/Stubblebine lead Hartman/Diaz Zorrilla, 6-2, 2-4, suspended
Addison Heeter/Sarah Berger (Annville-Cleona) bye
Pells/Kuligowski (Palmyra) def. Tyanna LaMasters/Katie Spitler (Northern Lebanon), 6-1, 6-0
Anna Enck/Jen Kinsey (E) def. Tatyana Golub/Abbey Castor (Cedar Crest), 7-5, 4-6, 10-4
Diane Chogo/K. Bartal (L) bye
Heeter/Berger def. Pells/Kuligowski, 2-6, 6-3, 10-4
Enck/Kinsey def. Bartal/Chogo, 6-0, 6-1
Enck/Kinsey def. Heeter/Berger, 6-0, 6-0