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MANHEIM - The Cedar Crest boys tennis team lost a postseason match on Wednesday, falling to unbeaten Manheim Central in a Lancaster-Lebanon League semifinal clash.
That's the bad news for the Falcons. The good news is they'll likely have plenty of opportunities for redemption the next few years.
Underclassmen-dominated, Section One runner-up Cedar Crest (10-4) didn't quite have enough for senior-laden, 18-0 Section 2 champion Central, dropping a 3-2 decision on the Barons' home court despite convincing straight-set singles victories from big guns Jack Muraika, a sophomore, and Dylan Tull, a freshman.
Central more than compensated for those losses at No. 1 and 2 singles, getting dominating doubles wins from No. 1 tandem Trent Martin and Trey Bury and No. 2 duo Taylor Funk and Andrew Erk, and ultimately a decisive 6-0, 7-5 victory for Kyle Peters over Max Mesaros at No. 3 singles.
The Barons advance to Tuesday's league title match against Section One champ Hempfield, while the Falcons, who begin play in the L-L Individual Flight Tournament on Thursday, will be idle as a team until next Thursday when it opens play in the District 3 3A Team Championships.
"We knew they were 17-0 coming and it was going to take an extraordinary effort (to beat them)," Cedar Crest coach Mike Rohrbach said of Central, which boasts nine seniors among its top 10 players. "And we gave a great effort. Sometimes great efforts still come up short. But we're a young team and I think this is an incredible building block for the future."
Of the seven Falcons that saw action on Wednesday, only two - No. 1 doubles team Tim Cheng and Ryan Knapp - are seniors. The rest of the lineup consists of four sophomores - Muraika, Mesaros and No.2 doubles team Adam Brightbill and Enzo Emerich - and freshman No. 2 singles standout Tull.
"It was an awesome opportunity today for them to see what the postseason is like," Rohrbach said. "We've got at least one match in districts this year, hopefully we can make it two, maybe three. I'm hoping our team gets the bug and trains a little bit more, pushes a little more and we can reach the level of this Central team that's gonna compete for a district championship."
To get to that desired level, the Falcons must develop the kind of depth Central currently enjoys, which was the difference in Wednesday's match.
Muraika handled Galen Fitzkee, 6-1, 6-0, in the No. 1 singles bout, and Tull posted a similarly impressive 6-1, 6-2 victory over Andrew Bookman in the No.2 match. But, save for the second set, Peters was in control most of the way in beating Mesaros, and the Barons dropped only one game combined in the two doubles matches.
"It played out a lot like I thought," Rohrbach said. "I thought we'd have a good shot at 1 and 2, and from what it looked like on paper they were deeper. And they were. But I was really impressed with Max Mesaros at No. 3, where he pushed their guy to the limit. I think Max is really gonna be a star of the future, and today you saw a glimpse of his ability to fight. It's just a matter of time before he takes his game to the next level."
Manheim Central 3, Cedar Crest 2
1. Jack Muraika (CC) def. Galen Fitzkee, 6-1, 6-0
2. Dylan Tull (CC) def. Andrew Bookman, 6-1, 6-2
3. Kyle Peters (MC) def. Max Mesaros, 6-1, 7-5
1. Trent Martin/Trey Bury (MC) def. Tim Cheng/Ryan Knapp, 6-0, 6-0
2. Taylor Funk/ Andrew Erk (MC) def. Adam Brightbill/Enzo Emerich, 6-1, 6-0