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BOYS TENNIS: Elco fit to be tied

MYERSTOWN >> The Elco boys tennis team is a polite, personable bunch who often conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, on and off the court.

That doesn't mean they enjoy sharing things that are important to them. Like the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two title.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, they'll pretty much have no choice after Monday's 5-2 loss to Lancaster Mennonite, their first of the season.

Entering the matchup with an overall record of 8-0 and a 7-0 Section Two mark, Elco was in position to all but clinch the section crown outright with a win.

Didn't happen.

Mennonite (6-1 Section Two) got the early jump by winning two of three doubles matches, then took three of the four singles battles, including William Wanner's match-clinching 6-4, 6-3 win over Adam Bahney in the No. 1 match.

Elco did enjoy some bright moments, led by senior No. 2 man Galen McNaughton, who breezed to a 6-0, 6-0 win in singles and teamed with Christian Stahl for an 8-5 triumph at No. 2 doubles.

But it wasn't enough to take away the sting of defeat the Raiders ended up feeling.

"Obviously now it muddies the waters quite a bit," said a dejected Elco coach Zach Cook, whose squad is now essentially in a three-way tie for first with Mennonite and Cocalico. "It sucks. Losing hurts, especially the first loss of the season to the team we've been talking about all year. We had it circled on the calendar, this was the big one. We knew it was gonna be an important match for us."

But, fresh off a co-champs performance at the Lebanon County Tournament on Saturday, the Raiders never got going, physically or emotionally.

The absence of key doubles and singles cog Dylan Spitler because of a knee injury didn't help, but on this day the Wanner-led Blazers were simply the better team and deserving victors.

"Unfortunately we came out flat in doubles," Cook said. "Injuries hurt, too, but they were down a guy too today. We can't take anything away from Mennonite, they did a heck of a job. We didn't come out with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy. We were timid, we were scared out there."

Though Cook refused to blame Spitler's absence for the loss, having the sophomore No. 4 player missing from the lineup did not help matters one bit.

Among other things, it forced Cook to juggle his doubles teams, with Bahney partnering with Mason Bennetch for the first time and Adam Omar jumping into the No. 3 doubles spot with Linden Bennetch.

In addition, Mason Bennetch played just his second varsity match on Monday while subbing for Spitler at No. 4 singles.

"Dylan is huge for us in doubles," Cook admitted. "And he's a smart singles player, he's got a big game. I guarantee he would have made a difference had he been able to be here today."

The good news for the Raiders is they will live to fight another day. A section finale win over Northern Lebanon this week would likely give Elco the tiebreaker over Mennonite and Cocalico for a league playoff spot, and one loss isn't going to do very much damage to Elco's chances of earning a District Three Class AA playoff spot.

"Sometimes, it's bad to be No. 1," Cook said of Elco's unbeaten status going into Monday's match. "Because everyone's gunning for you and you feel like you can't make a mistake. And today, we made a ton. We just didn't let it all hang out.

"Hopefully now that we have one loss out of the way, we can play with a bit more reckless abandon."

Lancaster Mennonite 5, Elco 2 at Elco

Singles— 1. William Wanner (LM) def. Adam Bahney, 6-4, 6-3, 2. Galen McNaughton (E) def. Haemoon Won, 6-0, 6-0, 3. Lucas Jemison (LM) def. Linden Bennetch, 6-0, 6-0, 4. Daniel Rittenhouse (LM) def. Mason Bennetch, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)

Doubles — 1. Wanner/Jemison (LM) def. Bahney/M. Bennetch, 8-3, 2. McNaughton/Christian Stahl (E) def. Won/Rudy Rigano, 8-5. 3. D. Rittenhouse/Ben Rittenhouse def. L. Bennetch/Adam Omar, 8-4