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BOYS TENNIS: A long but rewarding day for county standouts Adam Bahney and Colin Muraika at L-L finals

WITMER >> In addition to five-plus hours of high-quality, high-intensity tennis and bone-chilling "spring" weather, Monday's Lancaster-Lebanon League tennis finals at Conestoga Valley also provided a few valuable sports and life lessons.

(1) There can still be honor in defeat, and (2) mental toughness and sheer persistence are often rewarded in the end.

The honorable defeats were absorbed by Elco's Adam Bahney and Cedar Crest's Colin Muraika, who both fell short of coveted league singles titles but not before admirable displays of competitive spirit. But with the help of their teammates, Bahney and Muraika bounced back from their singles setbacks to capture L-L doubles crowns.

Shortly after dropping a 6-0, 6-3 decision to Hempfield's Derek Hagino in the Class AAA singles title match while battling a bum shoulder that forced him to serve underhand, Muraika teamed with Nick Tull to exact revenge with a 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory over Hagino and Calvin Athey in the AAA doubles final.

And Bahney climbed off the deck from a 6-2, 6-7 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4),three-hour-and-15-minute loss to William Wanner of Lancaster Mennonite to snare his third straight AA doubles championship with Galen McNaughton. The duo defeated Wanner and Haemoon Won by a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) score to secure their three-peat.

"It was definitely a mental battle," Bahney said, summing up the day following the doubles final. "Every excuse was running through my mind — the lights, the cold. We drew it out a little more than I would have liked to, but we pulled it out."

Muraika and Tull did as well, shrugging off singles defeats to their doubles opponents — Tull fell to Athey 6-3, 6-3 in the AAA third-place match — to post a gut-check three-set win in the doubles final.

"It's fantastic," Cedar Crest coach Mike Rohrbach said of Muraika and Tull's display of resilience. "It's really a credit to Colin and Nick for not only being able to come back from losing the first set, but being down in the second set to two guys they just lost singles matches to. It takes a lot of guts and mental toughness and they really had it today."

On Monday and throughout the tourney that began last Thursday, Muraika was a case study in guts.

After straining the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in practice last Wednesday, Muraika somehow made his way into two league finals despite the aforementioned need to serve underhand throughout the event.

If that sounds amazing it's only because it was.

"I didn't really expect to make it this far with no serve, so I was happy with that," Muraika said. "It just gives me confidence in the rest of my game. It was a big deal to make it to the finals without a serve."

The match of the tournament, though, — and maybe the decade — belonged to Bahney and Wanner, who slugged it out in an epic display of power tennis that saw neither give an inch for a second.

It was a disappointing loss for Bahney, no doubt, but also an honor for the Raider senior to be part of a match that will be long remembered.

"Credit to each of us, nobody really gave up," Bahney said. "He played an amazing match and kept his head up the whole match. Everybody kept fighting the whole time. It was a great match.

"Matches like that, if you lose you really don't care. It's just about the match. It was amazing."

"They both played awesome tennis across the board,"Cook said. "I could not have asked Adam to play a better match. He just came up a little short."

But not in the doubles final, which saw a dead-legged Bahney and a bit fresher McNaughton roll to an easy first set win before digging out of a 4-1 second-set hole to claim their third consecutive league championship as a duo.

A long day, yes. And a worthwhile one as well.

"It feels great," said a grinning McNaughton, who earlier claimed the third-place spot in AA singles. "We were in the van on the way here, and coach was like, 'You guys haven't lost yet, so let's not lose today.' We expected nothing less. We were hungry."

Probably literally hungry as well, given that play wrapped up at 9:30 p.m., five and a half hours after it began and well past any reasonable dinner time.

"That," McNaughton said, "we didn't expect."