Cedar Crest's Muraika, Tull dominate L-L tourney
WITMER - They were opponents and teammates, winners and losers, runners-up and champions, all in the span of a little over three hours on Tuesday afternoon at wind-blown Conestoga Valley High School.
Safe to say, it was a day to remember for Jack Muraika, Dylan Tull and the Cedar Crest boys tennis program.
Muraika and Tull left their fingerprints all over the 2017 Lancaster-Lebanon League Individual Flight Tournament, battling for the AAA singles title that ultimately went to Muraika by a 6-2, 6-0 score, then joining forces for a 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Jack Hessinger and Jake Curtin of Hempfield in the AAA doubles title match.
The Elco Raiders also made an impact on the tourney, thanks to Dawson Smith and Adam Omar capturing the Flight Two doubles crown, Mason Bennetch winning his AA singles third-place match to secure a district tournament berth, and Bennetch and Dylan Spitler's runner-up finish in AA doubles.
But the story of the tournament was Muraika and Tull and the various roles they played within it.
"It was interesting," Muraika, a sophomore, said with a smile, following his satisfying yet awkward defeat of freshman Tull in the singles final. "We played a challenge match at the beginning of the season, but it was just me and Dylan and no one was really watching. So it was interesting to play with a crowd, and it was also interesting to play on a lovely day like today. The wind was tough, and the first set was pretty brutal.
"It is kinda weird, not just playing him but playing him in a big match like this. That was weird. I never experienced something like that before."
It was a little odd for Cedar Crest coach Mike Rohrbach as well. Used to being able to offer encouragement and guidance to his players during a big match, Rohrbach had to instead settle for being an interested, impartial observer on Tuesday.
"It was an incredible afternoon for Cedar Crest tennis," Rohrbach said. "Both these guys have worked so hard. But at the same time, you know it's gonna be rewarding for one of them, and tough for the other one. It is hard to watch, because I want to be able to help the guys. It's tough when you can't do that."
After watching Muraika be the steadier, more consistent Falcon en route to the straight sets win in the singles final, Rohrbach got to put his coaching hat on early in the doubles final.
Trailing 3-0 in the first set and playing a bit passively, Muraika and Tull received some encouraging but stern words on a changeover from their coach, then promptly ran off the next five games of the opening set. Hessinger would come back to win the next two games to even the set at 5-5, but Muraika and Tull responded to close out the first set, then take the last five games of the match after falling behind 2-1 early in the second set.
"Coach was mad at us for not playing and gave us a little pep talk," Tull said with a grin. "Then we started getting it going. It feels great - my first time as a freshman. Hopefully we can do it four years in a row."
Muraika and Tull, and Bennetch in AA, will look to keep their run of success going on Friday, when the District 3 Singles Championships get underway at Hershey Racquet Club.