Senior-laden Barons clinch back-to-back Section titles

By on April 26, 2017
Manheim Central senior Kyle Peters follows through on a back-hand volley at No. 3 singles last Friday.

Manheim Central senior Kyle Peters follows through on a back-hand volley at No. 3 singles last Friday.

One step at a time.

It might be cliché, that’s been the philosophy of the Manheim Central boys tennis team this spring.

And it has certainly provided big rewards.

With their 7-0 shutout of Annville-Cleona last Tuesday, April 18, the Barons (9-0 L-L) clinched their second straight Section Two crown.

Three days later, the MC boys finished off a perfect 17-0 regular season.

“The thing I talked to them about was, once you set goals like that, all of a sudden other goals start getting crossed off,” Manheim Central’s 10th-year coach Ryan Jeckel said. “One of the goals was to qualify and go to the District Tournament, and if you go undefeated with the teams that are on our schedule, we were going to qualify for (that). So I think that’s why they’ve kinda bought into that match-by-match mentality.”

That mentality, coupled with having 10 seniors on the squad, has been a tough combination to beat.

Two years ago as sophomores, they experienced the disappointment of barely missing out on the team playoffs, placing third in the Section.

It’s been full throttle ahead ever since.

“They’re not satisfied with with just winning a Section title,” Jeckel acknowledged. “They did that last year. They felt what that feels like. They’re hungry, they want more.”

Actually, seniors Andrew Erk, Taylor Funk, and Isaac Eldeen didn’t get that feeling in 2016. The Barons picked them up in the off-season to complement the rest of their core.

“They’ve just kinda really rounded out the lineup very nicely and added to it,” Jeckel said. “The rest of them have absolutely been building toward this year … Every time one of our opponents has pushed us a little bit, whatever day it is, one of the guys just steps up and has something extra special that day and the rest of the guys feed off of that.”

It hasn’t been often that the Barons have been pushed this spring. Of their 17 regular-season wins, 10 were by shutouts. Although there are teams in Section Two who have suffered graduation losses and are currently in a down cycle, the MC boys have met all challenges.

“Some of that is a result of these guys that have been putting in the time and work,” Jeckel said. “It’s such a cyclical sport, but certainly some of the talent and skill on our side is another part of it. I don’t know if all those shutouts are in the Section or out of the Section, but definitely having the depth that we do plays into that. When you have kids all the way to number 11 that can compete and play at the varsity level … On any other team, a bunch of these kids would be playing varsity, no doubt. So we’ve definitely been trying to get as many of our guys in and get them varsity experience.”

Senior Trent Martin, who started the season at No. 4 singles, but has also played at three and one, leads the Barons with a 12-0 record.

“Trent’s a beast, man,” Jeckel said. “He’s been varsity every year he’s played. The kid just doesn’t lose. He just wants to win. It doesn’t really matter what spot you put him in, he’s going to find a way.”

Galen Fitzkee (11-2) and Andrew Bookman (11-1) also have double-digit singles wins, and Kyle Peters has a perfect 9-0 record.

In all, wins have come from nine different singles players and 16 doubles teams for MC. Martin and Funk have combined to go 7-0 in doubles.

“I don’t know that I could pick out any one (that stands out),” Jeckel said. “Galen has had some clutch wins for us. He had a great clutch win against Spring-Ford to clinch that match, Kyle’s had a couple, Bookman’s had a couple … That’s just it when you have that many seniors — I just kinda keep coming back to that, I guess. They’ve been here before, they know what they’re doing and I think that’s just such a huge asset.”

Cocalico and Lancaster Mennonite figured to be the two biggest challengers standing between MC and the Section crown. The Barons defeated both the Eagles and Blazers by 6-1 scores, although their match against Cocalico involved three singles matches that went to three sets.

Just a couple days prior to playing the Eagles, however, the Central boys earned a key 4-3 non-league win over a big school in Spring-Ford.

“I mean, beating a school that graduates as many kids as are in our high school … that’s a big deal for us,” Jeckel remarked.

In the big picture, however, it was just a single win in their approach of taking it one at a time.

“They know who’s on the other team, they know what their records are — I don’t even have to tell them,” Jeckel said. “Every single match to them is the biggest one that day and they’ve done a really, really good job of buying into the whole, ‘Let’s do this thing one day. One day, one match.’ So they’re really kinda focused on that.”

*****

Last Friday, in a non-league match abbreviated by rain, Manheim Central blanked Elizabethtown 4-0.

Martin and Trey Bury started the doubles sweep with an 8-2 win at No. 1, then Funk and Erk teamed up for an 8-0 shutout at two, while Groff and Sensenig earned an 8-2 decision.

Fitzkee rolled in straight sets 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, and then with Bookman, Peters and Silas Eldeen all up by a set, the match was halted due to rain.

*****

Last Wednesday, April 19, the MC boys beat Wilson 4-1 in a non-league match in West Lawn.

Trent Martin and Trey Bury teamed up for a 7-5, 6-4 win at first doubles, then Taylor Funk and Andrew Erk rolled 6-2, 6-2 at two.

The Barons then put it in the books by winning two of three singles matches. Galen Fitzkee (6-2, 6-3) and Kyle Peters (6-1, 6-0) won in straight sets. Andrew Bookman nearly completed the sweep, but dropped a hard-fought 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 loss in the No. 2 match.

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