Team chemistry helps Barons clinch Section

By on April 20, 2016


Galen Fitzkee is one of six juniors in the top eight for the Section Two champion Manheim Central boys tennis team this spring. (Lititz Record file photo)

Galen Fitzkee is one of six juniors in the top eight for the Section Two champion Manheim Central boys tennis team this spring. (Lititz Record file photo)

Of the 16 boys and girls tennis teams at Manheim Central that Ryan Jeckel has coached, his squad this spring stands out in one aspect.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the closest-knit group of (players) I’ve ever had,” said Jeckel, who is currently in his 9th year with the MC boys. “It’s the closest-knit group I’ve ever had on the guys side. There’s only one other girls team I can think of that was as close as what these guys are. It certainly makes coaching fun and a little bit easier to some degree because the guys all want to be there and they’re happy to be around each other.”

For the Barons (10-0 L-L, 15-0 overall), there has certainly been no shortage of fun this season, as they marched to the Section Two championship, clinching the title with Monday’s 7-0 shutout of Pequea Valley.

It’s their first Section crown since 2013, the third of three straight crowns they won starting in 2011.

With a veteran group of players returning, the expectations were to do exactly that.

“I think that we sought out to go take the Section this year and put ourselves in a position to go to Districts and hopefully compete for a League title,” said Jeckel, who now exclusively coaches the Baron boys after stepping aside as the girls coach in 2013.

They will get that chance starting next Monday, April 25, when they host Section One runner-up Manheim Township in the L-L League team playoff semi-finals. Section Two runner-up Cocalico will meet Section One champ Hempfield, with the winners facing off in Tuesday’s L-L finals.

The Baron squad that faces the Blue Streaks will be one that features six juniors in its top eight &tstr; Andrew Bookman, Trey Bury, Galen Fitzkee, Jared Groff, Kyle Peters, and Logan Sensenig. Blake Martin is a senior and his younger brother, Trent, is a sophomore.

“This group of guys I have came in primarily as freshmen, and now they’re juniors, so by playing together for two years, we should be maturing into the level of players that we are now,” Jeckel said. “I think we definitely expected to be where we are, in a position to compete with some of the better teams out there.”

Cocalico figured to be one of their biggest tests this season, and MC got the Eagles in their Section Two opener on March 22. No doubt, there was concern heading into that match, as the Barons had played Warwick, CV, a Spring-Ford Tournament, and Exeter in the six days prior to seeing Cocalico. Despite being tired, Manheim Central won 5-2.

“The cool thing is, I know we were really gassed that day, but the guys dug deep to a different level and made it happen,” Jeckel said. “We competed well enough to win that day and found a way.”

They continued to find a way while rolling through their Section Two schedule. In fact, in the Barons 10 league matches, they lost just five games.

That, however, was news to Jeckel when informed by a reporter.

“The most important thing to me is the product and the quality of tennis that we’re producing on the court,” Jeckel said, “and at the end of the day, if we win the match, then I’m happy. If we win 4-3, I’m happy. If it happens 5-2, 6-1, 7-0 … as long as it’s in favor of us at the end of the day.”

In their Section Two finale on Monday, Bookman (6-1, 6-2), Peters (6-0, 6-0), Blake Martin (6-1, 6-0) and Fitzkee (6-1, 6-0) all earned singles wins to complete the sweep of Pequea Valley.

The doubles teams of Blake Martin/Peters (8-0), Fitzkee/Bookman (8-4), and Trent Martin/Bury (8-5) all won earlier.

MC wrapped up its regular season yesterday (Wednesday) at Lancaster Country Day. From there, it’s on to the L-L Team Tournament, L-L Singles/Doubles, and likely Districts. In the latest District Three Triple-A team rankings, MC was ranked seventh.

“Assuming that holds up, I would imagine that we’ll be playing in the (District) Team Tournament as well,” Jeckel said. “I love this group of guys, I think we’ve got a great group, they’ve got great team chemistry, and the sky is the limit with what they’re capable of doing. For us, it’s believing that we deserve to be (at Districts) and that we can compete with the bigger schools.”

The Barons were also on the court last last Thursday, taking three of four singles matches to seal a 6-1 conquest of Lampeter-Strasburg.

Galen Fitzkee (6-2, 6-1), Blake Martin (6-2, 6-2) and Andrew Bookman (6-2, 6-0) all won in straight sets, and Peters went to three sets before suffering a 1-6, 6-2, 10-3 loss at three.

In doubles play, Fitzkee and Bookman won 8-4, Blake Martin and Peters claimed an 8-3 decision, and the Trent Martin/Bury team was victorious by an 8-6 score.

Last Tuesday, April 12, Manheim Central got tie-breaker wins from Blake Martin and Kyle Peters in singles, helping them complete a 7-0 shutout of Lancaster Mennonite in a Section Two match.

Fitzkee and Bookman rolled to an 8-1 decision at first doubles, then the Blake Martin/Peters (8-0) and Trent Martin/Bury teams (8-3) took care of business to put MC up early 3-0.

They finished off the Blazers behind Fitzkee (6-2, 6-2), Blake Martin (7-6 (4), 6-4), Peters (4-6, 7-6 (8), 10-8) and Bookman (6-1, 6-1) in singles.


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