History in the making

By on April 29, 2015

 Mounts clinch first-ever District berth

Ephrata’s boys tennis team has qualified for the District Team Tournament for the first time in school history. The players who are expecting to compete in Thursday’s opener vs. Cumberland Valley are pictured with Coach Cheryl Fritz (back, far left). They include (front row, left to right): Mario Murcia (#1 doubles), Travis Groff (#1 doubles), Alex Mantsevich (#2 doubles), Ryan McKim (#9), Nick Russo (#8) and Keller Martin (#2 doubles); (back, l-r) Fritz, Lukas Olson (#1 singles), Bob Lowrie (#2 singles) and Christian Miles (#3 singles). (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s boys tennis team has qualified for the District Team Tournament for the first time in school history. The players who are expecting to compete in Thursday’s opener vs. Cumberland Valley are pictured with Coach Cheryl Fritz (back, far left). They include (front row, left to right): Mario Murcia (#1 doubles), Travis Groff (#1 doubles), Alex Mantsevich (#2 doubles), Ryan McKim (#9), Nick Russo (#8) and Keller Martin (#2 doubles); (back, l-r) Fritz, Lukas Olson (#1 singles), Bob Lowrie (#2 singles) and Christian Miles (#3 singles). (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

The Ephrata boys tennis team is headed to the playoffs.

A feat that has never before been accomplished in program history, this year’s veteran squad has qualified as the eighth seed in the upcoming District Three playoffs after a sparkling 11-3 campaign.

The Mounts open first-round play Thursday at Hershey Racquet Club, site of the entire tournament, where they will face ninth-seeded Cumberland Valley (12-4), beginning at 3:15 p.m.

The winner of Thursday’s match will advance to next Tuesday’s quarterfinals and face Manheim Township (13-1) at 11:30 a.m. back at Hershey.

Coming off a 6-5 record a year ago, this Ephrata team of six seniors came out of nowhere to post one of its best league records ever.

“We just really wanted to improve our record and let people know that Ephrata tennis has some potential,” Ephrata Coach Cheryl Fritz said. “We did that, and then some.”

Ephrata number one singles player Lukas Olson agreed.

“I don’t think any one of us thought Districts would be a possibility,” he said. “We just wanted to improve our record. We were 6-5 in the league last year and we thought it would be great if we could go something like 7-4. To end the season 11-3…I don’t think any of us thought that would happen.”

Both Coach and top player pointed to the Mounts’ 4-3 victory over Cocalico, a team they hadn’t beaten in years, as the key turning point of the season.

“Once we beat Cocalico we really thought we could kind of win out,” Olson said. “We really didn’t expect to make Districts so it was kind of a nice way to go out and end my high school tennis career.”

Since they are headed to Districts for the first time since the team tournament began in the mid-90s, Olson said they are going to put all efforts into winning that first match against a strong Cumberland Valley squad.

In Districts, the format is 3-2 (three singles, two doubles) a little different than the standard 4-3 system the L-L League has used in regular season competition. Also, players can only play one match, whether it be singles or doubles, so Fritz is currently playing around with the lineup to try to come up with the best fit.

Olson, Bob Lowrie and Christian Miles will go in the top three singles matches. The doubles teams are still being sorted out but Mario Murcia and Travis Groff will probably go in the number one doubles match while Alex Mantsevich and Keller Martin currently lead the way to start as the second doubles pairing.

Fritz expects her team to be competitive.

“I think we have a chance at being competitive with Cumberland Valley,” she said, “and maybe even surprise them as I believe we surprised Cocalico (in the regular season).”

Should they have advance and get the chance to face Manheim Township, one of the top two programs in the L-L League.

“They are just incredibly stacked, but so is Hempfield,” Fritz said. “Perennially, and I guess you shouldn’t say it but our goal is usually to be the best of the rest. You know Township and Hempfield are so far beyond us because those programs are playing all year round, going to camps and going to Florida. A week before the season begins our guys find their rackets and get them out and play. That they gelled and came together as they did, it’s just great. Everything from here is just icing on the cake.”

Cocalico also had a great season but just missed out advancing to Districts, finishing 14th in the power rankings with a 13-3 mark. The top 12 teams qualified for the tournament.

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This past week, both Ephrata and Cocalico competed in the L-L League Tournament where the Mounts sent one singles player and two doubles teams to respective flight finals as the competition wrapped up Monday afternoon at Conestoga Valley.

In the Flight Four singles, the Mounts’ Alex Mantsevich advanced all the way to the finals with wins over Nathan Stiver of Donegal (6-0, 6-2), Dan Husman of E-town (6-2, 6-1), and Cocalico’s Simeon Thorpe (6-1, 6-1) in the semifinals.

Unfortunately, Monday in the finals vs. Hempfield’s Jay Cooke, the Ephrata senior battled but fell to Cooke, losing a 6-3, 7-6 (5) decision.

The two doubles teams from Ephrata also settled for second Monday. In Flight Two, Ephrata team of Bob Lowrie and Mario Murcia dropped an 8-2 decision to Cooke and Jake Curtin of Hempfield. and in flight Three, Mantsevich and Travis Groff were defeated 8-1 by the Hempfield duo of Nick Aksu and Andrew Virts.

While Mantsevich and the two doubles teams from Ephrata advanced to the finals, several other local players saw their tournaments come to an end Saturday or last Thursday in the opening round.

In Flight One AAA singles, both Conner Martin of Cocalico and Lukas Olson of Ephrata were knocked out with first-round losses last Thursday.

Martin defaulted to Manheim Township’s Ben Wirth while Olson was knocked off by sixth seeded Nick Tull of Cedar Crest by a 6-1, 6-1 decision.

In Flight Two, Cocalico’s Austin Noll advanced to the semifinals before being ousted in a tight match with Manheim Central’s Galen Fitzkee. After a first-round bye, Noll, the second seed, defeated Colin Myers of Annville-Cleona by a 6-1, 6-0 decision to set up his semifinal match with Fitzkee. In that one, both players won a set to force a tiebreaker, which Fitzkee pulled out by a tight 10-8 decision.

Ephrata’s Bob Lowrie also competed in flight Two, and scored a 6-2, 6-3 opening-round win over Kenton Travis of Elizabethtown. His tournament came to a close in the quarterfinals, however, as Lancaster Mennonite’s Seth Weaver earned a 6-2, 6-0 decision over the Ephrata senior.

In Flight Three singles, Ephrata’s Christian Miles made a run before falling just short in the semifinals to Matthew Cody of Conestoga Valley. Miles defeated Tommy Moran of Lancaster Catholic 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, and earned a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jan Rodriguez of McCaskey in the quarterfinals. However, in the semifinals, after the players split the first two sets (7-5, 1-6), Cody prevailed by a 10-7 win in the third set.

Cocalico’s Greg Lewis also competed in Flight Three and defeated William Klatchko of Annville-Cleona, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. Lewis was eliminated though in the quarterfinals by Cody in a 6-4, 6-1 decision.

In Flight Four, Thorpe Knocked off Ethan Emmert of L-S (6-3, 6-3) and Lucas Jemmison of Lancaster Mennonite (6-3, 6-4) before falling to Ephrata’s Mantsevich in the semifinals.

And in Flight One AAA doubles, both the Ephrata and Cocalico teams earned first round wins before getting knocked out in the quarterfinals. Cocalico’s Grant Shuman and Noll teamed for a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Manheim Central’s Blake Martin and Kyle Peters. The Eagle duo was eliminated by Manheim Township’s Dan Ansel and Clark Griffin by a 6-0, 6-0 decision in the quarters.

Ephrata’s Olson and Miles earned a 6-3, 6-0 opening round win over Penn Manor’s Mitch Haag and Tyler Bennett. However, in the quarterfinals, the Ephrata tandem was defeated by Manheim Township’s Ben Wirth and Jack Fowler, 6-0, 6-1.

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