Bethlehem Press

Saturday, May 25, 2019
Press photos by Katie McDonaldLiberty’s tennis team captured the District 11 team title with a victory over Nazareth last week. Press photos by Katie McDonaldLiberty’s tennis team captured the District 11 team title with a victory over Nazareth last week.
Liberty tennis player Louis Gruber receives his medal from coach Chris Conrad after the Hurricanes won the team title. Liberty tennis player Louis Gruber receives his medal from coach Chris Conrad after the Hurricanes won the team title.

Tennis: LHS win D-11 title

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 by Katie McDonald kmcdonald@tnonline.com in Sports

For Liberty tennis coach Chris Conrad, Thursday’s District XI team championship was his first solo head coaching crown, but for some of his players, it was their third consecutive when the Hurricanes defeated the Nazareth Blue Eagles, 3-2, last Thursday at Northwood Racquet Club.

“It’s something we strove for the entire season. We didn’t want to play the favorite role, but one of the hardest things was trying to get this team to make sure that we were in check and weren’t complacent. That’s one of the things I loved about this team,” said Conrad.

Liberty beat Nazareth, 5-0, in its first match of the regular season, but a full season can bring changes in teams.

“The last time we played them, everyone won, so they got better,” said one doubles player Anthony Ronca, who won his match along with Wyatt Marshall, 6-0, 6-4, over Hamed Selemani and Soham Patel.

Ronca and Marshall fell behind a couple of times in the second set.

“They started pushing the net a lot more and lobbing over our heads so we didn’t have a chance to hit a drive off the serve,” said Marshall. “We had to find a way to change our game.”

The Liberty pair decided if they couldn’t beat them, they would join them.

“We started hitting more drives and playing with them so if they would rush the net, we would lob it over their heads, exactly what they did,” said Ronca.

Liberty’s Shayaan Farhad and Raj Kundu won their match at two doubles over Brendan Alvino and David Araujo, 6-1, 6-1.

The singles matches were not as certain as time went on.

Liberty’s Louis Gruber ended up losing to Gabe Knowles at one singles, 1-6, 2-6, and Jacob Wong lost to Nate Tauber, 3-6, 3-6, at three singles.

“Jacob’s a player and Nate’s a player too, and they’re the top number three players in our district. It was hard for me to see that loss,” said Coach Conrad. “Jacob is our senior leader. At the end of the day, he played a heck of a match against another senior who’s just as willing to grind out matches.”

With the score tied 2-2, the match came down to Liberty’s David Lynn and Nazareth’s Andrew Nicolae, but the two players did not know it at the time because they were still playing after everyone else had finished.

Lynn won the first set, 6-0, but was down in the second set, 2-4.

“I think there was obviously a bit of nerves, but for me to maintain cool on the outside was key,” said Conrad, who was checking his heart rate on his watch. “He made a big break at 4-2 which put him into a great situation, allowed him to come back into the match, and gain some momentum.”

Lynn said that one of the things that tripped him up in the second set was his serve.

“I think that affected all the games,” said Lynn. “After I won the first set, I had some relief and then all of a sudden I was down 4-2. It really matters that you take your time and be very calculated. Physically I was feeling pretty good.”

Conrad advised Lynn to attack Tauber’s backhands.

“He did a tremendous job. I knew he could come back and dominate that match. It was just a matter of him being patient. The last four or five games were different than the first two or three in the second set,” Conrad said.

In the end, Lynn was relieved to have won his match for the team.

“I did not [know the other match scores] and didn’t realize it came down to me. It would have definitely added some pressure,” said Lynn. “It was great but I’m definitely more happy I could win it for the whole team and not just me.”

Liberty players Dane Sinks and Aidan Evans Gartley, who played four doubles during the regular season, were also in attendance and received gold medals along with the rest of the Hurricanes.

Liberty will advance to the PIAA State Team Tennis Tournament, which will have begun this Tuesday, past Press deadlines.