LEWISTOWN - Nobody knew what to expect from Mifflin County's girls tennis team this fall.
But it's a pretty safe bet no one expect this: The first-year program has come away the winner in three of its first four matches, including a 5-0 victory over Central Dauphin East Monday in the home and Commonwealth Division debut for the squad.
Not bad for a team that has only one starter with regular varsity playing experience, and she was sidelined in the first year of the school's existence by an injury.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Mifflin County’s Michaela DeBenedetto returns a shot from her opponent in the Huskies’ match against Central Dauphin East Monday in Lewistown. Mifflin County won the match, which was the team’s home and Commonwealth Division opener.
The match against the Panthers was the first sweep of all five spots for Mifflin County - all in straight sets - and in the singles, it was hardly close. Samantha Hendricks and Alana Felton both dashed off 6-0, 6-0 victories, while Michaela DeBenedetto won her match 6-1, 6-1.
"So far, so good. We didn't know what to expect," Mifflin County coach Glenn Kyle said - adding that the lack of even one loss in the match will work wonders on the team's attitude.
"That makes them happy," he said. "They'll be ready to come to practice tomorrow."
In doubles, the team of Kate Hugendubler and Olivia Runk won a pair of 6-2 sets. Rachel Stimeling and Emily Hurlburt, coming off a tough loss in a tiebreaker in the previous match, won 6-1, 6-2.
It's a different game only for one of the players, Hendricks, whose career on the boys team at Lewistown included a trip to the District 6 tournament in her sophomore year. She's more than happy about the opportunity this team presents - she gave up volleyball so she could play this fall.
"I like being able to play against girls," she said, but it's not just about her - in the past, only a top female player got much playing time because the boys generally were stronger. "I like the fact that the other girls on the team get to play."
The girls game in high school tends to be less physically demanding because there's less motion, especially front to back. Sure, there's some play at the net - and a girl who plays well there is at a distinct advantage. But for the most part, girls tennis is marked by sustained play,
"I guess I have a different perspective because I played mostly boys," Hendricks said. "It's different going into the matches because they have a different style of play. They like to go baseline. In guys games it's all looking for the kill shot."
Monday's match also was different because of the crowd present, perhaps because it is a new program. But it was the first time in their young existence that the Huskies had an audience on their side.
"If they can continue to be successful they'll keep coming, and that's good. I'm proud of them - they've worked hard," Kyle said.
As one of two early season teams, the tennis players are the first from the school to compete in the Mid-Penn Conference, which seemingly carries a mystique that is almost as powerful as the competition.
"I think at first we were all unknowing. Nobody knows what any of these teams are going to be like," Hendricks said. "Last week we won two of our away matches, and after we won our very first match as a team, and a lot of us individually, it was nice knowing we're not going to get blown away. We have a decent team.
"After winning our second match against Gettysburg, it was like, OK we can do this, keep it up."
"We're not going to know until we face them and see," Kyle said. "Those bigger schools that we're going to be facing, they probably have a bigger secondary group coming in than most. But we'll see."
The only setback for Hendricks this year was against the defending conference champion, from Mechanicsburg. But the No. 1 singles player for Mifflin County is more concerned about what happens down the road than in the rear view mirror.
"I think by the end of the season after I get closer back to normal I'll be able to compete with her," she said.
Mifflin County (3-1, 1-0 Commonwealth) is back on the road Wednesday for a match at Central Dauphin.
Mifflin County golf
HARRISBURG - Mifflin County placed fourth out of seven in a Commonwealth Division golf match at the Country Club of Harrisburg Monday.
And, while it wasn't a win as far as score goes, it was a definite improvement over Mifflin County's last showing, in which it tied for last.
"Last time we finished sixth, so it was an improvement. It was our best showing this season" coach Kevin O'Donnell said.
As a team, Mifflin County's golfers were all relatively close in scoring, as Nate Koller carded an 88 to lead his team, Hunter Wright followed with an 89 and Jason Perry a 90. Keenan Walker and Marc Auker both shot 91 and Evan Pupo had a 96.
The Huskies shot 449 as a team.
O'Donnell was pleased with the way his team played, stating that it was a new course for them, and he was glad to see the way the team responded.
"They guys have really worked hard on their short game. (We're) trying to eliminate the number of three putts that we have," O'Donnell said.
Cumberland Valley was the best overall team with a score of 404.
Mifflin County (6-12) travels to Central Mountain next Tuesday for more Commonwealth Division competition.