Panthers pounce

LEWISTOWN – The Mifflin County boys tennis team fought for a chance to win its second Mid-Penn Commonwealth match in two days Thursday – but the make-up battle with Central Dauphin East tilted in the Panthers’ favor and the visitors took the match, 3-2.

Matt DeBenedetto snagged the lone singles victory for the Huskies, beating David Wilson in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1. DeBenedetto took control early in the match and never relinquished control – capitalizing on Wilson’s mistakes and pressuring the visiting No. 2 into making costly errors. Coach Glenn Kyle and his Huskies are striving for consistency and DeBenedetto was able to remain composed and consistent throughout his match.

“We’ve known going into this – playing in the Mid-Penn – you have to be consistent,” Kyle said. “You don’t have to be overly great at anything but you have to be consistent.”

Persistence also pays dividends in tennis. The tortuous ride players often board during a match requires mental toughness and the ability to persevere through mistakes. The Huskies duo of Cody Donaldson and Nate Koller did just that – and at a key moment in the team’s quest to take down the Panthers as the match stood at 2-1 in favor of the visitors.

Donaldson and Koller battled to a tie-break in the opening set, but costly errors yielded a loss, creating an even steeper ascent the Huskies would have to climb in order to notch a win and tie the score at 2-2. The Huskies battled to a 6-4 win in the second set and nearly three hours after the onset of the match, Donaldson and Koller sealed the deal with a shot that split the Panther pair to end the match.

With the sun setting and the match knotted at two, the Panthers’ doubles-duo of Eric Sheetz and Young Park topped Mifflin County’s Ben Hugendubler and Ben Renninger to seal the Central Dauphin East win. Hugendubler and Renninger didn’t give up the match easily, though. Following a decisive first-set victory, the Huskies clawed their way through each of the next two but eventually surrendered the third and final team point to the visiting Panthers – falling 7-5 and 6-4 in the final two sets.

Mifflin County’s Connor Saltzer fell to Nathan Beachey in a hard-fought match – 6-4, 6-4. Clay Morgan, the Huskies remaining singles representative also fell in his match with Timmy Egner – 6-2, 6-1.

Kyle reiterated that consistency is the key to being successful, not only in the Mid-Penn but against any opponent in any league.

“We just have to be more consistent – in some of our play, that cost us,” he said. “We’re close, we just have to be more consistent.”

Despite the loss, Kyle is optimistic about his group of players and the opportunities the team has this season.

“I think we’ve done a lot of good things and we need to grow from it – it was good to see some guys in matches that really counted (and) had to buckle down to get it done,” Kyle said.

He added that the Huskies’ lack of a consistent inside practice facility will force his group to learn on the fly, which it will have to do in order to be successful as it will play a match on each of the first four days of next week.

The Huskies (2-2, 1-1) will remain in the Commonwealth division as they travel to Carlisle today.