Eck wins, but Indians are runners-up again

ALTOONA – The Juniata tennis team started the season with what coach Alan Musselman called “a lot of rookies and youngsters.”

Not exactly a team that would be expected to reach the district final, but that’s exactly where the Indians found themselves Thursday.

Juniata got off to a good start when defending District 6 singles champ Isaac Eck quickly defeated Jim Burke 6-1, 6-1, but the next four matches went Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic’s way.

Unbeaten Bishop Guilfoyle got its 16th win of the year, defeating Juniata 4-1 at Mansion Park to win the District 6 Class AA team championship.

For the Indians, it was a third straight appearance in the match, and a third straight departure as the second-place team.

“We were facing a team that was a notch better down the line,” Musselman said. “We played them fairly close. We had a couple three-setters. Even the last match was close.”

After the Eck win, Bishop Guilfoyle’s Dom D’Andrea beat Brad Strawser 6-4, 6-1 to even the match 1-1. The next two matches went beyond straight sets.

The Marauders’ Don Sullivan and Vincent D’Andrea defeated Ricky Heck and Chantz Imes in the No. 1 doubles match 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 to give Bishop Guilfoyle a 2-1 lead.

“I felt fairly certain we’d win the No. 1 doubles match. They’re both seniors, but the BG kids stuck with it and won it,” Musselman said.

Nick Centar clinched the Bishop Guilfoyle win with a three-set victory over Brad Lipka in the No. 2 singles spot, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1. The match was delayed between the second and third to assess the effect the 80-plus degree heat was having on Centar’s health.

“It was a medical timeout. We needed time for him to cool down and assess the situation for possible heat stroke,” Marauders coach Julie Donovan said. “It’s 10 to 15 degrees hotter on the court. We played the first part of our season in the cold and snow now we’re playing in the heat. It just goes to show how tough tennis players are.”

Bishop Guilfoyle closed out the match with a win in the No. 2 doubles match as well. Matt Keefer and Brennan Nale defeated Luis Pacheco and Jim Hemand 6-3, 7-5.

Juniata (9-2) has a remaining match – actually a pair – and will head back to Blair County today, where the Indians play a double with Tyrone.

Eck will make his second straight appearance in the state singles tournament later his month; he made it to Hershey in doubles as a freshman.