Manheim Twp. vs. Hempfield - L-L Girls Team Tennis Finals

Manheim Twp.'s Avery Palandjian, returns a shot to Hempfield's Grace Lehman, during the number one singles match at the L-L Girls Team Tennis Finals at the Hempfield Rec Tuesday Oct. 5, 2021.

This one didn’t come nearly as easily.

The Manheim Township girls tennis team added a seventh straight Lancaster-Lebanon League team tournament title to its list, gutting out a 3-1 win over Hempfield Tuesday at Hempfield recCenter.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Township coach John Briner. “(No. 1 doubles) split sets, and the final was 3-1, and that one was going to go either way, so 3-2 is as close as it gets.”

The match was originally scheduled to be played at  McCaskey, but was moved to Hempfield after the teams arrived to wet courts and then traveled to Conestoga Valley, which also was water-logged. The match, played outdoors, ended up starting about 45 minutes late.

In recent years, and especially last year, the Blue Streaks (13-0) were hardly tested in league play. But just like their 5-2 win over the Black Knights (13-2) on Sept. 24, the Streaks had plenty of close calls on Tuesday.

“Our important one was No. 2 doubles,” said Briner. “The big court I felt we needed to win if we wanted to win this match was No. 2 doubles. We did win it and we needed it.

“And it was a crazy match too, winning 6-1, losing 6-0 and … it was 6-3 in the third set. The first two sets were a little bipolar but it was fun to watch. It was exciting.”

Winning at No. 2 doubles was the team of Katie Pan and Camille Honrade over Hempfield’s Sabrina DeLeon and Lyndsay Over.

While their match was an important one, there were still two going on: No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. Township’s Avery Palandjian, who trailed 3-2 in the first set, clinched the victory with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Grace Lehman.

“It’s great, especially being my senior year,” Palandjian said of the team victory. “It’s so different than last year because we lost three great players and we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“There’s a lot more pressure on each individual court, because you don’t know which court is going to win; you can’t really count on anything. All you can do is control your court. Because I’m hearing cheering over here and I’m playing over there, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

While some of the matches were lengthy and compelling, some were lightning quick. Kayla Kurtz was a 6-1, 6-0 winner for Township at No. 2 singles while Hempfield’s Alex Gregory had the shortest match, winning 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3.

Even though Palandjian wrapped things up for the Streaks, the No. 1 doubles teams were engaged in what would have been an exhilarating finish. Hempfield’s Lydia Sullivan and Megan Wendell won a second-set tie-breaker (7-6) to even the match not long after Palandjian’s clinching win. Township’s Sophie Yost and Madeline Sanchez won the first set 6-4.

With darkness creeping in on a cloudy, gray day, it was apparent they would have had to finish under the lights at Hempfield.

“I’m so proud of our girls,” said Hempfield coach Mindi Bell. “We knew it was going to be a fight coming in. We definitely had to believe, after the regular season, that we could beat them. But unfortunately, we came up just a little bit short today.”

Next up for the L-L’s girls tennis players is the flight tournament, which begins Thursday at four sites: Cedar Crest, Annville-Cleona and Lebanon high schools, and Lebanon Valley College.

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