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Tennis: Liberty retains Carroll County Athletic League championship status

There’s a phrase, in blue capital letters, emblazoned on the back of every gray sweatshirt worn by a Liberty High School tennis player.

It’s not hard to read “One Team One Goal” when the Lions walk past each other. The “goal” could be interpreted in different ways, but it seems clear what the objective is, and has been, for everyone associated with the program — winning.

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It’s what goes on in Eldersburg with the boys and girls teams, and it’s all these Lions have known since many of them first picked up a racket.

Liberty’s boys topped visiting Francis Scott Key 4-1 on Wednesday, a win that clinched at least a share of the Carroll County Athletic League title. The girls swept the Eagles 5-0, having already won their 12th consecutive county crown.

The Lions (11-0, 11-0 CCAL) captured a piece of their fourth straight boys county title and eighth championship since 2009. They can win it outright by beating Century on Friday. Liberty has won 46 consecutive matches.

Meanwhile, the girls (11-0, 11-0) tacked on their 74th win in a row — they haven’t dropped a match since April of 2013.

“We just play our game and focus,” said Noelle Htwar, a junior who plays doubles with fellow junior Emily Brecker. “You don’t want to get in that negative head space.”

Htwar said there is some pressure associated with the girls team’s winning streak, but it’s not really talked about too much. The first objective is to win their match, she said, and trust their teammates will do the same.

“When I go out on the court,” Brecker said, “I just forget about it.”

Liberty's Jane Aldakkour returns a ball during her singles match against FSK's Emma Smith in Eldersburg Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Liberty's Jane Aldakkour returns a ball during her singles match against FSK's Emma Smith in Eldersburg Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Htwar and Brecker won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 doubles and improved to 11-0. Senior Emily Smith and sophomore Alyssa Vandeberge, Liberty’s second doubles pair, also won in straight sets and are 11-0 this spring. As did the No. 3 tandem of junior Faith Coleman and freshman Kara Bartolowits (8-2).

Junior Jane Aldakkour (10-1) and sophomore Grace Johnson (11-0) won their singles matches in straight sets as well.

Htwar and Brecker, the reigning girls doubles county tournament champions, said it’s important to be peaking at this time of the year. And for Liberty, that usually means finishing off undefeated regular seasons heading into the tournament portion of the spring.

The Lions swept the doubles matches on the boys side, with senior Dylan Gettier and junior Ray Woodward improving to 11-0 after a straight-set win. Liberty’s No. 2 doubles team, sophomores Josh Bellows and Nate Murphy, also won in straight sets to go 11-0.

Co-coaches Tim Brecker and Barry Green take opposite sides of Liberty’s tennis complex, and offer advise and encouragement to players during set breaks and changes. They came together, along with the rest of the team, to watch the final varsity match of the day when senior Tyger Zan faced FSK’s Brandon Bimestefer.

The No. 1 singles match became a stadium tennis event, with cheers for both players echoing around the court. Bimestefer prevailed in three sets (5-7, 6-3, 1-0) for FSK’s lone team point.

“I know Coach Brecker has a lot of trust in us and what we do,” Woodward said before he watched Zan’s tiebreaker third set. “But I also trust our teammates, and I know that I can rely on them to get the job done.”

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BOYS

Singles

No. 1: Brandon Bimestefer (FSK) d. Tyger Zan 5-7, 6-3, 1-0 (8); No. 2: Austin Choe (L) d. Grant Johnson 6-4, 6-1.

Doubles

No. 1: Dylan Gettier/Ray Woodward (L) d. Justin Rieger/Jacob Wantz 6-1, 6-2; No. 2: Josh Bellows/Nathan Murphy (L) d. Jake Lamb/Steven Koutsouradis 6-2, 6-0; No. 3: Christian Harsha/Owen Milewski (L) d. Quinn Thomas/Cameron Sweitzer 6-2, 6-2.

GIRLS

Singles

No. 1: Jane Aldakkour d. Emma Smith 6-2, 6-1; No. 2: Grace Johnson d. Devyn Schuman 6-1, 6-0.

Doubles

No. 1: Noelle Htwar/Emily Brecker d. Karla Stonesifer/Jocelyn Snader 6-0, 6-0; No. 2: Emily Smith/Alyssa Vandenberge d. Emily Velotta/Annie Sensabaugh 6-0, 6-1; No. 3: Kara Bartolowits/Faith Coleman d. Beth Scott/Tori Haven 6-0, 6-0.

Liberty co-coaches Barry Green and Tim Brecker look on during the Lions' match against FSK in Eldersburg Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Liberty co-coaches Barry Green and Tim Brecker look on during the Lions' match against FSK in Eldersburg Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)
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