Tennis Insider, with Chris Larick...

What used to be an annual giant yawn has turned into a nailbiter for the past several years.

The Geneva Eagles boys tennis team spent many years since 1978, when Ashtabula, behind Perry Stofan, Lou Murphy and Hank Barchanowicz, wrested the Northeastern Conference championship from Geneva, dominating the other NEC teams.

For about the past 10 years or so, the domination wasn't there, but the results were usually the same: The Eagles claiming the NEC championship.

Geneva's boys tennis has been the most dominant team of any team in any sport in the county. In the 41 years the NEC has included tennis as a team sport, the Eagles have won or shared the championship 38 times, including this year. The only years they didn't win the title outright were 1977 and 1978, when Ashabula won it; in 2004, when Lakeside and Jefferson shared the crown; and in 2002, when the Warriors and Eagles were co-champions.

When Edgewood's Warriors upset the Eagles earlier this season, sending Geneva into a tie for the lead with Jefferson, it appeared that the crown was wobbling on the Eagles' heads again. Though the Falcons lost to Geneva for the second time, the Eagles still had to face two of the top teams, Edgewood and Lakeside, and the Warriors had already beaten Geneva once.

But when the Eagles and Warrior faced off for the second time at Geneva, the Eagles were ready after losing all three singles matches in three sets the first time they played. It was almost a necessity for Edgewood to sweep those singles matches, since the Warrior doubles teams were swept in the earlier match and have struggled against the better teams of the NEC most of the season.

The match between the teams actually extended two days, since rains began falling last Tuesday. By that time Geneva had a pretty good grasp on the match, though it hadn't been decided yet. Wednesday the Eagles completed the task with a 4-1 victory.

Geneva's Brian Carey, who had fallen to Matt Liszewski in the first match between the teams at first singles, took the measure of Liszewski this time, 6-2, 6-3. Warrior Matt McCormack evened the score at 1-1 by clipping Adam Perkins, 6-4, 6-1 at second singles. In the third singles match, Eagle Frank Carraher, who had been moved to that position at midyear from first doubles, handled Edgewood's Zach Kortyka, 6-4, 6-0 and Geneva was up, 2-1, needing just one doubles victory to clinch the match and at leas a share of the championship.

Kreig Skidmore and Kyle Sholtis put the Eagles over the top handily, whipping Tyler Stasko-Kyle Woodard, 6-0, 6-2. At second doubles Adam Muller and Mark Luoma made it 4-1 by taking out Greg Stolfer and Dan Anderson, 6-2, 6-1.

The Eagles had clinched a tie, but needed a victory over Lakeside Thursday to win the title outright. They got it, 5-0, but not without a couple of tough matches. Perkins needed three sets to outlast Zack Kerosky at second singles, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Steve Shinault fought to the finish before dropping a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 match to Carraher. Skidmore and Sholtis were extended to the limits in a 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) triumph over Tom Bernato and Andy Jepson at first doubles.

Conneaut woes

This has not been a great year for the Conneaut Spartans.

All the work coach Dave Simpson and his charges have put into preparing for and playing in their matches has led to just two victories - both of them over Harvey.

Not long ago, Simpson learned that his first singles player, Alex Ecklund, was out for the season with an injury. All the Spartans had to move up a place, with Justin Brown taking over at first singles, Zach Rhodes at second singles, Dana Oster at third singles. Nick Terry and Scott Lowery have been playing at first doubles and Kris King and Cody Gibson at second doubles.

Impressive match

The Lakeside Dragons dropped a tough non-conference match to Mayfield last Friday, 3-2, but Lakeside coach Bob Walters was impressed with one of the matches.

At second doubles, Dragons Andy Jepson and Jordan Rutz took on Mayfield's Parmeu Reddy and Dan Irwin. Jepson and Rutz emerged with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

"That was one of the most exciting doubles matches I've seen," Walters said of the final match on the court. "Our kids fought back after losing the first set and after we had already lost (as a team). You couldn't tell that the way the kids played."

Try, try again

Because of space limitations, the statistics that were collected a couple of weeks ago (all singles and doubles players with .500 or above records) were never run. The Star Beacon is again asking the coaches to submit those records. They can do so by email (clarick@starbeacon.com), fax (998-7938) or telephone (994-3244 or 998-2323, extensions 244, 247, 268 or 280 or 1-800-554-6768, same extensions.

Larick is the tennis beat writer for the Star Beacon. He can be reached via email at clarick@starbeacon.com.

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